From Black Friday to Cyber Monday to Giving Tuesday (that would be the Tuesday following Thanksgiving), the entire period between Thanksgiving and Christmas will soon be one giant, hashtagged, holiday red-tag sale. For now, we can focus on the long weekend after Turkey Day for the best travel deals of the year. It’s worth noting that Black Friday was once the single best day of the year for deals — travel and otherwise. Now, however, Cyber Monday has mostly usurped Black Friday for bargain-hunting travelers. Many of the best travel deals for 2018 will be found on Cyber Monday.
The best travel sales disappear quickly, however, and one-tenth of all deals are for last-minute travel. So, if you find a deal, double-check the fine print, lock it down immediately, and start packing. Here’s how to navigate the bargain bonanza and save some serious coin on the best Black Friday travel deals of 2018.
How to Find the Best Deals
Black Friday deals in 2017 were split between flights and hotels with each segment making up one-third of the total number of sales. For 2018, expect nearly every domestic air carrier and most of the big-name international carriers to offer deeply discounted flights.
Skyscanner has the most comprehensive list of this year’s flight deals for both Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The biggest savings are available to travelers booking complete vacation packages including their flight and hotel through their preferred airline. The best time to book your trip on Black Friday is likely to be in the evening around 7 p.m. local time, while midday (between noon and 2 p.m.) is expected to be the most expensive.
It’s important to act fast, of course, because the best deals sell out quickly. Don’t get blindsided in the process. Keep an eye on the fine print to avoid getting hit with “hidden” baggage fees (especially on ultra-low-cost carriers like Spirit and Frontier) or trapped in an impossibly narrow window of available travel days. Most airlines blackout major holidays, along with regionally popular travel times like the weeks around Spring Break.
For 2018, expect to find as many deals on hotels as you will on flights. Most hotel brands offer flat-fee dollar or percentage discounts across the board. Black Friday deals are typically found in upscale (3.5-star and above) hotel chains like Westin, W Hotels, and Four Seasons. Just like last year, expect typical deals around 25-30% off with some of the best bargains as high as 50%.
As with booking flights, don’t rush into things before reading the fine print. Hotels are adept at hiding things that common sense dictates should be included. Extras like paid Wi-Fi, mandatory valet parking, and vague “resort fees” could tack on an additional 50% or more to your nightly rate. To further protect yourself, always book with a good travel credit card that guarantees not only rewards but buyer protection should your vacation go sideways.
While hotels and airlines are abuzz with post-Thanksgiving sales each year, rental car providers can’t seem to care less. Historically, the industry hardly acknowledges Black Friday or Cyber Monday. The sales they do offer tend to be of the “flash” variety available for a limited window and with numerous restrictions. The bottom line is: don’t expect much in the way of discounts from them.
Like deal shopping in every other segment of travel, your best bet is to sign up for each provider’s newsletter and follow their social media accounts for last-minute deals. Calling the local office directly (not the toll-free reservation number like every other customer) also gives you the power of speaking with a live human who is more likely to work for your business. No matter what time of year, check out our timeless tips for helping you save big on your next car rental.
5 Can’t-miss Black Friday Travel Deals for 2018
Maybe you’d rather not sift through the dizzying array of potential Black Friday travel deals. Here, we round up five can’t-miss sales with savings opportunities that we rarely ever see.
Save Big on Every Hotel Booking with Hotwire
With everyday discounts of 50 percent or more off hotels, flights, and car rentals, Hotwire is a favorite of our pro travelers here at The Manual. Beginning Tuesday, November 20, through Black Friday, mobile app users can save even more on every booking. The site is promising huge savings like the potential to score a five-star hotel in Los Angeles for just USD $189.
- Must book through the official Hotwire app.
- Black Friday sale: $10 off $100 hotel bookings; $40 off $300 hotel bookings; $75 off $500 hotel bookings.
