One might expect fewer travelers to make July 4th getaways this year since the holiday falls on a Wednesday. But it turns out many Americans plan to celebrate their independence with a five-day weekend -- leaving last-minute bookers with fewer deals to choose from.
More than 42 million people will travel over Independence Day this year, estimates AAA. That's up 5% from last year, and on par with the record-setting traffic of 2007. The need to take two vacation days on either side of the holiday does not appear to have been a deterrent, says Lisa Gurry, senior director at Bing.
With that many travelers planning trips, airlines and hotels have less incentive to offer discounts and deals. The average round-trip domestic airfare for the week is $391, up 6% from last year, says Courtney Scott, a spokeswoman for Travelocity. On the lodging side, AAA expects rates to be 4% higher at its three-diamond-rated properties, an average $164.
Although prices tend to jump even higher a week out from departure, 11th hour bookers can still find some preferential prices. Here's how to take advantage:
Given the choice to take either Monday and Tuesday off or Thursday and Friday, book a trip for earlier in the week, Scott says. More travelers are taking off on the back end of the week, which has led to even higher prices on those dates. Consumers can save up to $235 for a trip leaving Friday or Saturday, June 29 or 30, and returning July 3 or 4, compared with those who head out mid-week and return on July 7 or 8.
Compare hotel packages
Some properties offer bonus activities like fireworks and barbecues, says David Lytle, editorial director for Frommers.com. The Wigwam Golf Resort & Spa in Litchfield Park, Ariz., has a two-night package for $149 per night that includes reserved seating for fireworks and picnic on July 3.
Browse bargain destinations
Kelli Grant talks about some last minute deals with The Wall Street Journal This Morning's Gordon Deal
Las Vegas and Orlando are among the cheapest destinations for travelers right now, largely because of the hot summer weather, says Gurry. Round-trip flights between Chicago and Orlando over the holiday, for example, start at $138. Check booking sites' deal pages for offers originating in a particular city, or "getaway maps" on sites including Google and FareCompare.
Book bundled travel
Purchasing a flight and hotel together may be your best shot at bargain 11th-hour pricing. For example, the Las Vegas package on Travelocity, which includes a round-trip flight from Dallas and five nights at the Luxor starts at $380, while the flight on its own starts at $300. "You're not going to find those kinds of savings booking individually," says Scott.
Use deal-finding apps
Priceline, Travelocity and other booking sites and travel providers now offer exclusive deals to consumers who use their apps. Discounts can top 35% for travelers booking a hotel for that night.
Images associated with this story: Carlos E. Santa Maria / Shutterstock.com