Black Friday and Cyber Monday 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 pure hype.
» Learn more: Best Black Friday Deals for 2018
Here are eight ways to avoid getting burned on travel deals this Black Friday.
1. If you’re not completely ready to book, wait
Decide now where you might want to go and when you can go. If you haven’t requested time off work, if you need to get your first passport or yours is expired, if you haven’t negotiated possible destinations with your partner, you might not be ready to grab that irresistible Black Friday travel deal.
2. 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 day to day. Deals pitched as “amazing” or “unbelievable” may be more hype than substance.
The only way to get a base price in mind is to do some homework. Armed with that information, you’ll know a real deal when you see one.
3. Pick your comparison-shopping websites
The best sites for travelers looking to go from St. Louis to Aruba may be different from the sites with the best deals from Boston to Reykjavik. Play around with search sites to get a feel for which ones are best for your route. Then, when you see a Black Friday offer, you’ll know where to go for a good comparison.
Skyscanner posts helpful information about Black Friday travel offers. And also check the “Deals” tabs on travel booking sites like Expedia and Travelocity, and on airline and hotel websites. Deal specialists like Travelzoo and Groupon can be useful, too.
4. Pick the credit card you’ll use to book
Depending on where you want to go, this could be time to sign up for an airline or hotel rewards credit card, especially one offering a bonus. Or you may already have a credit card that’s perfect for getting the most out of that Black Friday travel purchase.
» Learn more: The best travel credit cards of 2018
5. Read the cancellation terms
Think of cancellation flexibility as a form of free insurance. It adds value to your booking. Though it’s hard to assign a dollar value to that “free insurance,” a fully refundable $209-a-night hotel room may be a better deal for you than a Black Friday sale on the same room for $199.
Some hotels let you cancel with a full refund three days before arrival. Others make it a week. Still, others 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. Factor these risks into those enticing rates.
6. Be prepared to walk away
That too-good-to-be-true deal might cost more than you’d pay if you waited a few days or weeks to book. The sellers want you to believe you’re looking at a can’t-miss opportunity. Don’t take their word for it (see No. 2).
7. Beware of resort fees
These days, more hotels are tacking on a fee on top of their daily rate and claiming it covers things like free daily newspapers, Wi-Fi or pool towels. These fees average about $25 per night, with some as high as $50 per night. Read the terms of your hotel booking before you calculate the final cost of that hotel.
8. Don’t forget the tax
If 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 and especially when you’re comparing packages to the cost of booking the flight, car and hotel separately, note whether the tax is included to ensure an apples-to-apples comparison.
How to maximize your rewardsYou want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2018, including those best for:
- Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®).
- Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card (Earn unlimited 2 miles per dollar on every purchase).
- Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve® (Get 3 points per dollar on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases).
- No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card (Earn unlimited 1.5 points per dollar spent on all purchases, with no annual fee).
- Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express (Get 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or through American Express Travel, plus get access to the Global Lounge Collection). Terms Apply.
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
The best deals of Black Friday in 2018
The top websites for travel deals
How to find cheap activities in any city to stay under budget