The deals are coming: How to prepare for the best Black Friday and Cyber Monday travel bargains
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available.
It's officially the most wonderful time of the year: the time for turkey, stuffing, parades, decorations and grabbing as many deals as possible. Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the surrounding days bring with them some of my favorite deals of the entire year. But you won't only score savings on various gadgets and gizmos around the winter holidays. Many times, there are also travel deals sprinkled throughout the entire month of November.
The concept of finding deals and deciding which ones are truly the best of the bunch can be overwhelming. Fortunately, with a little preparation, it's possible to get a great Black Friday travel deal.
Here's all you need to know so you can navigate all the travel deals and save money on the next trip of your dreams.
Related: These are the best credit cards for shopping online
Things to do now
First and foremost, just because a Black Friday or Cyber Monday travel deal pops into your email doesn't necessarily mean it is a deal.
On numerous occasions, I've seen certain hotels offering various promotions only to find that the ongoing AAA rate or even the member rate is less expensive. You also might find that the advertised deal lacks anything special, making it no better than a random Tuesday deal that you've seen in the past.
To have an easier time differentiating the great deals from the subpar deals, start doing your homework now. Think through where you want to go, then see what the normal prices are for everything from hotels to flights for the destination you are most interested in. This way, you'll be in a better position to judge just how much of a deal something truly is.
With that being said, there are definitely many deals to be had this time of year.
You won't want to sleep on them when they happen, as they're often in short supply, so you'll need to be ready to act when they appear. Know what your upcoming availability and travel budget are so you can quickly comb through a deal to see if it'll work within your parameters. If you need to text eight people and wait for them to talk to their families, check their time-off schedules and ponder the trip, the odds that what you want will still be there after you've corresponded with everyone are as good as the odds of a homemade chocolate pie making it all the way through Black Friday.
In many situations, you can refund your airline tickets within 24 hours of making your reservation, so it's often best to err on the side of booking first and double-checking all the details later. This is especially true for booking sites that offer significantly discounted promotions for only a limited number of reservations.
Once those deals are released, you'll need to act within minutes (in some cases) to succeed in booking them, so having a general idea of where you want to go and possible dates you can travel will help make it possible to pull the trigger immediately.
Related: This amazing new Black Friday cruise deal will let you bring a companion on a ship for free
How to find Black Friday travel deals
Black Friday and Cyber Monday travel deals have already started popping up, though the intensity and frequency of the deals will only increase as Thanksgiving approaches.
To make sure you don't miss a deal, you'll want to subscribe to email lists for every airline, hotel brand, car rental company and more that you care about. For example, if you're interested in deals from Royal Caribbean, JetBlue Airways and Hyatt, be sure you're on their respective email lists. Also, follow the travel brands you care about on social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, as the companies often promote special savings on their accounts.
TPG will share curated lists of Black Friday deals for cruises, airlines, hotels, travel gear and more, too, so remember to follow the TPG social channels and subscribe to the free TPG daily newsletter.
One additional way to find Black Friday travel deals (at least, for airfare) is to let the deals come to you. This may not work for all deals, but setting a price alert for a flight you know you want to take is a great way to get notified of price drops without having to constantly scour the web for savings.
There are some early Black Friday deals already out there, so we recommend getting these tips into action as soon as possible if you want to be able to shop the broadest selection of offers.
Use the ability to rebook to your advantage
Even if you aren't in the market for a new trip right now, you may find it possible to save on your trip if you rebook any flights or hotels you've already locked in at a lower Black Friday travel deal price.
With many hotels and airlines offering flexible cancellation policies these days, it is easy to cancel and rebook in some cases if the flight you have goes on sale. Some carriers, such as Southwest Airlines, even allow you to re-price a fare without having to go through the process of canceling and rebooking your flights.
If you have some components of your trip locked in that are trickier to rebook, consider focusing on museums, theme parks and various activities you can enjoy during your trip. Many travel companies offer a Black Friday and/or Cyber Monday deal, so even if you've already planned parts of your vacation, you may find that there are tickets or tours you can add at a discount.
Previous Black Friday and Cyber Monday travel deals
While most Black Friday travel deals aren't ones you'll want to drop everything to immediately book, there are a few noteworthy exceptions.
For example, a few years ago on Cyber Monday, we saw a deal for 90% off of hotels booked through Expedia's mobile app. Rooms were limited at the time, but I was still able to snag a few reservations for some upcoming ski trips in New Hampshire at a ridiculously low price.
