The anticipation in the air is thick as the snow: It’s almost time for that most quintessential of all American holidays – Black Friday, which has now spilled over into Transaction Day … er, Thanksgiving Day.
You may not think of the five days from midnight Wednesday to Cyber Monday as a time to shop for travel deals; you would be mistaken. From airfares to cruises to hotels, there are all sorts of travel deals to be had over the Half-Price Holidays. You just need to know where to look.
And there’s the rub. Knowing where to look can be overwhelming, even with the Internets running at full blast. Besides, there’s all the other shopping, cyber and traditional, that requires attention, and the food, and the football, and all that annoying family stuff standing between you and the bargain-basement jailbreak of your dreams.
Consider this your guide to where to start looking. Where you go after that is up to you.
OTAs: What you know as Orbitz, Hipmunk, Kayak, Priceline, Booking.com et al., we know as OTAs – online travel agencies. OTAs vary in their approach to the Five Days of Black Friday. Travelocity, Orbitz, Hotels.com and Priceline have traditionally played the Black Friday game. The question is whether some of their deals (like $100-$550 off of an already discounted cruise) are really unusual deals or just business as usual. You’ll have to visit and decide for yourself. The plus side: OTAs’ Black Friday deals run the gamut from airfares to cruises to hotel stays to packages, so if you’re into one-stop shopping, they’re the places to stop.
Airlines: Airlines are a different story. Most are not generally in the super-awesome-terrific-deal business, so their deals are genuinely deals, at least by their standards.
There are two approaches to sussing out airline deals, and we recommend you employ both. The first is to visit and follow sites that aggregate and present the airlines’ various deals. We’re partial to AirfareWatchdog (@AirfareWatchdog); no one does what the ‘Dog does any better, though CheapOAir (@CheapOAir) comes close at times, especially on the Twitter side.
You can tell by the inclusion of Twitter handles that Black Friday Days are the best time of year to follow airlines on Twitter and troll for deals. The Twitter handles of the major American airlines you’ll want to follow for travel deals are:
- Alaska Airlines: @AlaskaAir
- Allegiant Air: @Allegiant Travel
- American Airlines: @AmericanAir
- Delta Air Lines: @Delta
- JetBlue: @JetBlueCheeps
- Southwest: @SouthwestAir
- United: @United
- US Airways: @USAirways
- Virgin America: @VirginAmerica
You may also want to follow some major international airlines, which may or may not be befuddled by the whole Turkey Day Shop-A-Thon phenomenon:
- Air Canada: @AirCanada
- Air France: @airfrance
- Air New Zealand: @FlyAirNZ
- British Airways: @British_Airways
- Emirates: @Emirates
- Etihad: @EtihadAirways
- KLM: @KLM
- Lufthansa: @LufthansaUSA
- Norwegian: @Fly_Norwegian
- Qantas: @QantasUSA
- Turkish Airlines: @TK_US
- Virgin Atlantic: @VirginAtlantic
- WestJet: @WestJet
- WOW Air: @wow_air
Following all these airlines seems far more daunting than it is – and following airlines on Twitter is almost always entertaining.
Hotels: Conversely, we do not recommend following individual hotel chains on Twitter looking for deals. Instead, we prefer to visit the AirfareWatchdogs of hotels (now including AirfareWatchdog’s newborn pup, HotelWatchdog). On top of our current list is HotelChatter (@HotelChatter), which last year did an excellent rundown on Black Friday hotel deals. We expect nothing less this year. TravelPony (@travelpony) is also an up-and-comer worth checking out.
Car Rentals: Autoslash.com (@autoslash). Boom! Done.
Cruises: Much like airlines, cruise lines offer their best Black Friday deals through their own channels, often – but less often than airlines – including Twitter. Cruise lines to follow are:
- Norwegian: @CruiseNorwegian
- Royal Caribbean: @RoyalCaribbean
- Princess Cruises: @PrincessCruises
- Carnival Cruises: @CarnivalCruise
- Disney Cruise Line: @DisneyCruise
No bargains are guaranteed, but it’s definitely worth the hunt. And should you choose not to hunt, we can’t recommend Cruise Critic (@cruisecritic) highly enough. Last year’s rundown on Black Friday cruise deals was perfect – concise and informative. We can’t wait for this year’s edition.
Aggregators: When you think of all the different destinations, attractions, and properties that fall under the rough category of “travel,” it’s impossible to follow every one on Twitter or hit their websites, even for a couple of days. That’s why it’s important to add to your bargain-hunting mix sites that aggregate and present deals from across the travel spectrum.
Our current favorite travel-specific deal aggregator is Travel Deals (@travelbargains), though there’s room for improvement. We’ve often found as good or better deals in the travel section of DealNews (@DealNews) or buried in the miscellany of NerdWallet (@nerdwallet). And besides, these places let you find the best prices on a beach resort and a hard drive – in the same place! America; what a country.
It’s always hit-or-miss with aggregation sites, but if you find the right combination of destination, property, and date, the savings can exceed 50 percent.
All this may seems like a lot to go through to get $100 off of a plane ride, but look at it this way:
- If you narrow down what you’re looking for it’s not daunting at all; and
- It’s $100.
And if you’re still not convinced, let us shop for you and we’ll keep the hundred. There’s this hard drive we have our eyes on. Or, if you want a second opinion, read this excellent article from The New York Times and do what they say. But no matter how you choose to go about it, happy shopping!
Photos from Huffington Post.