Even if you’re not traveling to be with family, there’s plenty of places you can travel this winter in order to take advantage of both time off and great holiday rates. Here we’ll (with the help of Priceline travel analyst Brian Ek) provide you with some simple tips on how to capitalize this holiday season.
Try to Be Flexible
Easier said than done. Sure. But there are real benefits to being flexible when booking a hotel stay this time of year, especially if you’re headed to a popular holiday destination.
“If you have any flexibility, try different dates for your hotel stay,” said Ek. “For example, if you’re taking a shopping trip to New York, and Black Friday weekend is booked up, look into the weekend before, or the weekend after. There may be availability, and the rates may be better.”
Part of being flexible may include having the freedom to book more than one night in some cases. “Sometimes during holiday periods, hotels will give preference to guests who are booking multiple nights at the property,” Ek added.
Finding a little extra time off or being able to move around obligations could be the difference between a memorable trip and staying home.
If you own a smart phone or tablet, look into different booking apps like Priceline, Hotels.com and others. This way you’ll be alerted to the best deals.
“That’s because hotels know customers with smartphones and tablets are much more statistically inclined to be last-minute hotel customers, so they’re reaching out over those platforms,” said Ek.
Not every can’t-miss offer will cooperate with your schedule, but all it takes is one to make the simple app download worthwhile.
Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate
“Try naming your own price,” Ek said. “Around the holidays, when business travel is down, many hotels will allow their rooms to go to leisure travelers at discounts up to 60 percent below published rates.”
Even if you aren’t able to take advantage of 60 percent savings, a simple phone call and a little hardball could result in a four- or five-star experience at a price you would have typically paid for a mid-range hotel.
“The key here is, think big quality, low budget,” said Ek.
Look into Travel Packages
Lastly, if you plan on flying to your holiday destination this year, booking your flight and hotel room together might be an easy way to save. This could also be a potential solution if you’re struggling to find available rooms at your destination.
“Sometimes, while there might not be availability for the hotel alone, they may have committed inventory to be sold as part of a package deal that includes airfare,” said Ek.
Destinations to Consider
With average daily rates around $89, according to data from Priceline, Las Vegas is an affordable getaway destination around Thanksgiving. If you don’t mind warming up leftovers when you get home, Sin City is the perfect place to relieve holiday stress on a budget.
Nonetheless, travelers will also find excellent rates in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and outside of Washington, D.C., with the two areas boasting average daily rates of $78 and $82, respectively around Turkey Day.
Those content to spend a little bit more on their Thanksgiving accommodations should consider the Theme Park Capital of the World, Orlando, or Jersey City. According to Priceline data, average daily rates for the two destinations range from $102 to $155.
While Jersey City isn’t technically New York, it’s right next door and you can use the money you save to take in more New York City attractions.
It turns out that you can celebrate Christmas without snow. This December, travelers are likely to find tons of great deals in warm weather coastal destinations.
Average daily rates in Florida’s Tampa-St. Petersburg region this Christmas will be around $93, just slightly above those in Daytona Beach, Florida, and Salt Lake City ($91 each). Long Beach, California is another underrated December destination, with average daily rates coming in at just $108.
If you’ve got your passport handy, Costa Rica is an ideal international Christmas destination, boasting average daily rates of $115, based on data from Priceline.
Photo courtesy of Thinkstock
It’s always educational to peruse the monthly CruiseTrends reports published by CruiseCompete, an online cruise marketplace that tracks current consumer popularity in ocean and river cruising across several categories. Let’s see what can be gleaned from each of them below.
Most Popular Cruise Lines
(Based on the total number of quote requests for each cruise line in the given month)
1. Premium/Contemporary: Carnival Cruise Line
2. Luxury: Oceania Cruises
3. River: Viking River Cruises
In second place is Royal Caribbean International for premium/contemporary, Cunard for luxury and AmaWaterways for river. More…
We say: This data comes as no surprise, as Carnival Cruise Line and Viking River Cruises, the most ubiquitous companies in their respective categories, take top honors. Oceania Cruises most likely leads as a value proposition in the luxury segment, but you would similarly expect reasonably priced Azamara Club Cruises to be higher on the list as well.
Most Popular Cruise Ships
(Based on the total number of quote requests for each ship)
1. Premium/Contemporary: Regal Princess
2. Luxury: Oceania Riviera (changed from Queen Mary 2 last month)
3. River: MS AmaPrima (changed from Viking Var last month)
Next in popularity are Allure of the Seas for premium/contemporary, Queen Mary 2 for luxury and MS AmaSerena for river. More…
We say: The Regal Princess is Princess Cruises’ newest ship and, with recent interest in its forthcoming sister-ship, the Majestic Princess in China, its placement here makes sense. It is interesting that the AmaPrima replaced the Viking Var since last month, as both are two years old and not from the most recent crop of either line, but most consumers are not likely to know that.
Most Popular Cruise Regions
(Based on the total number of quote requests for each region)
1. Premium/Contemporary: Caribbean
2. Luxury: Europe
3. River: Europe
Next in popularity are North America for premium/contemporary, Caribbean for luxury and Asia/Far East for river. More…
We say: With so many ships sailing in the Caribbean year-round it makes sense that the region reigns supreme for contemporary cruises and still second for luxury sailings. Of course, Europe holds strong for the other two with the increased popularity of luxury and river cruises overseas.