In 2020, JetBlue offered a promo code for $100 off of flights and up to $400 off of JetBlue Vacations packages. That same year, Spirit Airlines offered one-way flights starting at $20.21. Frontier Airlines also discounted flights by 99%.
Many international airlines have joined the Black Friday and Cyber Monday bandwagon in recent years, too. For instance, Air Canada has previously offered a 20% discount on fares and the opportunity to purchase points with a 50% bonus. Likewise, Qatar Airways has also participated, offering a 10% discount on newly booked flights.
In 2021, Air Canada opted to give Aeroplan members 1,000 bonus points for every booking made, while British Airways advertised significant discounts for its travel packages. JetBlue stayed steady by offering the same $100 off of flights as it's done in previous years, and Frontier had a 91% off sale. Delta Air Lines significantly discounted many domestic and international award reservations, too, with flights starting at just 7,000 miles round-trip.
While theme parks like Disney don't always participate in Black Friday-specific sales, others do. For example, in 2020, we saw Legoland offer 60% off of a lifetime visit pass.
On the hotel front, Fairmont has sold eGift cards at a 20% discount — a true fan favorite if you have a fun Fairmont stay at a resort such as the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise in your future. Those looking to purchase an annual Clear membership have also had chances to save $40 during past Black Friday sales.
How to maximize your savings
The best outcome for shopping Black Friday travel deals is when you are able to double or even triple dip your savings. In addition to finding the deal itself, you might also be able to earn extra cash back or bonus points. This applies to merchandise purchases as well.
Online shopping portals
Many travel companies are part of an online shopping portal, so if you book your travel with them directly through their online sites, you can earn something in return. Depending on the portal, you may earn extra points, miles or cash back.
To ensure you're getting the most bang for your buck, I suggest starting with a shopping portal aggregator like CashbackMonitor.com or Evreward.com to see which portal has the best return — since payouts can vary from day to day.
You won't find all travel companies on sites like Rakuten, but it's worth looking there, too, especially since many shopping portals will offer an increased payout during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday period.
For example, let's say you are booking a trip with IHG. Often, you'll find that you can earn cash back for stays at select properties by first starting at the Rakuten shopping portal. While rates are typically around 3%, I've seen promotions climb to as much as 20% cash back.
Marriott, Hertz, Hawaiian Airlines, Qatar Airways, Expedia and British Airways are just some of the other travel companies that can be found in these booking portals.
Amex Offers is one of my absolute favorite ways to save money on many purchases I make. In fact, I've found that I can easily save hundreds of dollars each year by applying Amex Offers to bookings.
We've already seen many travel-related Amex Offers pop up, allowing you to save even more on many Black Friday and Cyber Monday travel bookings. Know, though, that you must use your targeted American Express credit card when paying after adding the offer to your card to take advantage of these special offers.
For example, my card currently has an offer to receive $60 back on a Grand Hyatt stay totaling at least $300, plus one to earn $75 back when spending a minimum of $300 on a stay at select IHG properties. If you have multiple American Express credit cards, you'll want to look through all your accounts, as you might see different offers per card.
The only kicker to keep top of mind is the purchase must actually go through by the expiration date. So, if you make a hotel reservation at the Grand Hyatt Vail for next March and don't pay when you book, the statement credit won't be triggered.
In addition to paying attention to Amex Offers and similar deals via credit card issuers, it's important to make sure you're always using the best travel credit card possible when finalizing any travel-related reservation. This is so you receive extra perks, such as automatic travel protection or bonus points, for every purchase.
Two of our favorite cards for travel charges are the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
With these cards, you'll not only earn bonus points for each dollar spent on travel (excluding when you're using the Reserve's $300 travel credit), but you'll also receive top-notch travel protection benefits. This will come in handy in case you get sick prior to the trip and need to cancel, incur a delay while sitting at the airport or need to be evacuated in case of an emergency.
Although Black Friday and Cyber Monday travel deals aren't all live quite yet, you'll want to start planning now to have the best shot at getting the top offers.
For now, start by opting in to the email lists for the travel companies you are most interested in and following them on social media (along with TPG!). Once Black Friday gets even closer, keep your eyes peeled, as some deals will appear before the shopping holiday.
Don't forget to use a credit card that will help you maximize your purchase, and make sure you browse online shopping portals, Amex Offers and similar sites so you can keep as much money in your pocket as possible this holiday season.
Additional reporting by Summer Hull.