Why You Should Book Your Rental Car Before Anything Else This Holiday Season

Kayak data shows rental car prices are about to spike yet again.

Following the rental car shortage of summer 2021, which led to travelers paying massive fees or having to find alternative modes of transportation, Kayak is here to warn you that the same thing could happen this holiday season.

Kayak recently released new data showing that rental car searches and prices for the holiday season (here defined as Nov. 12 to Jan. 7) are up compared to both 2019 and 2020. Specifically, Kayak noted that rental car searches are already up 230% compared to 2019 and up 243% compared to 2020. And with more searches come higher prices. The travel booking company explained that prices are following a similar pattern, with the average cost per day up 75% compared to 2019 and up 66% compared to 2020.

If you think you may be in the market for a rental this season, Kayak also pulled data so you know when, where, and how to book a car without breaking the bank.

A family of four gather in front a car during colder months
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When to Book

While its experts usually recommend booking a rental car two weeks in advance of travel, Kayak says, "given the shortage we saw this summer, you may want to plan further in advance to ensure you're not left without one when you need it most." In other words, if you know where and when you're traveling over the holidays now, book ASAP.

Where to Go

Know you want to go away, but haven't yet picked a destination? According to Kayak, the cheapest cities to rent a car over the holiday season include Anchorage, which is showing an average price of $53 per day (down 50% compared to the national average car rental rate), and San Diego, which is showing an average rate of $72 per day (down 32% from the national average). Deals can also be found in Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Seattle, which are all showing more than 20% reductions from the average.

Where to Avoid

As for the destinations Kayak says you should avoid this holiday season, Maui, which was the epicenter of the car rental crisis this summer, is showing an average price of $183 per day (up 72% compared to the national average). Lihue, Kailua, and Hilo are also all showing at least 40% higher rates than the national average. That said, you'd be spending the holidays in Hawaii, which is well worth every penny.

Need more tips? Check out the top car rental companies in Travel + Leisure's 2021 World's Best Awards.

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