- Cyber Monday sale (November 25 at 8 p.m. PST to November 26 at 11 p.m. PST): Take an extra 11 percent off all Hot Rate Hotels (Hotwire’s deepest discounted hotels) with promo code: TREATYOURSELF.
Escape to the Caribbean at Turks and Caicos’ Best Resort
Turks and Caicos is the Caribbean island for travelers who aren’t keen on traditional Caribbean vacations, and Seven Stars Resort and Spa is the Caribbean resort for travelers not fond of traditional Caribbean resorts. It’s small enough to feel like an oversized boutique hotel, yet large enough to provide plenty of dining, relaxation, and adventure options for an entire week. It’s home to the island’s only saltwater pool, every suite is appointed like a luxury apartment, the spa is world-class, and the bar teaches mixology classes on select weekdays. From Black Friday to Cyber Monday this year, they’re offering a full 40 percent off all room bookings. While they frequently run specials of up to 25 percent off, this is by far one of the best deals we’ve seen in some time.
- Must travel between April 21 and December 19, 2019.
- Booking window is November 23-26, 2018.
- Visit sevenstarsgracebay.com to book
Tick the Galapagos Islands Off Your Bucket List
If you’re looking to check a major item off your bucket list, Ecoventura is offering deep discounts on their upscale Galapagos Islands cruises. The luxury small-ship line provides some of the best boutique cruising in South America with gourmet meals, professional naturalists onboard, and multiple outdoor adventure opportunities offered daily. The offer includes 10 percent off sailings for fall 2019, plus free onboard Wi-Fi, airfare from mainland Ecuador to the Galapagos (typically USD $450 per person), one night at Hotel Del Parque in Guayaquil, and upgrade to business class seats. The all-in savings total approximately $1,700 per person.
- Offer valid aboard MV Origin and MV Theory.
- Booking window is now through December 31, 2018.
- Must travel September 1-December 15, 2019.
- Visit Ecoventura.com to book.
Ditch the Tourist Crowds in the Azores
The Azores is among the world’s most beautiful island chains you’ve never heard of. The tiny archipelago is situated in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean half-way between the United States and mainland Portugal. It’s a place of staggering natural beauty: quaint, hundred-year-old villages, rustic vineyards, and miles of rugged coastline stretching as far as the eye can see. The outdoor adventure opportunities — volcano hikes, whale watching, sea kayaking, and mountain biking — are virtually limitless. Think of it as Europe’s answer to Hawaii. The challenge and the main reason why it’s so infrequently visited by tourists is in getting there. New flights from Boston have made it much easier, however. Azores Getaways’ Terceira Basic Bundle makes it even easier. The package includes roundtrip airfare from Boston Logan International Airport plus seven nights in a four-star hotel with breakfast starting at just USD $499.
- Booking window is November 23-27, 2018.
- Cheapest rates available on specific travel dates in 2019.
- Extremely limited so this deal won’t last long.
- Visit AzoresGetaways.com to book.
Get Lost with Contiki
Contiki Tours is a unique company ideal for travelers looking to dodge the traditional, boring group travel experience. It’s a big reason the company has fast become one of our favorite providers. They cater to the young (18 to 35 years old) and adventurous who’d typically travel alone but wouldn’t mind a little company along the way. Their catalog runs deep with more than 350 trip options across six continents, so wherever you want to go in the world, they can likely get you there. This Black Friday, they’re offering a solid 20 percent off more than 25 trips for 2019. For a couple traveling together, this could amount to hundreds of dollars in savings. Most notable is their Mykonos and Santorini Island Escape — an eight-night, adventure-heavy tour of Greece’s most iconic islands. Travelers can save almost $400 per person on this trip alone.
- Booking window is November 23-30, 2018.
- Savings available on 25-plus select trips through the end of 2019.
- Visit Contiki.com to book.
Booking.com is offering a sweet Black Friday and Cyber Monday deal. You can save up to 40% on travel and accommodations when you book this weekend. Is that a vacation that we hear calling your name?