We all want to get the most and pay the least when we’re booking flights, hotel rooms or rental cars, but when it comes to locking down the best rates, many factors are at play.
With flights and hotels, it’s usually supply and demand. New flight routes also play a role in whether you can score a business-class upgrade affordably, or you’re stuck spending a ton on whatever is available in economy.
The time of year and perceived trendiness of a destination can also impact the cost, said David Solomito, travel expert and vice president of marketing at travel booking site Kayak.
When these variables intersect, it can create a perfect storm of savings. Thanks to intensive data analysis from travel booking platforms Kayak, Hopper and Hipmunk, travelers can try to pinpoint the best time to book a vacation in the coming year. Here are some trends to watch out for.
Save on Caribbean visits
If a visit to the Caribbean is on your wish list for 2019, you can save some money by visiting before the winter high season, or just after it.
“Historically, the rainy season corresponds with off-peak season for Caribbean destinations, meaning prices are typically lower at this time than others,” said Liana Corwin, a consumer travel expert at Hopper.
The Caribbean rainy season runs from May through November, and their hurricane season overlaps with much of it, with September and October posing the greatest risk of major storms.
For the Bahamas, Kayak’s 2019 forecast has rates for hotels and airfare at their lowest during these same two months.
But weather and hurricane risk can vary significantly from island to island. Make sure your research is tied to your specific destination rather than the Caribbean region as a whole, and strongly consider travel insurance to safeguard your trip.
In general, 2019 should be a particularly good year to visit the Caribbean. Several airlines have increased service to the islands, including those that have recovered from major damage brought by Hurricane Irma in September 2017, like St. Martin and St. Thomas.
“The Caribbean has experienced a strong recovery, which is likely driving interest in 2019,” Mr. Solomito said.
Travel when it’s cheapest
Research shows that, across the board, January is the cheapest month, on average, to fly both domestically and internationally. September is close behind.
Hipmunk’s data specifically shows that flights within the U.S., on average, are 31 percent lower in January compared to peak summertime prices.
“It’s the start of a new year, people are motivated to be back at work, the kids are back at school, it’s usually cold — it’s just not a high-traffic travel time and flight prices reflect that,” said Kelly Soderlund, Hipmunk’s travel trends analyst. “However, if you’re on a budget or just hate crowds, it’s a fantastic time to cross some cities off your bucket list.”
If you can’t get vacation plans settled this early in the year, consider “shoulder season,” which starts in September.
“Shoulder season typically brings with it lower consumer demand outside of the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s weeks, which means overall lower prices for those trips between summer and the holiday season,” Ms. Corwin said.
Consider Canada for the holidays
December is typically one of the most expensive months to travel, because of the high demand of the holiday travel season. But Kayak’s data point to one notable exception: Canada.
Newly added flights to several American cities and an expanded network of low-cost carriers are driving down prices, Mr. Solomito said. It’s also off-peak travel season for the whole country, thanks to frigid temperatures north of the border.
“If you can brave the cold it is well worth your time,” Mr. Solomito said. “There are beautiful ski resorts, breathtaking scenery and plenty of holiday festivals to enjoy across the country. In particular, the holiday season in Quebec City is magical.”
By JUSTIN SABLICH