The Best Time to Book Summer Travel

May 18, 2019

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The costs of travel are significantly higher in summer but there are times during which they go higher still — especially around Fourth of July and Labor Day, when a majority of Americans have time off and like to hit the road. Although it might be impossible to avoid the peak-season summer increase altogether, there’s still an optimal window during which you’re likely to get the best rates. And the good news is there’s still time to take advantage of that time frame for the upcoming summer season.

According to a recent report from Hipmunk, travelers, on average, saved the most booking summer travel 21 to 28 days before their trip. Booking before and after that sweet spot of three to four weeks out could result in paying more for airfare, nights at hotels or vacation packages.

Macy's Fourth of July Fireworks in New York City (Photo by Roy Rochlin/FilmMagic)
Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks in New York City (Photo by Roy Rochlin/FilmMagic)

The report also found that certain holidays like the Fourth of July and Labor Day should be booked even earlier.

When To Book

Fourth of July

  • Six weeks in advance. The report found that travelers who booked their Fourth of July travel the week of May 20 saved up to 23% compared to other dates.

Labor Day

  • Eight weeks in advance. The unofficial end to the summer festivals and travel season, Labor Day travel should be booked on or around July 1. Hipmunk found that travelers who booked flights eight weeks before the Labor Day holiday saved upward of 25%.

All Other Dates

  • 3-4 weeks in advance. When it comes to summer, travelers, on average, save the most on airfare when they book 21 to 28 days before departure.

Saving Money This Summer

In addition to knowing when to book, there are a few other ways to save money this summer.

Use Google Flights to Track Prices

If you don’t already, start using Google Flights to search for flights. Google Flights is probably the best search engine for finding cheap flights. It sifts through dozens of online travel agencies (OTAs) and nearly every airline and displays the best available price. Google Flights also offers tools like flexible travel dates, an easy-to-use calendar function and price tracking.

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When you find a flight or dates that work for your plans, you can choose to track either the itinerary or preferred dates. Google Flights will allow you to track these prices within the search engine and will send you emails with price changes.

(Image via Google Flights)
(Image via Google Flights)

One of the most recent additions to Google Flights is the price-prediction feature. Google Flights will let you know if your itinerary or airfare on your preferred dates is expected to increase or decrease in price in the coming hours, days or weeks.

Use Points and Miles

One of the better times to use points and miles is when cash prices threaten your ability to pay for a trip. Your preferred flight or hotel room might break the bank, but points and miles redemptions might still be available at reasonable rates.

See TPG’s latest valuations of top programs to ensure you get the most out of your points and miles.

Monitor TPG Deals for Cheap Flights

The TPG Deals team spends hours searching for cheap flights, hotels and other deals or discounts. TPG Deals provides readers with the latest deals for cash fares as well as for award flights. See the latest deals here.

Be As Flexible As Possible

For many points-and-miles enthusiasts, flexibility might already be a given, as award space is often available at the last minute. However, for others, it’s hard to be flexible when you want to get somewhere. If you are flexible with your travel plans, however, you will save money.

It could be as simple as departing on Tuesday rather than Monday. Most of the time, departing and arriving on a Tuesday or Saturday is significantly less expensive than traveling on a Friday or a Sunday. If you are really looking to save this summer, consider ditching holiday weekends or weekends altogether and traveling in the middle of the week.

The Bottom Line

Traveling during the peak summer travel season is expensive. Airlines, hotels, tour operators, and rental-car agencies adjust their prices upward when the crowds of travelers start to make their plans. However, there are a few ways to make the process a little less painful. The keys to saving money during the peak season will ultimately be flexibility and planning ahead.

For the latest travel news, deals and points and miles tips please subscribe to The Points Guy daily email newsletter.

Featured image via Getty Images

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