More Holiday Travel Suggestions

Ed Perkins scours a variety of search sites for the best advice on December travel.

Kayak published some additional holiday travel guidance, again based on mining its extensive airfare- and hotel-cost data:

  • Airfares to Las Vegas during the mid-December “dead zone” are as much as 61 percent below peak fares. The lowest-cost day is December 11, but fares are good until just before the start of the Christmas vacation period. Hotel rates are also really good during this period—but watch out for the “resort fee” scam that makes the featured rates look a lot lower than they really are.
  • Airfares also drop dramatically for travel to Kahului (Maui), Honolulu, and Ft. Myers, Florida, for departures December 7 through December 19. For more details, check Kayak’s holiday travel guide.

If you’re looking for last-minute hotel deals, a new online bidding agency, Stayful, allows you to place bids for accommodations within a 30-day period for accommodations in independent “boutique” hotels. Initially, the site covers hotels in Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, San Diego, and San Francisco, with New Orleans, Phoenix, Seattle, and Washington to come online by the end of the year. You select the city, dates, and party size, and optionally include filters such as location and Wi-Fi, and the display posts a “suggested” bid as well as a reference for the “best available” regular rate. When I checked the beta version, I found that some suggested bids were only a few dollars less than the advertised rates, but Stayful claims “savings” as high as 42 percent. And, of course, you can always bid less than the suggested figure. In addition to (sometimes) good deals, Stayful includes hotels you might not find in other hotel discount programs. It’s certainly worth a look for upcoming holiday visits, but you might do better with Hotwire or Priceline.

Trivago, the Internet’s largest hotel metasearch site, mined its extensive price database to come up with some winter travel suggestions:

  • Hotels in some business-oriented cities cut prices substantially over Christmas. Trivago says that rates in Boston, Chicago, New Orleans, New York, San Diego, San Francisco, and Washington are as much as 52 percent below rates earlier in the month.
  • On the other hand, rates in some visitor-oriented cities increase over Christmas. Trivago cites increases in Ft. Lauderdale, Memphis, Orlando, and Savannah in the range of 10 percent to 29 percent, topping out at 36 percent in Cancun and a huge 59 percent in Paris.
  • If you want to have a festive New Year’s Eve in a big city, pick your city carefully. Rates in Las Vegas soar by 213 percent over previous dates, with New York City up 51 percent and substantial hikes in many others. On the other hand, rates in Houston drop by 19 percent; rates also lower in Washington and San Jose.

Cheapair posts a current Christmas Calendar of year-end airfares:

  • The best days to fly are December 19, 23 to 26, and 31 and January 1 and 7.
  • The worst days to fly are December 20 and 29 and January 5.

Hotwire reminds us that, on average, working Americans leave an average of 12 days of paid vacation time unused at the end of the year. And Hotwire has plenty of ideas about how you might want to use those vacation days before the end of 2013. Among major destinations, the 10 where prices for four-star hotels drop the most between Thanksgiving and Christmas range from 11 percent at Orlando, where a four-star hotel is available for $52 per night (but may add the “resort fee” scam) to 47 percent at San Diego, where a four-star downtown hotels goes for $102 per night. Comparable deals are available in Boston, Cancun, Chicago, Cost Mesa, Houston, and Seattle.

Meanwhile, my inbox is full of holiday promotions from individual hotels and resorts, ranging from a 50 percent sale (for travel through March) to last-minute packages at several all-inclusive Caribbean resorts. If you’re interested, do some online searching or contact your travel agent. One way or another, you’re not too late to arrange a great winter vacation.

Ed Perkins Seniors on the Go is copyright (c) 2013 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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By Ed Perkins

A nationally recognized reporter, writer, and consumer advocate, Ed Perkins focuses on how travelers can find the best deals and avoid scams.

He is the author of "Online Travel" (2000) and "Business Travel: When It's Your Money" (2004), the first step-by-step guide specifically written for small business and self-employed professional travelers. He was also the co-author of the annual "Best Travel Deals" series from Consumers Union.

Perkins' advice for business travelers is featured on MyBusinessTravel.com, a website devoted to helping small business and self-employed professional travelers find the best value for their travel dollars.

Perkins was founding editor of Consumer Reports Travel Letter, one of the country's most influential travel publications, from which he retired in 1998. He has also written for Business Traveller magazine (London).

Perkins' travel expertise has led to frequent television appearances, including ABC's "Good Morning America" and "This Week with David Brinkley," "The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather," CNN, and numerous local TV and radio stations.

Before editing Consumer Reports Travel Letter, Perkins spent 25 years in travel research and consulting with assignments ranging from national tourism development strategies to the design of computer-based tourism models.

Born in Evanston, Illinois, Perkins lives in Ashland, Oregon with his wife.

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