Vacation Planning Time
There is no clear data regarding how far in advance Americans plan their vacations. Google data suggests that flights and hotels are booked at least three months in advance, while activities are booked closer to the vacation dates. Expedia and Skyscanner have analyzed their databases and found the best times and days to book flights in the US.
Traveler Bookings Information
- In 2019 a review of Google data found airfares and hotels are typically booked in advance of 12 weeks. In the three months before travel, consumers focus on searching and booking holiday activities and experiences.
- There are three times as many searches for holiday experiences than hotels, and eight times as many searches for holiday experiences than flights in the three months leading up to travel.
- Monday is the most popular day for booking trips. Saturday is the least popular. The most popular booking time is 1000 CET, while 0600 CET is the least popular.
- Fifty-one percent of US travelers spend less than one week planning a trip once they have decided to go on the trip.
- The number of bookings made directly through websites fell from 79.3% to 66.7% between 2017 and 2018. Over the same period, the number of bookings made by agents, affiliates, and local tourist offices increased from 17.5% to 24.3%. Marketplace bookings increased from 3.2% to 9.1%.
- Travelers who book their trips in advance tend to spend 47% more on accommodations and 81% more on transportation when compared to travelers who book later.
- Google data suggests there may be a trend developing toward late booking. There has been a 519% increase in travel searches incorporating "tonight" and "today" over the last five years.
Travel industry Recommendations
- After analyzing their database for 2018, Skyscanner made several recommendations for booking in 2019. If flying domestically in the US, the best time to book was in August. Saturdays in August were even better. The booking should be made 30 days in advance of travel.
- If flying internationally, the best time to book was September (Sundays). The booking should be made four months in advance of travel. Flights were up to 6% cheaper in September.
- Expedia found that for Americans booking international summer vacations, the best time to book is one month to three weeks ahead of travel. This could save up to 15% on international flights.
- Booking on the weekend can save up to 20%. Booking a flight on a Sunday can result in savings of up to 36%.
- Hotels offer the best rates for last-minute bookings, according to Expedia. This will typically result in savings of up to 15%.
- According to an analysis of online booking data, the best days to book Christmas flights are between 23 November and 9 December. Booking during that period can save up to 15%.
We initially reviewed several large travel industry surveys, involving the travel habits of Americans, to determine how far in advance vacations are booked. We hoped that the surveys would indicate whether holiday flights, accommodation, and activities are booked at different times. We managed to locate some very limited data that suggested flights and accommodation were booked in advance of holiday activities. The data, while answering the question, was superficial.
To determine when flights, hotels, and activities are booked, relative to each other, we next considered a range of industry reports regarding the travel habits of Americans. The reports reviewed included the WWTC and CrowdRiff reports. We expected that this data would be included in these reports due to the implications it has on-demand for hotels and flights. Unfortunately, this was not the case. These reports focused primarily on trends within the industry rather than on consumer trends. While there was information about the best days and times to book, there was no information available about when travelers were booking. One report did suggest that there had been an increase in the number of Google searches for the same day or night travel.
We reviewed a range of media publications, industry publications, and travel advisory sites. We hoped that these sources would include this type of information, as many of these articles discuss the trends and behaviors of travelers. There was a wealth of information in these sources, including an article based on Expedia data. This article made recommendations as to the best time of the year to book and the best time of the year to travel. There was no information about the booking habits of the travelers themselves.
Finally, we considered a range of consumer reports and industry studies that were behind paywalls. Often paywalled reports have a summary of the pertinent points available free of charge. We hoped that information about booking habits would be contained in one of the summaries. Unfortunately, this was not the case. We managed to find some information regarding the historic habits of UK travelers, but nothing about Americans.