Gabe Saglie is senior travel editor of Travelzoo.com. He says the conventional travel wisdom still holds true: the earlier you book, the less expensive your fare will be. Six to eight weeks is a good rule of thumb according to Saglie, which means the golden window of opportunity has already closed for Memorial Day weekend. He says travelers might want to think about booking for Labor Day weeekend instead.
A study by the Airlines Reporting Corporation seems to back that up. The corporation, which processes ticket transactions for airlines and travel agencies, reported that over the past four years passengers paid the lowest price for domestic flights when buying just about six weeks in advance.
For international flights, many travel experts say you might want to think about booking as far out as 24 weeks. If you place stock in historical trends, the message is clear: act now.
Beyond historical trends, there are also some useful online tools that can help you evaluate fares. Travelzoo is one option. But Bing.com offers a Price Predictor that uses algorithms to determine how likely a fare is to rise or fall during the next seven days. It applies to flights from more than 250 cities in the United States and to top domestic destinations and major hubs in Europe.
If you decide to wait in the hopes of a price drop, sign up for fare alerts offered by practically every travel site. Yapta.com, another price-tracking service, alerts travelers when the price of their plane tickets drop after purchase, allowing travelers to request an airline voucher for the price difference.
Some travelers are finding themselves defecting from online travel merchants. They are going back to the brick-and-mortar travel agency, an industry that many industry experts once thought to be passé with the advent of online booking.
Fewer travelers are enjoying using the Web to plan and buy trips, according to a study by Forrester Research, a market research company. About 46 percent of U.S. leisure travelers enjoyed using the Internet to book travel this year, down from 53 percent in 2007.
Difficult site navigation and presentation on travel company sites and hotel and airline sites are causing a growing number of travelers to shift away from the Web and consider using alternative methods of booking travel.
"People are saying 'I don't understand my options, and I would like to talk to someone who can do all the searching and tell me what's available,' " said Henry Hartevelt, the analyst who wrote the Forrester study. "Major travel agencies have absolutely failed in their responsibility to innovate and think of creative new ways to help their customers shop."
In the brick-and-mortar travel agent model, a trained agent meets with the traveler in person or establishes a relationship over the phone. For a fee, they discuss the travel options they have researched.
(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)