It may cost less to fill up your tank this holiday season, but when it comes to the other aspects of traveling don’t expect any discounts.
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According to a recent survey from discount travel-booking site Hotwire, Americans will spend $83 billion on holiday travel this year – up $11 billion from 2013. Christmas alone will cost travelers a whopping $66 billion.
“The headline message is bad news,” Hotwire CEO Henrik Kjellberg said. “Even if we look at Hotwire in terms of our prices, what we’re seeing is prices are up 15% on hotels and they’re still up 5% on air [for Thanksgiving].”
The one bright spot is car rentals, where Thanksgiving rentals are down approximately 2% this year. For Christmas, however, prices are set to jump even higher: Hotel prices are 22% more expensive than last year, while airfare is 6% costlier.
“If you’re looking for deals, you have to work harder,” Kjellberg said. While fuel costs may be down, trade group Airlines for America said recently that most airlines would be reinvesting any savings or paying down debts, rather than dropping ticket prices.
What to Do If You Haven’t Already Booked Travel
If you haven’t yet booked flights or hotel stays for Thanksgiving or Christmas, there may still be some opportunity to save some cash.
“At this point, I would wait until next week [to book],” Kjellberg advised. While he acknowledges that this is a riskier strategy, he said Hotwire and other travel sites are likely holding prices steady this week. By next Tuesday, they’ll be looking to fill open seats and rooms by dropping prices.
As for Christmas travel, Kjellberg said many sites are likely to offer Cyber Monday promotions. So if you’re willing to live with a bit of uncertainty and wait until after Thanksgiving to firm up travel plans, there may be some discounts in store.
That said, Kjellberg said it generally pays off to plan in advance. If you can’t afford major travel this holiday season, think ahead for 2015.
“Book your air tickets ahead, since those tend to be quite expensive, but book refundable hotels with [24-hour] cancellation policies to lock in prices … then you can look online 2-3 days before [for cheaper prices],” Kjellberg said.