We're in the homestretch, and 2018 is creeping to a close. So, where have you traveled to this year? If the answer is nowhere, don’t fret. You’ve still got some sand left in the hourglass. The U.S. Travel Association reports that a whopping 54% of Americans didn’t use up all their vacation days last year. Let’s shrink that statistic and get you the time away that you deserve.
Now’s the Best Time of Year to Book Your 2018 Vacation
Surprisingly, now is the best time of year to plan that getaway you’ve been putting off. Peak summer price hikes are over, and airlines are trying to ride a last wave of revenue to impress investors for their fourth-quarter earnings. Which in turn means a heap of savings for you. Here at Airfarewatchdog, it’s the time in the calendar where we see some of the best airfare sales and deep discounts on our most popular routes. While the season’s busiest travel holidays are still in front of us with Thanksgiving and Christmas knocking on the door (if you hadn’t noticed the decorations slowly starting to pop up in your local mall), if you look outside of those premium periods, you’ll see that airlines are dying to fill up their seats.
If you’ve got some vacation days left to burn before the year is up, no more excuses. Here are some tips on how to make the most of your vacation days, because, in most cases, if you don’t use them, you lose them. And nobody wants to lose out on a great vacation deal.
Have you checked out our Weekender tool yet? This nifty search engine we launched earlier this year just got a whole new facelift and enhanced features. And the new search functions couldn’t be easier to use. Fill in your departure airport of choice and the Weekender will generate a list of popular destinations with the lowest flight prices for an upcoming weekend (up to three months out). Need a place to stay? Click on the Add a hotel to your trip box, and voila, you’ve got vacation plans sorted in no time. Geared for travelers who need an impromptu getaway, the Weekender is a great way to put those remaining vacation days to use, without having to do extensive searches on your own.
The weeks leading up to Thanksgiving and the window between the two major holidays—late November until mid-December—we’ve historically seen some of the best airfare prices all year. These lulls in the travel calendar will not only be easy on your bank account they’re also some of the best times to fly, as winter delays haven’t reared their ugly heads, and passenger loads are at their lowest.
Airlines traditionally struggle to fill up planes in this period, as travelers tend to dish out the extra bucks to visit family and friends for the holidays. Leaving this two-to-three week span as one of the lowest yielding timeframes in many U.S. airlines’ schedules. Flying half-empty planes aren't good for business, so carriers have responded with offering some of their better-unadvertised and promotional sales during this overlooked gap. Giving you the perfect opportunity to stretch out a long weekend with those unused vacation days.
Flash sales happen year round, but now is the time they really ramp up. JetBlue, in particular, can't get enough of them. The airline loves to roll out these time-sensitive travel deals via their @JetBlueCheeps twitter handle. Potentially saving you bundles on select flights if you are flexible for last minute travel. In an effort to fill up undersold planes, you can score deals as little as $20 one-way on specific flights.
More recently, JetBlue had their Halloween flash sale where cross-country flights were as low as $31 one-way, and I pieced together a flight from Boston (BOS) to Burbank (BUR) for as little as $62 roundtrip! Definitely, a deal worth using up those last remaining vacation days on.
Airlines celebrate Black Friday and Cyber Monday too, so skip the department store lineups and have a look to see if you can score a bargain with a limited time sale or promo code. The only problem? By waiting until the end of November, you’ll only have a short travel window left in December to chew up those remaining days if they expire at the year's end. To keep up to date in real time on flash sales and promo codes make sure to follow us on Twitter @airfarewatchdog.
Last-Minute Unadvertised Deals
Usually when it comes to flight deals waiting to book until the last minute is a cardinal sin, as airfares generally skyrocket the closer you get to the departure day. However, that’s not always the case. If you are sitting on a heap of unused vacation days and can pack up at a moments notice or leave the following week, you may find that your procrastination paid off.
As I mentioned earlier, aside from the major travel holiday weeks, we are entering into an airline off-season, where carriers are a little more flexible with their restrictions. Instead of a 21-day advance purchase requirements on tickets we’ve seen lots of great deals with only a week’s advance purchase needed or sometimes none at all.
For example, flights to Hawaii have been going on sale left and right lately and one of the better sales we’d seen offered flights as low as $285 roundtrip from select U.S. airports. What made these deals even better was there was no advance purchase needed, allowing you to purchase, pack-up, and jet off the following day if desired for an amazing last-minute price. Deals like these are rare, and you do need to be flexible, but if you've accrued a stack of time off left and aren’t picky where you want to go, you could be in for a score.
As an airfare deal site, we’d rather you take to the skies and travel somewhere new and exotic, but we understand it’s not always feasible. So take a few vacation days off and stay local. Using our Hotelwatchdog feature, you can nix the flight searches altogether and view only our best hotel deals in a specific city. Allowing you to get the best bang for your buck on accommodation if you decide to take a short road trip or use some time to be a tourist in your hometown.
Alternatively, stay at home full stop. Burn a few days and treat yourself to some R&R or work on that project in your house or apartment you've been putting off. Because, remember it's only time off if you actually take it, and it’s been reported that employees who take time away from the office and on vacation are more likely to get a promotion or a raise.
Header image by Vadim Georgiev via shutterstock.com