2016 holiday travel trends

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Unveiling this year’s ‘holidata’ about when to fly, how to save, and other travel tips

We’re about to set the clocks back for fall, which means the holiday season is upon us. In my world, that means long nights with friends and family at the house, time prepping goodies in the kitchen, and movie traditions that date back farther than I’d like to admit. It also means travel. Lots and lots of travel.

Which is precisely why I’m super-excited to share Expedia’s annual report about holiday travel trends and destinations.

The report, which we released today, comprises data—“holidata,” as we like to call it—about top holiday destinations for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. It also has information about deals to certain destinations, and tips for general last-minute holiday travel.

Top Thanksgiving and Xmas destinations

Big holidays mean busy travel plans, and data from this year’s investigation indicates airports will be pretty busy come this time next month.

Based on Expedia data, Las Vegas is the No. 1 destination for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend this year, with big cities such as New York, Orlando, San Francisco, Chicago, and London also rounding out the Top 10.

In terms of the biggest movers and shakers, Cancun was third-most popular destination this year, up from No. 9 last year. Sadly, Los Angeles dropped off the list completely, down from No. 4 last year.

Information about Christmas destinations is very similar to top destinations for Thanksgiving—at least according to the Expedia data. Again, Las Vegas is No. 1, with New York, Cancun, Orlando and Punta Cana close behind. Playa de Carmen also is a great destination for savings on hotels during Xmas break, where average daily rates are down nearly 15 percent from the same time period last year.

Oh, and in case you’re looking ahead to New Year’s: Warm-weather and big city destinations led the Top 10 lists of destinations for watching the ball drop. Top domestic destinations include Las Vegas, New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. What’s your favorite little town  while the most popular international destinations include Cancun, Cabo San Lucas, London, and Paris.

Discounted holiday deals

Every holiday season brings with it new opportunities for travel deals, and last year was no exception.

Average ticket prices for flights between New York (JFK) or Los Angeles (LAX) to Cancun (CUN) for Thanksgiving cost on average 20 percent less this year versus last year.

Travel analysts for Expedia also found New York, Los Angeles and Chicago to Cancun routes were seeing high year-over-year savings for Christmas-time travel as well. Case in point: Tickets for Christmas-time flights from New York to Cancun cost, on average, nearly 40 percent less this year versus last year.

Other discounts in other areas present similar opportunities for all. For those of us who don’t have family to visit for the holidays, traveling internationally might be an option, too. Expedia analysts found Mexico is a hotspot for package deals; Travelers booking a package to Cancun, Isla Mujeres, Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and Los Cabos can save more than 25 percent.

General holiday travel tips

Generally speaking, this year’s “Holidata” gave great insights into what’s driving traveler behaviors over time.

Case in point: Our data indicates the very best fares are likely to be secured by booking 21-30 days in advance of travel. As for specific holiday travel, we found booking air travel 7-13 days in advance of departure could lead to meaningful savings..

Another good suggestion: Bundling. By booking trip components such as airfare, hotel stay, and trains, you save money. We’ve found that when doing this simple task, travelers can save up to US$600. You even can now take care of some of this with the help of Expedia’s mobile apps.

Think of all this insider info as a bonus holiday gift that can help put a little something extra under the tree, or can help divert or redirect money for a future trip. Indeed, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Expedia compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site, such compensation may include travel and other costs.

Sarah Waffle Gavin

Sarah Gavin is Expedia’s Vice President of Global Communications, overseeing a team around the world that focus on telling travel’s great stories. Her passion lies in bringing people together through the shared experiences and mind-broadening phenomenon of travel – while revealing all the tips and tricks to getting the best value on vacation. Part foodie, part tech geek, part mom, part traveler, Sarah loves a mini staycation with her husband, as much as a power shop through New York. Her family trips are treasured above all else, and when she's not sitting poolside in Mexico with the kids, she hangs her hat in the burbs of Seattle, Washington at the intersection of travel, technology, and motherhood.

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