What to Know About Booking Holiday Travel During COVID-19, According to Expedia

suitcase with mask at airport

Editor's note: Those who choose to travel are strongly encouraged to check local government restrictions, rules, and safety measures related to COVID-19 and take personal comfort levels and health conditions into consideration before departure.

As COVID-19 has changed many routines as we know it, this year's fall and holiday travel season are no different.

Prepping travelers as we head into what is typically a very busy time for planning family trips or vacations, travel site Expedia analyzed trends to predict what to expect for this unusual holiday travel season.

Overall, average airfare prices are much lower this year than they were at this time last year, the site noted. Airfare cost is expected to dip in September. By early October, prices will begin to rise again and will likely increase through the end of the year.

For those booking airfare for both Thanksgiving travel and Christmas, Expedia recommends booking anywhere from 60 to 90 days ahead of your trip for the best deal. But because prices can still be unpredictable, one of the most fail-proof methods for securing a good deal is setting up a price alert and allowing flexibility of both departure and arrival dates.

Travelers heading to a popular seasonal destination — like warm-weather Hawaii or snowy Lake Tahoe — are encouraged to book early and opt for refundable rates, if possible. This advice particularly applies to travelers staying in home-shares, which are more popular than hotels this year. Be sure to check in on a lodging’s COVID-19 cleaning precautions before booking.

For car rentals, Expedia recommends taking extra precaution when making a booking — the least expensive option is often the most restrictive and may not allow for flexibility of plans.

Avoid starting a car rental the day before Thanksgiving when prices can see a 30 percent increase. If you’re renting a car for Christmas, pick it up the Friday before the holiday when rates are, on average, about 15 percent cheaper.

Overall, the best advice this holiday travel season is to give yourself plenty of flexibility. As proved by the past few months, predictions are not always accurate and circumstances could change at any minute. Booking refundable or reserve-now/pay-later travel could prove invaluable down the line.

Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. When in a new city, she's usually out to discover under-the-radar art, culture, and secondhand stores. No matter her location, you can find her on Twitter, on Instagram or at caileyrizzo.com.

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