The best times to book flights, cruises, hotel rooms, rental cars and campsites

·5 min read

Always book your flight on a Tuesday. Never book a hotel room on a Monday. Wait until January to book a cruise.

Heard any of this travel advice before? Me, too. But it's simply not true.

"There is no one day or 'golden rule' about when to book that applies to all travel," says Ellie Breslin of Hopper.

So, ditch outdated advice on how to save money on a vacation. These days, vacationgoers must become either super flexible or resourceful to cut costs. And with rebound travel happening at the same time as record-high prices – it's more important than ever to become a savvy traveler.

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Best time to book a flight

When it comes to booking cheaper airfare, there's no perfect day.

"Airline prices are dynamic, and they do not go up or down on a predictable schedule. Flight prices are also not cheaper at midnight or very early in the morning," says Phil Dengler, co-owner of The Vacationeer.

While there used to be some truth to the myth about shopping for flights on Tuesdays at midnight, Hopper found that this was applicable to only 1.6% of routes, and yielded savings of 6%.

The latest guidance is geared more toward choosing the right day to fly (ThriftyTraveler.com recommends taking off on Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday for potential lower rates). There's also a debate on how early to buy. Hopper says to buy flights at least three weeks in advance for domestic trips (KAYAK says up to six weeks). Prices will likely spike a week or two before a flight's departure.

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That said, fare drops do happen all the time. Use an app or tools like Google Flights for alerts to track deals.

Advice: Earlier flights may save you money and be less prone to delays. Domestic flights departing on Tuesday or Wednesday may be cheaper.

Best time to reserve a car

Similar to flights, Priceline CEO Brett Keller recommends booking your rental car as early as possible. Especially if you're picky.

"Rental cars are staying costly due to limited vehicle supply," Keller says. "Selling off of fleets at the beginning of the pandemic and the microchip shortage, both of which limit the number of cars that rental companies can move back into their fleets as high demand returns"

RentalCars.com suggests booking 3-6 months in advance, especially for family vehicles like caravans and big SUVs.

But not to fret. It's not like the car rental "shelves" are empty. We found plenty of small sedans available to rent on Expedia.com around New York City for about $30+ per day minus taxes, fees, and insurance.

Advice: Book three to six months in advance for high-demand vehicles like minivans and SUVs. Inventory might be tight in peak summer months. Price fluctuations are expected.

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Best time to book a hotel

Kayak's Global Hotel Study in 2017 said Fridays and Saturdays were the "cheapest time to book" a domestic or international hotel stay.

That's old news.

"There isn't really a best time of week to book to get a lower rate on a hotel," says Mel Dohmen, senior public relations manager for Hotels.com.

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But shifting travel dates will likely help. Staying midweek versus a weekend can save you $100 or more a night depending on the location and time. Below-average hotel rates are more common at under-the-radar destinations.

Advice: Flexible travelers can always find last-minute deals. Expect to always pay more for weekend stays.

Best time to book a campsite

Camping continues to be a very popular getaway option in 2022 – so act fast.

"We recommend booking your summer vacation as soon as possible while there are still prime dates available," says Jennifer Ludovice, a spokesperson for RVontheGo.com. "It's also not too early to look ahead for a fall getaway to enjoy the best availability and rates."

Popular campgrounds and parks book up quickly. Dates usually get released about six months out (a lottery for overnight campers via Recreation.gov is now open for Yosemite National Park).

When it comes to RV rentals on sites like RVshare.com or Outdoorsy, use the RV availability filter to see units available for preferred dates.

Advice: Book campsites six months in advance. Off-peak dates will be cheaper.

When to book a cruise

"The best time to book depends a bit on your travel needs and what you're looking for," says Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic.

McDaniel says if you really want a certain cabin type or particular sail date – it's best to book as early as possible. Cruise lines are also known to entice early bookers with complimentary drink packages, upgrades, and other perks.

Yes, last-minute deals also are around. Usually, final payments are due around the 90-day mark. So that's the time that cruise lines will see an uptick in cancellations. To fill empty cabins, cruise lines may slash the cost of the fare. But just a word of caution: You might not score your ideal choice of cabin or date. Activities and excursions may also be sold out or require advance reservations.

Some cruisers may still wait to buy until the cruise industry's "wave season". That's the time period between January through March, when cruise lines offer Black Friday-type deals. But this isn't like it used to be. Industry experts say cruisers can find deals all year round.

Advice: Book in advance or sale off-peak months to save.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: The best times to book flights, hotel rooms, rental cars or campsites