Black Friday Travel Deals: What to Do (and Not Do) When Booking

June Casagrande
By June Casagrande 
Updated
Edited by Mary M. Flory

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Black Friday, Cyber Monday and — yes — Travel Tuesday offer great opportunities to save money on gifts, electronics and more. But what about for travel? Are those airfare and hotel deals really deals? Or are they just a marketing opportunity for companies looking to cash in on the buying frenzy?

The answer: both. Deals are out there, but some supposedly great prices are often misleading or exaggerated relative to the deals you can find throughout the year. Then again, some of the best travel deals of the entire year come out on Black Friday (and into the extended holiday deals season which includes Cyber Monday and Travel Tuesday).

Here are seven ways to avoid getting burned on travel deals this Black Friday:

1. Book amazing deals when you see them (and reconsider them after booking)

Let's say you spot a great airfare deal on Cyber Monday. Don’t wait until Travel Tuesday to book it. Even if the sale technically extends through then, someone else might have nabbed the last available seat listed.

If you find a truly unbelievable airfare, book it now. You'll have 24 hours to think it over at no monetary cost because the U.S. Department of Transportation requires that air carriers allow reservations to be canceled within 24 hours of booking without penalty.

Assuming the airfare deal is a price you’d be willing to pay on a flight you want, then lock it in. If airfares drop further on Travel Tuesday, you can cancel that flight (within 24 hours, of course) and rebook the better deal.

Or maybe you got the lowest fare, but after thinking it over, you realize the trip doesn't make sense. As long as you cancel within 24 hours of booking, your plane tickets are refundable and you won't be subject to any cancellation fees.

The only cost to you is the time and energy needed to book and cancel.

2. Read the cancellation terms

Speaking of cancellations, understand your airline or hotel's change and cancellation policy before you book. Many have especially sneaky terms like "no cancellations," so make sure you read the fine print.

After all, a fully refundable $209-a-night hotel room may be a better deal for you than the Black Friday sale on the same room going for $199 where you have to pay upfront and it's non-refundable.

While you can always cancel airfare within 24 hours of booking for a full refund and with no other penalty, refunds are less easy to come for pretty much every other situation (aside from the airline canceling your flight on you). With most airfares, it's unlikely you'll get a full cash refund, particularly on nonrefundable airline tickets.

As far as hotels go, the rules vary widely. Some hotels let you cancel with a full refund three days before arrival, while others make it a week. Many are moving toward a 30-day deadline. Penalties differ, too. “Fully prepaid” room rates often mean you lose 100% of the cost if you can’t make the trip for any reason, including serious illness. Others charge a one-night penalty.

3. Check prices, and then check them again

Search prices now, then search them again in the days leading up to Black Friday. Shoppers looking to buy a gaming console or big-screen TV have a good idea of what the product normally costs. That’s harder for folks shopping for travel. Hotel rates and airfares fluctuate from season to season, and sometimes even daily. Deals pitched as “amazing” or “unbelievable” may be more hype than substance.

NerdWallet has done some of the homework for you by tracking the Cyber Monday and Travel Tuesday 2023 deals we believe to be good.

A screenshot from Google Flights

Other tools, like Google Flights, can also help you understand whether prices are below average. With Google Flights, you can find the flight you intend to book, and a graph will appear on the page telling you how prices compare for that flight versus what they had been previously posted for. Google's enormous trove of data also predicts whether fares will likely go if you wait to book.

4. Use comparison-shopping websites

Speaking of Google Flights, that's just one of the myriad flight tracking tools you should consider using to compare prices.

Google Flights is good, though it's not the only tool to consider. Skyscanner posts helpful information about Black Friday travel offers. Check the “Deals” tabs on travel booking sites like Expedia and Travelocity, as well as on airline and hotel websites. Deal specialists like Travelzoo and Groupon can be useful, too. And Going, formerly known as Scott's Cheap Flight offers both a paid and free service to send deal alerts right to your inbox.

5. Pick the credit card you’ll use to book

Depending on where you want to go, this could be the time to sign up for an airline or hotel rewards credit card, especially one offering a bonus. Assuming you're doing above-average spending during the holiday season, this could be an excellent time to apply for a travel credit card with a sign-up bonus.

Of course, points and miles aren't the only reason to hold a travel credit card (and perhaps even better, a premium travel credit card). An excellent travel credit card can give you extra benefits when you're on vacation, such as access to Priority Pass airport lounges. Many also carry less glitzy, but more valuable benefits, such as credit cards that offer travel insurance.

6. Beware of resort fees

More hotels are tacking on a resort fee on top of their daily rate and claiming it covers things like free daily newspapers, Wi-Fi or pool towels. The average resort fee is $42.41 per night, according to a NerdWallet analysis. NerdWallet looked at more than 100 U.S. hotels with January 2023 check-in dates as part of its 2023 Best-Of Awards to see which hotels have the best and worst fees.

That figure represents nearly 11% of the overall nightly cost. And many hotels don't make that fee upfront when they advertise their low Black Friday or Travel Tuesday deals. What's worse is that a deal for 50% off the room rate typically only applies to the room rate. The resort fee likely won't be discounted.

Read the terms of your hotel booking before you calculate the final cost of that hotel.

7. Don’t forget the tax

Just like how you should calculate resort figures in the final figure, account for taxes too.

When you search for package deals, the price you see could have the tax already included. If you search for hotels separately, you’re more likely to see a pre-tax price. When you’re comparing rates (especially when you’re comparing packages to the cost of booking the flight) of car and hotel separately, note whether the tax is included to ensure an apples-to-apples comparison.


How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2024, including those best for:

Travel Cards from Our Partners
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-5x

5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.

Points

Intro offer

60,000

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Points
Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1.5%-6.5%

Enjoy 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel; 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and 3% on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year). After your first year or $20,000 spent, enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

Cashback

Intro offer

$300

Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's website

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
4.7
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

2x-5x

Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options.

Miles

Intro offer

75,000

Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.

Miles
See more travel cards
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