When to book your plane ticket to save money, plus my Destination of the Day

I get asked a lot about what destinations to visit. It’s a fun question to answer.
1-IMG_5822I don’t, however, always know the best TIME to book a trip. I know that hotels in New York City and Toronto and other business centres are often cheaper on weekends than during the week when biz folks travel the most. And I’ve always been told it’s best to book tickets for North America travel about four to six weeks ahead, the reasoning being that airlines know if we book a year in advance it’s probably a wedding or something important and that if we book a day in advance it’s probably a death or a business emergency that we’re willing to pay for.
What I hadn’t seen in such a tidy package was a listing of the best times (and best days) to book airline tickets for the places most Canadians visit; i.e., North America, the Caribbean (especially this time of year) and Europe. But the folks at Kayak put together a great item this week talking about the top destinations that Canadians and Americans are looking at and also the best time to book.
According to Kayak, if you’re headed to the Caribbean it’s best to book two to four weeks ahead. They also suggest departing on a Thursday and returning on a Tuesday. Considering how I feel about winter, I’d book for a Thursday in early January and return on a Tuesday in mid-April, but that’s just me.
Officials said the Caribbean “is typically a destination that’s more affordable to travel to, and usually nothing can be gained by booking months in advance. Since the Caribbean is a draw for its strong tourism industry, there are several flights available so it’s slightly easier to book and find deals closer to the date of departure.”
If you’re booking a trip to North America, Kayak recommends booking four to six weeks ahead and departing Friday with a Monday return, which is what I would’ve suggested.
I probably wouldn’t have suggested this, but Kayak says it’s best for North Americans to book a European trip six months ahead for the best fare. I would’ve thought two to three months, but apparently not. I’m not surprised to see they recommend mid-week travel, of course. Their suggestion is departing for Europe on a Wednesday and returning on a Thursday.
The information comes from something Kayak calls the Kayak 2015 Travel Hackers’ Guide, which is based on a billion (take or give) searches from folks in the U.S. and the Great White North.
1-IMG_4501As for destinations, they listed the following as their top 10 trending destinations for where Canadians and Americans are searching (based on the greatest year-over-year hike in search activity, not overall searches). I’ve included a shorter version of their reasoning behind the various trending spots.
1. Milan (2015 Expo, new canal-side bars and restaurants)
2. Rio de Janeiro (World Cup and coming Olympics)
3. Portland, Oregon (the “Western capital of cool” and a “tranquil Japanese garden)
4. Hyderabad, India (High tech centre and nightlife: who knew?)
5. Athens (four-day archaeological passes has visitors flocking here)
6. Toronto (Pan Am Games and an “emerging music scene”)
7. Savannah, Georgia (charms like Davenport House are gifts that keep on giving)
8. Nashville (The Bluebird Café attracts talent that – like Nashville itself – is on the rise)
9. Hartford (Business travel and sandwiches at the Corner Grinder)
10. Montreal (Dining at L’express means not having to fly to Paris)
They also compiled a list of top 10 deal destinations, based on cities with the greatest drop in airfare. Tops was Milan, followed by Hyderabad, New Delhi and Vancouver.
Another good one was top trending beach destination searches. The top 10, in order, were Grenada, Cartagena Colombia, Puerto Vallarta, Nantucket, St. Lucia, Punta Cana, Fiji, The Turks and Caicos, Cancun and St. Martin.
So there you go….
A study I noticed from a company called routehappy found that an amazing 66% of U.S. domestic flights have Wi-Fi! Canada, practically none. Believe it or not, officials at Air Canada say they’re STILL studying the issue. Unbelievable. I suspect something must have gone pretty far sideways for things to take this long … An airline in China called Spring is considering a plan to let passengers stand on a plane rather than get seated. Given the way seats are shrinking, I’m not sure this isn’t so bad on a one-hour flight or so. At least nobody would be slamming their seat into your lap and spilling wine on your lap … I spotted a news item this week that says hotels are increasing using a security service that lets them track missing towels and bathrobes. Which makes me think a lot of you are in trouble. The story said hotels routinely lose a remarkable 20 per cent of their inventory each week! I admit I freely take mini-bottles of shampoo and body lotion (I have very sensitive skin, you know). But a bathrobe? Never … Air Canada rouge is adding more domestic flights. They announced this week they’ll start flying between Toronto and Abbotsford B.C. on June 27. They’ll also launch Calgary-Hamilton flights that day. In both cases one-way tickets are selling for $198 one-way, plus taxes … With fuel costs spiralling ever lower (not that we travellers have benefitted), WestJet this week reported a 34 per cent hike in quarterly profit. A story in the Globe and Mail quoted WestJet chief Gregg Saretsky as saying that if demand stays robust use the lower jet fuel prices to boost their bottom line. Sounds like that bottom line is spreading out pretty nicely over the bicycle seat already.
Most Canadians think of visiting Europe when the weather’s better. But you can usually find great deals in winter when the weather isn’t so wonderful.
1-IMG_5424The way I look at it is that you can’t count on hot, sunny weather in any time of year in countries like Ireland, so why not try a visit when prices are down? I had a lovely time in Galway a few years ago, staying at the stylish G Hotel and walking the pedestrian-friendly streets. Yeah, there are a few cool pubs worth checking out, too, including The King’s Head. It hardly matters what the weather’s like when you’re tucked into a cozy “snug” at an Irish pub listening to local musicians, right?

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