The world is reopening. With vaccination rates for Americans and Europeans steadily rising, so is confidence among travelers.
Plus, travel is easier to navigate as restrictions ease.
This summer, those factors led tourists back to the road and the skies in droves. But summer travel can be stressful, with flight delays, surge pricing and higher fuel costs.
If you have flexibility in your schedule, booking a trip this fall is a better option. You’ll encounter fewer crowds, and pandemic restrictions are likely to loosen up even more.
Even better, prices are usually cheaper in shoulder season.
Airfares are expected to drop, so if you can be flexible with your dates, such as traveling on weekdays or extending your stay, you can often find even lower prices.
You can find sweet deals on flights toward the end of August and heading into the fall.
Overall, fall airfares are expected to drop by as much as 5% compared with summer fares, said Adit Damodaran, an economist for the travel site Hopper. And summer fares are already lower than usual, as travel gradually ramps up.
“Airlines are stepping up and adding extra routes, especially in September and November,” said Willis Orlando, product operations specialist for Scott’s Cheap Flights.
As airlines add more routes, the increased competition for flights to some destinations — including Iceland and Hawaii — is driving down airfares.
A recent search found round-trip airfares to Iceland for fall as low as $329 (from many U.S. cities). You could book round-trip airfare to Hawaii from Chicago in early September for as low as $236. Book early, and keep an eye out for airlines running deals as more openings occur, Orlando says.
Use a flight search tool such as Google Flights or Skyscanner to determine the best timing or even the best destination.
At Skyscanner.com you can search by cheapest time frame, destination or both. Sites such as Scott’s Cheap Flights and Sherman’s Travel feature flight deals. For example, Sherman’s Travel recently featured round-trip tickets to Bermuda in December for $400 per person.
Much of the booking flexibility introduced during the height of the pandemic is gone.
All the major airlines have stopped offering free flight changes for basic economy flights. But if you book a ticket for a main-cabin or higher-class seat and change your flight, you won’t pay a change fee.
Major U.S. airlines also have been extending the dates for vouchers from canceled flights throughout the pandemic. If you have a voucher, check with the airline to see when it expires.