Is it time to book for the holidays?

So what should you do?

This summer has started well for airlines and hotels. More than 10 million passengers were screened by the TSA from July 1 to 5, or about 83% of the volume in 2019. The numbers were definitely better than in 2020 throughout the summer season. However, an increase in COVID cases fueled by Delta Variante has forced travelers to withdrawal and the question “should I cancel?” has started to appear on travel forums again.

After a chaotic summer of uncertainty due to rising infections, travel bans and cancellations, Americans are ready to kick off the holiday season. But when should you start planning?

Winter travel request

Americans have started planning their December vacations earlier than usual, according to vacation rental company Vrbo. In July, the company published that demand for Vrbo homes had increased by more than 19% from 2019 and popular destinations were grabbed by early risers.

Melanie Fish, Vrbo’s travel expert, said: “We usually see December bookings peak in October and November, but families block their vacation plans much earlier than usual. Vacation homes have been picked up quickly during every popular travel season this year, so it’s no surprise that families plan ahead to make sure they have a great place to spend the vacation together. .

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Last year, despite warnings from the CDC to avoid vacation travel, the TSA screened more than one million people for two consecutive days, the highest since the start of the pandemic. This year, the Hopper travel booking app expects two million passengers to pass through screening every day, it revealed in its Holiday 2021 Travel Guide Report.

With prices soaring, the report also suggested booking Thanksgiving airline tickets no later than Halloween to get the best deals and get Christmas tickets before Thanksgiving. “With a domestic plane ticket for Christmas at around $ 430 / round trip, the airfare is up 71% from 2020 ($ 250) and 10% from 2019 ($ 390), this which suggests that airlines can expect more intense Christmas travel compared to Thanksgiving, ”he points out. .

Rental home management software company Guesty is also forecasting higher prices on home rentals around Christmas. “Christmas is expected to be the most expensive holiday period in the United States this year, with consumers booking at rates 58% higher than in 2020 and 82% higher than before Covid 2019. The average price per night for Christmas 2021 is already $ 602. night, compared to $ 380 / night in 2020 and $ 331 / night in 2019. »

Guesty warns that vacation rental bookings appear optimistic, but it’s important to keep in mind that these numbers will continue to fluctuate due to new variations and flu season.

Expert advice when booking your vacation

As has been the case for the past few months, don’t make any decisions until you do your homework on the destination. Take the CDC’s warning seriously; check infection and vaccination rates; consider buying good travel insurance. Things can change unexpectedly (Europe opened up to Americans this year, but countries added more restrictions after the Delta surge in the United States) and you need to prepare for it.

Start monitoring and book by the end of October: Hopper recommends tracking holiday prices and buying as soon as you see a good deal. He suggests booking flights by the end of October.

You may be able to find last minute deals: Cheap flights from Scott Member Operations Specialist Willis Orlando told Fodor’s Travel: “Over the summer, as travel optimism soared, airlines put hundreds of planes back into the sky, adding a huge amount of capacity on popular national recreational routes in particular. Demand didn’t quite keep up with this increase in supply, and airlines had to scramble to fill empty seats, resulting in intense competition, very low fares and even last-minute deals. as we have rarely seen. pre-pandemic. However, when things normalize, these trends will become less common.

Look for flexible cancellation policies: Confirm your airline’s cancellation policy and try to book a flight that allows you to change dates or refund your amount if you cancel. Guesty recommends booking platforms like Airbnb and which have flexible policies that do not require prepayments for accommodation reservations. The company implores travelers to consider booking in advance, as last-minute bookings are likely to result in high average nightly rates and less inventory to choose from.

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