U.S. Travelers Are Overwhelmingly Booking Last-minute Trips, According to Booking Sites

Americans also say that free cancellation is one of the most important factors when booking.

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Photo: JGI/Tom Grill/Getty Images

Americans looking to travel aren’t wasting any time, booking hotels and flights almost immediately before they want to head on a trip, according to data shared with Travel + Leisure from booking sites.

More than 70 percent of people who booked a flight in May were looking to travel in May or June, according to Priceline. That comes as airports have seen a small rebound in traffic after COVID-19 decimated the industry.

When it comes to booking hotels, a spokeswoman for Travelocity shared that most Americans who made a reservation did so for the same month — like booking June travel in June. This is a divergence from the site’s typical booking window, the spokeswoman said, in which people usually book about a month before they intend to hit the road.

“Overall, we’re seeing the majority of travel demand happening in the same month or same week of when the trip is set to begin,” Mel Dohmen, a senior spokeswoman at Travelocity, explained to T+L in an email, adding: “As demand for travel increases, we anticipate travelers will take advantage of new flexible booking options such as reserving hotels with free cancellation, which would give people peace of mind and the ability to cancel plans closer to their trip’s start date.”

In fact, Dohmen said the site’s data indicates having the option of free cancellation is one of the most important booking factors for about 90 percent of travelers.

While the majority of U.S. travelers are making last-minute reservations overall, there are regional differences. Compared to other states, those living in the Northeast — like New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Maine — were more likely to book trips two to three months out, based on Travelocity’s booking data from the last two weeks in May. The same was true for Hawaii where a quarantine was recently extended for out-of-state travelers but will be lifted for those hopping between islands.

Conversely, travelers from the South and Southeast along with those in many Midwestern states like Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Minnesota were more likely to book a week or less from when they want to travel. This could be due to travel being less restricted in these parts of the country, Dohmen added.

As for what future trends will look like, Dohmen said it’s up in the air and “booking windows are changing as we settle into this next phase of reopening.”

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