- Now is the time to book flights for 2021 holiday travel, experts say.
- Flight cancellation policies are still lenient and deals are available to many destinations.
- Here’s what to know and key tips, according to travel professionals.
With many holiday travel plans dashed last year, demand is greater than ever for the 2021 festive season. Experts say now is the time to book your holiday travel, whether your plans call for visiting family or a far-flung vacation.
Where you can safely and comfortably go will often depend on factors including vaccination status, but cancellation policies are far more flexible than usual.
With feedback from seasoned travel pros, here’s what to know about holiday travel before you book.
Book your holiday flights now
With uncertainties surrounding COVID and travelers seeking low prices, some may be inclined to wait on booking any holiday travel.
But Scott’s Cheap Flights founder Scott Keyes urges travelers to book holiday flights as soon as possible to get the best prices on airfare.
“The best time to have been booking Christmas and New Year flights was three months ago. The second best time is today,” he told Insider.
Keyes recommends avoiding booking at the last minute since airfare tends to get more expensive in the four weeks before a flight.
A traveler waits for his flight.
Don’t wait on rental cars either if you need transportation once you land
Don’t wait on booking a rental car either if you’ll need one. A shortage in companies’ fleets sent rental car prices soaring earlier in the pandemic and severely limited availability. Now that crunch has eased a bit, but demand during peak holiday season could see a spike the prices again.
Plan to pay more for domestic flights, and less for international trips
While demand for travel soared this summer as COVID cases plunged in the US, the rise of the Delta variant has reduced traveler appetite for international travel, Keyes said. “People’s interest and demand for traveling overseas is still significantly diminished from where it was pre-pandemic,” he said. “By most estimates, it’s still down over 60 percent.”
That means if you feel comfortable traveling abroad, you’ll find good deals if you book ASAP, with the best prices around Thanksgiving.
That’s because Thanksgiving week is a time when many Americans have off from work and school, while other countries don’t observe the holiday, leading to far less pressure on prices and availability. For this reason, Keyes calls it the best-kept secret in international air travel deals.
Before booking, check for flexible airline policies and consider travel insurance
With the rise of the Delta variant, many airlines loosened cancellation rules to lure travelers to commit.
In general, for hotels, airlines, and other bookings across the travel industry, expect to encounter cancellation policies that are better than they were pre-COVID but are not as flexible as last year.
On major airlines like Delta and United, fees are paused as of the time of writing and, according to Keyes, it will stay that way through the holiday period.
Quick tip: Insider has reported on the US airlines with the most flexible booking processes. American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, and Alaska Airlines are all tied for first place.
Delta and United have both paused change and cancellation fees.
With the Delta variant, United and Delta saw new bookings take a pretty big hit. So to convince people to make travel plans, they got rid of change fees temporarily for basic economy through the end of 2021,” Keyes said. “If you’re traveling for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s, you automatically have flexibility in basic economy so you can change your travel without having to pay any penalty.”
And if you really want to play it safe, experts recommend purchasing standalone travel insurance covering trip cancellation, trip delay, lost luggage, and medical care.
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