Thanksgiving travel isn't just about crowded airports and overbooked flights. Despite the holiday's reputation as a difficult and delay-prone travel period, it's a good time to find getaway bargains for the months ahead. Sabre (NASDAQ:SABR)-owned Travelocity, Expedia (NASDAQ:EXPE), and Orbitz (UNKNOWN:OWW.DL) compete with the holiday discount-retail fray by holding Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales of their own, and smart leisure travelers dive in.
Why do travelers shell out now for trips they may not take until after the holidays? After all, the gifts, meals, travel, and parties of the winter holiday season can take up a big chunk of change on their own. And for most of us, there are more holiday and family activities than available time, even without adding in a getaway. But it turns out there are at least three good reasons to shop over Thanksgiving weekend for travel packages.
More vacation for the money
"Looking at 2012 and 2013 hotel metrics, Cyber Monday shoppers certainly include travel on their shopping list -- as we see that bookings are about 35% higher on Cyber Monday than on 'regular' Mondays," Travelocity senior editor Courtney Scott told The Motley Fool via email.
Travelers who are planning their vacations for the coming year can stretch their budgets, especially if they're flexible about dates and destinations. At press time, Travelocity hadn't confirmed its own Black Friday/Cyber Monday offering, but early plans were to offer a discount off travel over $300.
Orbitz, meanwhile, is trying a more open-ended approach to Cyber Monday this year. Last year, according to the website CyberMondayDealsLive, Orbitz ran package discounts and half-off deals on Cancun travel. This year, the site is running a two-week Cyber Monday-themed deal for 20% off selected hotel bookings.
Possible savings might make the holiday weekend even more tempting for those booking a trip when we consider that not only are more travel consumers buying on Cyber Monday, but many are also springing for fancier hotels and pricier destinations. "The bookings that are made on Cyber Monday tend to be more expensive trips, about 22% higher, than are made on a regular day," Scott said.
Again, flexibility is key. Expedia already has its Black Friday sale page up, announcing that deals will go live at 9 a.m. Pacific time. No hints on what those deals will be, although last year Expedia offered $500 off vacation packages and 40% off Caribbean vacations, according to CyberMondayDealsLive.
Cabin fever escape plans
By the end of November, people are in the mood to plan a getaway. More than 40% of respondents in TripAdvisor's (NASDAQ:TRIP) most recent winter travel survey say they're booking a trip somewhere warm this winter to beat the cold weather. Altogether, 79% of respondents say they'll take a leisure trip before spring, compared with the 67% who made that statement last year. With the emphatic arrival of freezing weather, the number of would-be snow escapees may rise.
Popular mid-winter destinations include beaches, cities in warm climates, and cruises. TripAdvisor said that 90% of users' winter-trip searches are for warm and sunny locations. Resort areas in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Florida, and Hawaii are among the favorites -- although TripAdvisor notes that during the week of Dec. 27 through Jan. 3, prices are up by about 40% at most of those destinations.
More travel options for early shoppers
Hotel rates are going up as bookings boom, and airports are growing increasingly crowded as more travelers take to the skies. The TripAdvisor survey found that a third of respondents are planning more leisure travel in 2015 than this year, and about a third plan to spend more as well.
Those results dovetail with the latest PricewaterhouseCoopers forecast that domestic hotel occupancy rates will hit a 30-year high in 2015, with demand growth sharply outpacing added supply. PWC predicts a 6.2% average daily room rate rise next year. American Express (NYSE:AXP) Global Business Travel similarly expects hotel rates and air and ground transportation prices to rise next year across North America.
The prospect of higher prices and fewer vacancies makes early bookings and holiday-sale purchases even more appealing, both to budget-minded travelers and those who don't want to be shut out of their preferred accommodations when vacation time finally comes around.