For most people, holiday travel means domestic trips over Thanksgiving weekend and within the two-week window between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Using this knowledge, you can score some great travel deals—all you have to do is take the exact opposite approach to the way you choose to travel during the holiday season.
There are several off peak travel times or travel “dead zones” lurking around the holidays. Before the holidays, people are generally saving up for upcoming trips, and afterward, they often take time for the much-needed rest required to recover from the holiday hangover.
During these dead zones, airlines and hotels have to slash their prices to lure travelers. These dead zones may represent tough times for travel companies, but they represent a perfect opportunity for budget travelers.
During the first two weeks of November, most people are preparing for their holiday trips. If you hate the cold, this is your chance to travel cheaply before the worst winter weather arrives.
Between Thanksgiving and Christmas
As soon as the busy Thanksgiving period is over, prices dip again until just a few days before Christmas. During this period, most people rest and even business travelers avoid flying. You can usually find the best deals during the first two weeks of December, when airfares can be 10 to 20 percent lower than the peak fares.
After New Year’s Day
New Year’s Day marks the end of the busiest of holiday celebrations, as well as the end of exorbitant airfare and hotel prices. No one else wants to fly after the hectic holidays take their toll. This dead zone can go on for almost two months, ending only in late February in time for spring break. Just avoid traveling during the Valentine’s Day weekend and the Super Bowl week, when demand from couples and sports fans drive prices up.
Most people don’t travel on the actual holidays, such as Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Eve, because they don’t want to miss out on the festivities. Airfares on these days are not as cheap as during the other dead zones, but they’re often cheaper than the surrounding days.
If you travel abroad, you can find great deals during the entire Thanksgiving period, since Thanksgiving is a big thing in the states, but it’s not celebrated globally. In other words, there is low demand for international flights, and hotel prices in America’s’ favorite international destinations may also be slightly lower. Just don’t expect to find roast turkeys easily when you’re abroad.
Bonus Dead Zone: August – September
While this dead zone occurs outside the holiday season, it deserves a mention. From late August to late September, children are busy with school and parents generally can’t travel. If you have no kids in school, this is a good time to take advantage of the low market demand and cheap rates.—but be sure to avoid the Labor Day holiday, when families often take advantage of the long weekend to travel.
Destinations to Visit
The cheapest travel destinations during the holidays tend to be those with nasty winters. If you’ve always wanted to visit Northern Europe on the cheap, this is your opportunity. You won’t have to deal with crowds, you’ll get to visit the holiday markets, and you may even get a chance to see the Northern Lights. Just pack your warmest clothes and take time in advance to make sure the attractions you want to visit will be open during your visit.
For better weather, visit countries like Greece, Italy or Spain. Athens can get uncomfortably hot during the summer, so winter may actually be a better time to visit.
Destinations to Avoid
As the cold sets in, snowbirds escape to warmer places, such as Hawaii, the Caribbean and the tropics. At the other extreme, some people seek out snow and rush to the ski resorts for winter sports. Airfares and hotel rates for these two types of destinations may remain high during the holidays.
If you’ve set your heart on tackling the slopes or the waves this winter, keep an eye out for special deals and promotions. And open your mind to alternative destinations. For example, Bali and Sri Lanka are a lot cheaper than Australia or Brazil, even though they’re all warm destinations.
Interested in more ways to save money and travel cheaply? Visit NomadWallet.com and follow along as Deia B offers regular advice and resources for ways to do just that.
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