Thanksgiving kicked off all-star weekend for Americans’ No. 1 pastime: shopping.
Each year, lines form around the block and email inboxes pile over with offers as Americans look to take advantage of discounts for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Shoppers compete for the best deals on merchandise and retailers compete for consumer dollars.
Recently, the travel industry has aimed to carve out a spot in the melee. Enter “Travel Tuesday” — the day after Cyber Monday in which you can expect to find offers on flights, hotels and even travel-related gear.
“It’s basically anything related to travel that you can think of,” says Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst at DealNews.com.
Here’s how to strategize to score the best deals, according to experts.
Like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Travel Tuesday is a bit of a misnomer. If a deal will be on offer Tuesday, it’s likely to be available for several days leading up to it, says Ramhold.
“It may mean that they take their Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals and extend them for another day, or they may actually have a specific Travel Tuesday sale.”
That means the best time to start hunting for deals is now, she says. Start by signing up for emails from your favorite travel providers and virtual travel agencies so that you’re alerted when discounts pop up.
If something enticing comes up, be prepared to jump on it, rather than waiting for Tuesday to roll around.
“It’s important to be ready because some of these deals, especially the really great ones, can sell out quickly,” Ramhold says. “It’s not just because it’s a lot of attention, but there may only be a limited offer that they’re providing.”
Generally, you can expect to find the most enticing discounts at online travel agencies, which tend to participate more enthusiastically in the event than direct travel providers, says Ramhold.
“Last year, we saw packages for flights and hotels in Palm Springs. [And] there was a five-night stay in a villa in the Maldives for about $3,000,” she says.
Airlines may advertise discounted flights as well, but you may not be getting the best bang for your buck.
“I really stress the fact that it’s only advertised fares that get cheaper. One of the biggest open secrets in the travel industry is that the best deals on airfare aren’t on advertised deals — it’s the ones that are running in the background,” says Scott Keyes, founder of Going.com. “Advertised sales that are slightly better than normal are nowhere near the best deals that you tend to see on flights.”
There are some exceptions to this rule, though, particularly on foreign airlines that fly to the U.S., Keyes says.
In the past, Air New Zealand has offered Black Friday weekend deals on flights to Australia and New Zealand. Emirates may offer attractive fares to European destinations such as Athens and Milan. Discount carrier French Bee has already begun advertising low fares on flights to Paris and French Polynesia.
When it comes to booking cheap travel, the same rules apply on Travel Tuesday as they do year-round. Chiefly, let the deals come to you by being flexible with the dates and destination of your travel.
“If you don’t necessarily have dates that are super locked in or you don’t have to go to Paris or Rome or Athens, that’s when keeping your options open and seeing what great deals pop up is your best strategy, rather than picking one place in advance and hoping for a great deal,” says Keyes.
It also pays to be aware that the advertised deals may be specific about when and where you can travel at lower prices.
“It may be that the offers you see are kind of like locking in a price, but you won’t be able to travel until next year,” says Ramhold. “It may be January to March of 2024 or something, or it could be immediate.”
Reading the fine print isn’t always a bummer, though, says Keyes.
“For instance, they might say $150 off a hotel stay for any hotel on our site. But they might not have a minimum purchase or minimum stay,” he says. “So you could, for instance, get a one-night hotel stay somewhere where you might be taking a trip or even a local getaway, and have it be effectively free.”
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