After the year we have just lived, many of us are craving a good deal to get away from it all to an exotic place. But the research by whom? In recent years, travel has revealed that travel deals – all the time of the year – aren’t always what they’re supposed to be.
The January sales have traditionally been a great booking season for vacation companies and airlines. As a result, we are bombarded with early booking incentives and special offers on flights. This year will be no different, with the financial fallout from COVID-19, meaning airlines and vacation companies will promise all kinds of savings to get us to book for 2021.
But you should be wary of booking just because the advertisement says you’ll get a good deal. After tracking a variety of holiday deals – from early and last minute deals to Black Friday promotions – we found that in about half of the cases the deal was priced the same, or cheaper, after the end of the sale.
Black Friday vs January Sale Deals
Black Friday is touted as a major event on the bargain calendar. But when we tracked vacation and flight deals last November, we found that the majority had actually come down in prices in the weeks after the sale ended.
We looked at 42 deals on Black Friday 2019, two weeks later, and then again in January 2020. More than half of package holidays and plane tickets were cheaper in mid-December or New Years.
Even when the prices were cheapest during Black Friday promotions, you would have saved only a few dollars in many cases.
So while our research suggests January sales are better for bargains than Black Friday, you can easily hit the jackpot any day of the week – without a fanfare.
Learn more about our Black Friday survey
Early bird offers: not worth the bet
We did a similar price tracking exercise on 10 early bird deals in 2018, promising huge savings if you book several months or even a year in advance.
Once again, we found that his claims were exaggerated; four of the offers we checked were the same or even cheaper eight months after the initial promotion ended. Two more were just offers to live up to the imagination.
In the worst example we found, a 16 day Alaska cruise had an early bird offer of £ 2,836 per person if you made a reservation more than a year in advance. But, when we checked the price for the same cruise seven months later, it had dropped by £ 161 per person. This means that a couple booking in advance would have cost £ 322 out of pocket.
Learn more about our survey of early vacation offers.
Hurry: no need to rush
These limited-time promotions promise consumers great prices if they book their vacation package or cruise before the deadline. Many urge travelers to “hurry, book now” or use countdown clocks to create a sense of buyer panic.
But when we followed the transactions over three weeks in July and August 2017, we found that in 16 out of 30 cases the price was the same – or even cheaper – after the sale ended.
Luxury resort chain Sandals was offering a seven-night all-inclusive stay in Jamaica for £ 1,465 per person during its summer mega sale. “Save up to 60%… Hurry! There is only one day left, ”the slogan read. However, the day after the ‘sale’ ended, the price dropped by £ 50 per person – and kept running for a week – so no need to hurry after all.
At the time, a spokesperson for Sandals told us that the company was not intentionally pressuring the sale or creating bogus expiration dates.
Learn more about the Emergency Vacation Survey
Why you’ll get a better deal with a vacation package
We compared the price of 10 vacation packages from Jet2 Holidays and Tui in May 2021, with the cost of booking the exact same DIY getaways. Packages were cheaper in eight out of ten cases. The biggest savings we found were over £ 400 for a vacation for two to Rhodes Greece which was 76% cheaper when purchased as a package with Tui.
This type of vacation is not just better value for money; The Package Travel Regulations 2018 guarantees consumers a full refund if their trip is canceled by the supplier. Almost all package tours are also protected by Atol, which means financial security if the tour operator or airline goes bankrupt.
Will overseas vacation prices rise or fall in 2021?
Many consumers, who struggled with travel credit after this year’s disruption, are already report price increases on public holidays in 2021 when they try to cash them.
Tui reported that its summer 2021 prices are already up to 14% more expensive than in 2020 due to an increase in bookings. The operator warns it has already sold half of its May vacation, meaning families wanting a mid-term break could be limited in choice and price.
What happens with the prices of vacations abroad is going to be linked to the development and availability of vaccines. If the rollout is slow, vacation companies are likely to come up with deals to convince customers to book. If it is fast, the confidence to travel will return and prices will rise with demand. In short, prices will be unpredictable and it is impossible to predict a trend.
Will UK holiday prices rise or fall in 2021?
Things are clearer with UK public holidays. Prices are likely to increase. There has been a boom in UK holiday bookings with some cottages, campsites and holiday parks already full for summer 2021.
Whether they’re worried about the disruption caused by changing travel lanes or uncomfortable traveling by air during a pandemic, vacationers will likely choose to travel closer this year. So if you have a UK summer getaway to heart, it’s best to book now to avoid disappointment.
However, which one? research has found that vacationers will pay less if they book a package, rather than flights and accommodation separately.
Want to find the right plan in early 2021? Read our guide to the best January sale deals.