The end of 2018 is approaching quickly. With only 3 months left in the year, Singaporeans also only have 2 more major holidays left. If you’re planning to travel during the holidays but haven't made your bookings yet, you need to start locking down your travel plans soon. For example, a new survey from CheapAir.com reported that the ideal buying time for flights is 70 days in advance of the date of travel. ValueChampion's own research also showed that airfares are generally 20% to 60% cheaper 3-6 months before the departure date compared to last minute bookings. While these ideal buying windows apply year-round, holiday travel is a whole different beast. Because of the seasonal spike in consumer demand, airlines charge significantly higher prices for flights during these periods compared to others. To help you navigate this tricky timing and find the best flight prices, ValueChampion has conducted research to find the best dates to travel for holidays this year.
Best Days to Fly for Deepavali
If you’re looking to book tickets for Deepavali in November, you should try to make your purchase as soon as possible. Since it's already only about 1 month away, prices for flights could continue to increase already. Still, it's more affordable to fly on certain dates around Deepavali than on others. For example, for 2-week long period around Deepvali, the average price of a non-stop round trip ticket from Singapore to Bangkok was about S$143. However, those who are able to take longer vacations can choose departure dates around 29th Oct to 31st Oct to take advantage of air tickets that are 15-20% cheaper at around S$120. Even if you can't take days off that much in advance, flying between 4th November and 8th November will also yield similar results.
On the other hand, the most expensive dates to fly were between 1st November to 3rd November, with travellers paying anywhere between S$170 to S$240 for a roundtrip ticket. This seems natural given that most people will try to take a long-weekend from Thursday to Tuesday. However, budget-minded consumers who are willing to be more flexible with their trips can benefit from both cheaper flight tickets and less flight delays.
Best Day to Travel for Christmas or New Year's
Travel for Christmas and New Year's is up to 2x more expensive than it is for Deepavali. However, there's still a window of opportunity open for people to find cheap tickets before flights become more expensive. At the latest, travelers should plan to purchase their tickets by mid-October before prices really begin to shoot upward and you find yourself spending all your money on airfare rather than Christmas gifts.
For those who want to fly before Christmas, we found that flying on the 15th December to 19th December generally yielded the lowest prices. For example, non-stop flights to Bangkok cost about S$200-S$250 for those dates compared to S$260 to S$360 for other dates leading up to Christmas Eve. After the 19th, the next affordable day would be the 23rd of December, with even better deals (and probably less traffic) on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day itself. If you don't particularly need to fly anywhere for Christmas, travelling between the 24th and 1st January could be a great way to find bargain tickets during this season. (See: Save on your honeymoon flights when you spend on your wedding!)
Utilise Price Alerts & 24-Hour Cancellation Policies
Image: Olena Yakobchuk/123rf.com
Between now and the holidays, average tickets prices will only trend upward. However, the actual price of a ticket will fluctuate constantly everyday. Therefore, it' always a good idea to set up price alerts for specific trips so that you can take advantage of bargains when they appear. Many online services like Google Flights, SkyScanner and Kayak provide email alerts for these types of situations. While some of these alerts will be misleading sometimes (i.e. you can receive price drop alerts for 2-stop journeys, which you may not be interested in), watching the alerts for a couple days can help you get a sense for the average price of tickets to your destination so that you can recognise a bargain when you see one.
Not only that, many online travel agencies like Expedia provide 24-hour free cancellation & refund policies for your bookings. If book a flight thinking that it's cheap but receive an alert the next day for even cheaper prices, you can always utilise this policy to claim the lower price.
Book Using a Travel Rewards Credit Card
Last but not least, you can book your ticket by using one of the best miles credit cards to get even more mileage out of your purchase, which could be even more valuable for those who may not have the flexibility to fly on cheaper dates. If you don't have a card currently, a year-end holiday trip is an excellent opportunity to do so and earn massive sign up bonuses. For example, the Citi PMV Card provides up to 21,000 miles when you spend S$7.5k in 3 months and pay the annual fee, while Amex Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Card provides up to 20,000 bonus KrisFlyer Miles if you spend S$5,000 within the first 3 months of getting the card.
Furthermore, some of these credit cards come with complimentary travel insurance, which can be quite handy during the holiday travel season. Because so many people are rushing to and from the airport at once, travelling around Christmas and New Years can be a quite hectic journey filled with delays, hours of waiting at the airport and sometimes even lost luggages. This is where travel insurance becomes valuable since you can receive reimbursements for such events. Even if your travel credit card doesn't provide coverage for these travel inconveniences (some cards only cover travel accidents), you can easily purchase a cheap travel insurance policy for as little as S$20 for a week long trip.
This article was originally published in Value Champion.