Most Popular Cruise Departure Ports
(Based on the total number of quote requests for each departure port)
1. Premium/Contemporary: Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
2. Luxury: Miami, Fla.
3. River: Amsterdam, The Netherlands (changed from Budapest, Hungary last month)
Next in popularity are Miami, Fla. for premium/contemporary, Southampton, U.K. for luxury and Budapest, Hungary for river. More…
We say: Miami and Fort Lauderdale are the biggest Floridian ports for Caribbean access, and in Europe, Amsterdam and the port it replaced from last month, Budapest, are often embarkation and disembarkation cities linked by extended itineraries.
Most Popular Cruise Ports Visited
(Based on the total number of quote requests for each port visited during cruise itineraries, excluding departure ports)
1. Premium/Contemporary: Cozumel, Mexico
2. Luxury: Gustavia, St. Barts
3. River: Vienna, Austria
Next in popularity are Nassau, Bahamas for premium/contemporary, Bora Bora, French Polynesia for luxury and Cologne, Germany for river. More…
We say: At first glance, it may seem surprising that St. Barts made the list, but luxury lines do indeed frequent more off-the-beaten-path destinations. The more common ports, Cozumel included, still remain the mainstay of contemporary lines.
Most Popular Countries Visited
(Based on the total number of quote requests for each country visited during cruise itineraries, excluding countries of departure)
1. Premium/Contemporary: Mexico
2. Luxury: United States
3. River: Germany
Second are Bahamas for premium/contemporary, Spain for luxury and Austria for river. More…
We say: A renewed interest in Mexico as a cruise destination is a nice thing to see. The Mexican Riviera may soon see a resurgence accordingly. United States as the most popular line to be visited by luxury lines is certainly surprising, since luxury lines sail almost exclusively in foreign regions. Perhaps they should rethink their itineraries a bit to align with this surge in interest.
Most Popular Cabin Types
(Based on the total number of quote requests for each cabin type)
1. Premium/Contemporary: Balcony
2. Luxury: Balcony
3. River: Balcony
We say: Balconies across the board are the most popular, and cruise lines continue to launch ships with more and more balconies, many only with verandas to meet this very demand.
Most Popular Cruise Itinerary Lengths
(Based on most requested itinerary lengths)
1. Premium/Contemporary: 7 nights
2. Luxury: 7 nights
3. River: 8 nights
Second are 5 nights for premium/contemporary, 10 nights for luxury and 15 nights for river.
We say: A week still holds as the sweet spot for cruise vacations and is unlikely to change unless U.S. citizens are given more vacation time. One can only wish that would come true.
Most Popular Sailing Months Requested
(Based on the most requested months)
1. Premium/Contemporary: December 2015
2. Luxury: January 2016
3. River: December 2015 (changed from October 2015 last month)
We say: If nothing else, this should give you an idea of the upcoming high season when not to book to stay clear of crowds both onboard and ashore.
A true vacationer’s paradise, Riviera Maya, Mexico, consists of a 75-mile stretch of tropical oasis that runs along the Yucatan Peninsula. Bordered by the powdery beaches and gentle waves of the Caribbean Sea, the region includes the major tourist destination of Cancun, along with Playa del Carmen, Puerto Morelos and the Mayan oceanfront archeological site, Tulum.
Among the many attractions and sights in Riviera Maya, Xcaret and Xel-Ha are ecological parks open to the public featuring restored Mayan archeological sites, wildlife exhibits, grottos, natural aquariums and theme parks. Rio Secreto is an underground labyrinth of passageways formed by ancient geological formations and one of the most-visited natural marvels in the region. There are a wide variety of bars, restaurants and shops along La Quinta Avenida in Playa del Carmen. Underwater adventures begin with snorkeling and diving around the Great Maya Reef, the largest coral reef in the Northern Hemisphere. For rest and relaxation, Riviera Maya has a plethora of state-of-the-art spas that will help to replenish and rejuvenate the body while on vacation.
From authentic Mexican restaurants to international fusion and fresh seafood spots right on the water, Riviera Maya’s culinary scene combines local flavor with the many luxury resort dining options. Carboncitos is a Mexican joint in Playa del Carmen that may be geared toward tourists, but definitely doesn’t skimp on flavor and authenticity. For fresh and local seafood, Peskayitos in Puerto Morelos is known for its shrimp tacos and ceviche. La Mediterranean serves homemade pastas along with a variety of classic Italian dishes.
Cancun International Airport (CUN) is the region’s largest and most widely used airport for both domestic and international travel. Most major cities, including Cancun and Playa del Carmen, have car rental agencies, as it’s the best way to get around if traveling on your own and you’re not staying at a resort. Taxis are also available, though they should be pre-arranged by the hotel or resort.
With a semi-tropical climate, there is no bad time to visit Riviera Maya. The yearly average temperature is a beautiful 78° F (25.5° C), though it can easily rise to a steamy 98° F (36.6° C) in the summer months. The most abundant rainfall occurs during the months of April and May, as well as September through January, when tropical storms and hurricanes are known to blow through.