But one of this travel writer's favorite holiday traditions is proceeding without interruption, much to my delight and astonishment.
I'm talking about the annual Travel Trends Report by the Airline Reporting Corporation in partnership with Expedia. The release always looks at recent airfare booking patterns based on millions of transactions. The ARC facilitates transactions between the airlines and most travel agencies (both online and bricks-and-mortar) worldwide, so it has plenty of accurate data about prices and purchasing habits.
Because the study is so broad, the tips that come from it are usually quite helpful, especially for those who want to save money on their next trip—whenever that will be (I'm thinking post-vaccine).
Here are the key takeaways for 2021 travel:
Overall, airfares are lower by 25%–35% than they were in 2019. But prices still go up at the holidays, and are still being shaped by the seasons.
Usually it's cheaper to fly on either a Thursday or Friday. So plan to go on one of those days, or at least do price checks that include them.
Book on a Sunday, not a Friday. Airfares change daily. Statistically, the cheapest day of the week for purchasing tickets is Sunday. On Sundays, people pay 15% less on average than people who book on Fridays, the week's most expensive day. The study doesn't explain why, but in past years, I've hazarded to guess that it's cheaper to book on a weekend because fewer business travelers are making reservations then. I'm not sure if that's the only reason this year, now that video meetings have taken the place of so much business travel, but Sunday is still the best day to buy.
Last-minute bookings have become the norm. Travelers book 29 days in advance, on average, and for a change, they're not being penalized with higher prices for doing so.
Alternative accommodations (vacation rentals, RVs, houseboats, etc.) are accounting for a larger share of the market. I discussed this phenomenon in an earlier post, but the shift means that right now, it's often cheaper to stay at a hotel than in a vacation rental. This part of the study came from the booking data at Expedia.
You can read the complete study by clicking here.