REDMOND, Wash. — Aug. 26, 2009 — Today the Fareologists at Bing Travel (http://www.bing.com/travel) issued a preliminary outlook for the 2009 holiday travel season, uncovering a holiday season that is distinctly more traveler-friendly than the 2008 season. This year, airfare for Thanksgiving travel to domestic destinations averages $327, down 22 percent from 2008 and virtually on par with 2007 fares. Christmas and New Year’s holiday airfare to domestic destinations averages $353, down 17 percent from this point in 2008, but still about 8 percent above 2007 fares.
“In last year’s holiday travel forecast I talked about the ‘perfect storm’ of record-high oil prices, fuel surcharges and very high airfare. Oh, how quickly things change,” said Bing Travel Fareologist Joel Grus. “As the economy fell into recession last fall, fares came down dramatically and have remained low through 2009. Airlines have cut capacity to the point that we will see pretty full planes, but at least for now, fares are still depressed. Early signs of a rebounding economy could increase consumer demand, pushing fares back up.”
Nationally, the average ticket for the most popular Thanksgiving itinerary — Wednesday departure, Sunday return — is $375, down $122 from last year. Travelers who can stay flexible with their Thanksgiving travel dates may be rewarded with savings; returning on Monday instead of Sunday can yield a savings of $35 per ticket.
Nationally, the ticket for the most popular Christmas itinerary — Wednesday departure, Sunday return — could cost $353 on average, down $49 from 2008. The opportunities for saving a significant amount by shifting travel a day or two are minimal for Christmas, except for traveling on Christmas Day, which saves about $45 per ticket.
Grus offers the following tips for holiday travelers:
Watch October for holiday price drops. Since 2006, most Christmas itineraries saw price drops in the first two weeks of October. Bing Travel data suggests there are 50 percent more price drops during the holidays than other times of the year, so travelers are advised to set e-mail alerts to catch elusive deals.
Avoid additional fees. When you’re shopping for flights, consider the total cost of your trip, including all of the extra charges that you’ll have to pay on some airlines and not others. Be sure to consider the airlines’ baggage fees and overweight fees, and consider bringing your own snacks on board to avoid paying extra.
Travelers should buy now if they see a good fare. The likelihood of fares continuing to increase as we near the holiday season far outweighs the likelihood of fares dropping significantly. Particularly if a traveler has specific dates of travel, he should jump on the next good fare he sees.
Navigating the Holiday Season With Less Stress
Even after you’ve booked your airfare, many holiday travelers may still experience plenty of stress as they get ready to fly. Jon Douglas, managing editor of Bing Travel, offers the following tips for navigating the sometimes chaotic holiday travel season:
Know your home airport. Check your airport’s Web site to learn the tips and tricks you might not have noticed on your last visit. Perhaps there’s a cheaper parking lot than the one you typically use, or a new restaurant worth checking out if you’re delayed. Ask other travelers for tips, too: Maybe the security line is always shorter at one location than another, or it’s faster to pick up arriving passengers if you meet them on the departures level.
Pack smart to avoid fees. Know your airline’s baggage fees, rules, and size limits before you pack so you’re not surprised when you check in for your flight. Consider shipping gifts ahead to your destination and bringing less luggage so you don’t have to check a bag at all, thus avoiding having to pay any fees for your baggage.
Have a contingency plan. In case you’re stuck at the airport due to a delay or cancellation, know where to go and whom to call. Some airlines have special phone numbers for people whose travel has been disrupted; others have kiosks inside security for rebooking.
Check the weather! Stay in the know about any delays by checking the weather in your departure city, at your destination and at any connecting points; if trouble is brewing, ask your airline to reroute you or put you on an earlier or later flight. Sign up with your airline’s alert system to have messages sent to your mobile phone.
Hotels Fares Stay Low Throughout Fall
Deeply discounted hotel rates throughout the fall.
Savvy travelers may remember that since 2007 premium hotel rates have fallen, due in part to reduced airline capacity and hotels compensating for a rise in high airfare. Despite significantly lower airfare this fall, most premium domestic hotels in key vacation destinations are offering lower rates than corresponding 2008 rates. Throughout September, October and November, premium domestic hotel rates are down 13 percent from their 2008 prices, averaging about $186 per night. This trend holds true for all major U.S. cities except one: Honolulu. Premium hotel rates in Honolulu are averaging about $166 per night, about 5 percent higher than at this time last year.
According to the Bing Travel Rate Indicator, premium hotels in New York are down as much as 30 percent, and rates in Chicago and Las Vegas are down as much as 21 percent and 19 percent, respectively. San Francisco, Atlanta, New Orleans and Orlando, Fla., also have deeply discounted hotel rates throughout the fall.
Bing Travel Empowers Consumers With Travel Science, Not Marketing
Bing Travel helps online travel shoppers make smart travel decisions with Price Predictor, an airfare prediction for their specific trip. Price Predictor shows whether the lowest fares appear to be rising or dropping and provides a recommendation to buy now or wait.
The Bing Travel hotel Rate Indicator helps consumers know at a glance if the offered rate for a hotel is a deal based on historical rates. Rate Indicator is available for more than 5,000 hotels in 30 major cities across the country, for reservations up to 90 days in the future.
Bing is designed to help people overcome search overload and make faster, more informed decisions when searching online. No longer satisfied with the status quo of search, Microsoft designed Bing as a Decision Engine to provide people with intelligent search tools to help them simplify tasks and make more informed decisions, from simple decisions such as choosing the fastest route to get home to more complex ones such as researching a product purchase or planning a trip. Bing is available at http://bing.com.