While the day after Thanksgiving—a.k.a. Black Friday—may be the best time to stampede your way toward a new flatscreen TV at a discount, when it comes to booking a getaway, nothing beats the sweet travel deals that you can snag on Cyber Monday.
Market research firm IBISWorld predicts that Americans will spend more than $1.7 billion shopping online this Cyber Monday, which falls on December 2. But big-box retailers hawking everything from housewares to cold-weather wear aren't the only ones offering plum discounts: In recent years, hotel chains have also gotten in on the action.
LearnVest spoke with Jodi Grundig, editor of Family Travel Magazine, to get her take on how to book the best Cyber Monday vacation deals.
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LearnVest: Why is Cyber Monday a good time to book travel?
Jodi Grundig: It’s not just for tech products and toys anymore. Hotels, in particular, are offering a lot of great deals, trying to capitalize on the fact that people are already shopping. I’ve seen anywhere from 25% to 50% off. Some deals are for Cyber Monday, others are for Black Friday and some span the whole booking window in between. I saw some of these deals last year, but it definitely seems to have grown across the board this year.
Is it possible to get deals for holiday travel this year?
Some deals are for 2014 and some are being offered for the beginning of this December. However, all of them have blackout dates—and Christmas through New Year’s is almost always included in that. You’re not going to find a hotel for the holidays, but you may find something for slightly before or after. I have also seen at least one deal for purchasing a gift certificate, which is nice because it offers flexibility and doesn’t have blackout dates.
What about Cyber Monday discounts on flights?
It’s primarily hotels that are offering unusually good deals on Cyber Monday. Some airlines have seasonal sales—I saw that JetBlue Getaways just announced something—so there are good airline and package deals to be had out there, but not necessarily just on Cyber Monday. Just keep in mind that, with those deals, you’re typically getting a discount on the airfare. So if you’re looking for hotel savings, you’ll find those mostly from the hotels themselves.
How can consumers find out about specific deals?
I’d suggest that people get on the mailing lists of their favorite hotels or like the hotel’s Facebook page, which seems to be how most of them are promoting their deals. In fact, some hotels have already posted things on their Facebook pages, while others will be posting that day. We also have a list of some of the best ones that we found on familytravelmagazine.com.
What kind of research can people do beforehand?
It’s very important to not just jump on the deals. Cyber Monday deals are primarily for hotels, so you should research what the entire trip is going to cost you ahead of time. If it’s a location that you may need to fly to, make sure that you’re not purchasing hotel deals that you’re ultimately not going to use because the plane tickets end up being too high.
Don’t say, “30% off! I’ve got to get that deal since I want to get away Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend,” because it might not be offered during those dates.
Are there any other things that consumers should do?
Check the fine print for blackout dates and other restrictions, such as the size and category of the room. You want to make sure that the deal is for the hotel and room that you actually want—and that you’ll be able to use it on the days you want. Don’t just look at a deal and say, “30% off! I’ve got to get that since I want to get away Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend,” because it might not be offered during those dates.
You should also do some comparison shopping to make sure that it really is a good deal. A lot of times they’ll say 25% off the rack rate, but oftentimes tourists don’t pay the rack rate because you can find a cheaper rate. So check out Expedia or another search engine and look at prices for that hotel to confirm that it's a great deal.
Any deals that you would avoid?
Some of the deals are for very specific hotel packages, which might include tickets to a show or other “extras.” With hotel packages, in general, they’re only a deal if you'd actually use all of the components of the packages. Sometimes with the package deal the room itself is not that much cheaper than it would be just purchasing it individually.
If I see a good deal before Cyber Monday, should I wait?
If you see a great discount, and it seems like something that you would use, I don’t necessarily think that you should wait. Just check the regular prices to make sure it really is a good deal. You can also go to the hotel’s Facebook page to see if they have something better coming up.
How quickly do I have to act? Do I need to set my alarm?
Most of these deals can be booked throughout the day. This isn’t a situation in which there are a very limited number of rooms to be booked and they’re all going to fill up right away.