Approximately 35 million Americans anticipate staying in a hotel during the upcoming holiday season, according to a new survey from Bankrate. Nearly 31 million of those people plan to fly, according to the report. And even before the summer comes to an official close, nearly one in four of those expected travelers have already arranged their holiday lodging. But fear not procrastinators, as it turns out your late-stage buying habits may pay off in the long run.
“The truth is that unless you leave it to super last minute when you book really doesn’t make much difference to the cost as these are consistently popular times,” Gillian Tans, CEO of Booking.com, told Forbes via email when asked what day is the best day to book holiday travels. “But if you can be a bit more spontaneous, then chancing [it] last minute may just uncover some great value gems.”
But if you really need a specific date range to book your next trip, Hopper, an airfare tracker, claims that the prime time to buy Christmas tickets is in early October. Thanksgiving ticket prices, according to Hopper, typically remain stable through Halloween.
In fact, the only people who should be booking their travels well in advance, according to Bankrate, is those who plan to use points or miles from a travel rewards credit card to book their hotel and flight, as these points-based flights and rooms “typically become scarcer closer to the travel date.”
To help guide your travels, holiday or otherwise, we asked Tans to share a few of her favorite tips to save a little bit of cash while booking your next excursion.
“Whether you are checking luggage or bringing a carry-on, always weigh and measure your bags to make sure they are below the airline’s size and weight restrictions. Excess baggage fees can be costly. Avoid all baggage fees by only bringing a carry-on.”
Travel during the week
“Request mid-week PTO. Instead of traveling on a weekend, begin your trip on a Tuesday or Wednesday, which are often the cheapest days to fly. Being flexible with timing can help with savings.”
Don’t forget the carrot sticks
“Pack snacks. Food prices once you pass through airport security or within blocks of a major tourist attraction can be double the price. Pack travel-friendly snacks or visit a grocery store in the destination you are visiting to get a better price.”
Do your research on where you’re going
“Understand tipping culture. Whereas Americans tip 15-20% when dining out, most European countries don’t tip as a service charge is typically included in the bill. Make sure you’re not over-tipping by doing research before traveling.”
Hunt around for the best price, which may come with a bizarre flight pattern
“Get creative with flights. Search for multi-leg flights with extended stopovers and visit another destination for free! Instead of having a one-hour layover, search for multi-leg flights that don’t leave the layover city until a few days later. Do the same on the way home. You often won’t pay a difference in fare given stops are considered layovers.”
Suggest celebrating the holidays with your family in March
“Off-season travel. There are several destinations that have an off-season and a high-season such as the Caribbean. Rates are most expensive during the high-season so consider off-season travel in order to get the very best rate. Since weather may play a factor, get travelers insurance so that your trip can be rescheduled at no fee if need be.”
Be flexible with your exact location
“Be a little alternative. There are great deals to be had if you’re willing to stay just slightly out of the city center or away from the crowds for example, or if you opt to stay in a home or apartment as opposed to a large luxury hotel.”
Never be afraid to ask for an upgrade
“Pick your time and don’t be afraid to ask! If it’s a quieter day of the week, outside of a major holiday or if there isn’t a crowd of people trying to check-in, you may be in with more of a chance. Also, think about what ‘upgrade’ means to you – a better view? A bigger room? A higher floor? Sometimes being specific can really pay off.”
Stacey Leasca , CONTRIBUTOR
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.