Bottom line: For those planning to travel for Thanksgiving, Expedia recommends booking flights between 60-90 days out in order to take advantage of the current lower year-on-year prices. For December or Christmas travel, the sweet spot is likely 30-60 days out.
Because airfare prices can fluctuate, the best way to ensure you don't miss a deal is to set up a price alert for your preferred route and be flexible on departure and return dates.
Accommodations: Flexibility is fool proof
When it comes to booking a hotel or vacation home, it pays to consider the popularity of your destination. Expedia data reveals many of the destinations seeing early demand for the holidays are warm-weather leisure destinations in Mexico, Florida, the Caribbean and Hawaii. Domestic ski and snow destinations like Lake Tahoe, Vail and Jackson Hole and are also trending in popularity. This indicates that opportunistic travelers are already beginning to take advantage of deals and jumping on the chance to take a long overdue vacation.
Bottom line: For travelers aiming to visit a popular beach, resort or tourist destination, Expedia recommends booking accommodations early and opting for refundable rates. This is especially relevant to vacation rentals, which are expected to be in-demand for families staying together for the holidays.
For extra peace of mind, travelers can review health and safety policies for more than 400,000 hotels and vacation rentals right on Expedia.com and use the recently added "Enhanced Cleaning" filter to narrow search results.
Car rental tips
Like hotels and airlines, many rental car companies have rolled out enhanced cleaning measures and flexible payment options in recent months that are easy to find and compare on Expedia.com. Travelers can choose rates that allow payment at the counter and free cancellation.
Bottom line: The lowest price might not be the best choice if flexibility is a priority; often "reserve now, pay at pick-up" rates are a few dollars more but the trade-off to cancel without penalty might be worth it.
Here are a few other tips to avoid the crowds and save money on your holiday ride:
Whether you're flying into a destination or renting close to home, it pays to shop around. Rates at airport and city locations often differ so compare all locations in the vicinity to find the best price and selection.
Avoid starting your rental on the day before Thanksgiving when rates tend to be higher (30% higher than average in 2019) and lines longer. Prices tend to be lower for pick-ups starting on the Friday or Saturday before the holiday.
The best day to rent a car for the Christmas holiday is the Friday before the holiday, according to 2019 data. On average, rates were 15 percent cheaper on this day. Christmas Day renters paid the highest daily rates.
Some rental car agencies can only guarantee specific vehicle types on a first-come-first-served basis, so try to pick up early and be sure to notify them in the event of a flight delay.
Tips for booking flexible travel
Unsurprisingly, flexibility continues to be one of the biggest factors for travelers, and luckily Expedia and the travel industry is making it easier to find and book these options.
Find flexible stays on Expedia.com by filtering for "free cancellation" or "reserve now, pay later" and make sure to choose a refundable room type.
Make note of any deadlines to cancel for a full refund – in many instances you can cancel up to 24 hours before check-in but for some vacation homes, the deadline could be two weeks prior.
Try to avoid restrictive airfares that prohibit changes or non-refundable rates. Any savings you might see in the short term won't be worth it if you end up needing to change your plans.