People are more concerned about getting a good deal on a vacation than they are about any other discretionary purchase in their life, according to Google. If you've already started looking at flights and hotels for the upcoming holiday season, you probably know what they're talking about.
Knowing whether or not that $452 round-trip flight from JFK to LAX for Thanksgiving is good or not is hard, but Google is hoping to offer a bit more insight with new features released Monday.
The first is an infographic that visualizes Thanksgiving flight prices between major airports, showing how average fares are likely to fluctuate in the months and weeks leading up to the holiday. So, for travel from New York City to Los Angeles from Nov. 19–25, Google found that average airfares trend upward 140–120 days ahead of departure (hitting a high of $490), then drop about 90 days before (hitting a low of $310), then hover (around $410) for a while before starting to go up 20 days before, and then jumping up a week before (reaching $570). While specific prices will depend on your flight preferences, the graphic shows that on this route, aiming for buying your flight 90 days out could save you as much as $260.
If your home airport or destination isn't in the infographic, Google still has some advice. First of all, buy early: The beginning of September is your best bet for getting a decent price, as fares are likely only to go up as we get closer to Thanksgiving and the December holidays. Overall, independent of the destination, airfares are likely to go up 75 days before departure, and again 35 days before departure.
Perhaps even more important is when you're looking to fly. You can save a lot of money by not returning the weekend right after Thanksgiving. “The best thing to do is to take a vacation day or two at the start of the following week,” Google advises. Returning on the following Tuesday or Wednesday offered bigger average savings than changing the departure date.
If you're searching on Google Flights, you can also get a quick read on whether or not you've found a deal with another new feature Google has added. Below the flight results look for a “Price evaluation” that will tell you if that airfare is low, typical, or high for the time period around those dates.
Also, this feature is now available globally on mobile for hotels. If you’re booking a hotel instead of camping out on the family couch this holiday season, you can see how prices have been fluctuating for a specific property and also see if Google considers the current price low, typical, or high. There is a “Market comparison” section as well, which can offer a quick look at how one hotel’s prices compare to another of similar caliber and location.
Finding the right price on the right flight and right hotel for you will still take some finagling, but these new features will be a great way to validate whether or not you need to jump on that fare right now (or whether you might still have some time before you commit to your holiday plans).