In addition to bargains on toys, clothing and electronics, Black Friday traditionally delivers deals on hotel rooms, tours and cruises, too.
But the pandemic and the post-vaccine recovery have changed travel's relationship to the sales season that kicks off around Thanksgiving. After previewing hundreds of sales encompassing Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Travel Tuesday and beyond, I can safely say this year: Don't expect much.
Hotels are back in the driver's seat, often recording pre-pandemic-level bookings. In San Jose del Cabo, Mexico, Acre resort is officially post-recovery; 2021 bookings there have doubled 2019 figures. Labor shortages have helped prop up room rates by preventing some hotels from operating at capacity. New York City is still short thousands of hotel rooms that haven't reopened, causing rates to swell.
My survey did turn up immediate deals in December for the first quarter of 2022. There are also longer minimum stays, requiring fewer deep cleanings between guests.
The following are guidelines on what to expect of — and how to exploit — tepid Black Friday/Cyber Monday/Travel Tuesday savings. Be aware that deals change frequently and may sell out.
Travel shoppers can expect to see bargains on less-desirable midweek nights, off-peak seasons and longer stays.
For example, there's a four-night minimum at the new all-inclusive O2 Beach Club & Spa on Barbados to get 50% off when booking Nov. 23-30 for travel through Dec. 20, 2022. Normal rates start at $608 a night.
It will be the offseason in Bermuda when the Grotto Bay Beach Resort offers half-off rates, December through March, starting at roughly $140 after the discount on bookings made Nov. 26-30.
Sales stated as "up to X%" means the steepest discounts are usually at slow periods. The Hotel Effie on Florida's Panhandle has rates up to 40% off during its seasonal sale for travel Dec. 1 through year-end 2022, but it reserves the lowest discounts for quieter times in January, February, November and December (rooms start at $229 before the sale).
Shop with a travel list
Because many deals cover just the first quarter of 2022, I recommend travelers consider where they want to go — to see a sister in Denver, take your student on a college tour or do business in Silicon Valley — and shop with that list.
In Northern California, the new Ameswell Hotel in Mountain View will offer 25% off rates booked Nov. 25-29 for travel Jan. 1 to April 30 (use the code BLACKFRIDAY). For Denver, check the Rally Hotel sale, Nov. 26-29, for 52.80% off rooms (a play on the city's 5,280-foot elevation). At Graduate Hotels, in college towns across the country, rates normally start from about $160 to $500, but from Nov. 29 to Dec. 3, they will be discounted up to 50% for travel through March 31.
If you can't find a sale in a target city, try one of the larger hotel chains. Accor is offering 30% off rooms booked Nov. 22-29 in properties across North and Central America for stays through March 31.
Can you leave tomorrow?
Black Friday rewards the most flexible travelers. Some of the best deals are for travel in the next few weeks.
The new Alaia Belize Autograph Collection on Ambergris Caye in Belize is offering 20% off rooms booked Nov. 22-30 for travel Dec. 1- 22 and Jan. 3-31, 2022. Nightly rates before the discount start at $399.
Near Scottsdale, Ariz., Hermosa Inn will offer 15% off rooms, plus two welcome cocktails, for stays through Jan. 9. December rates start at $509 before the discount.
The Archer Hotel group, which has seven locations including New York City, is offering 20% off bookings made Nov. 24-28 for stays Nov. 27 to Jan. 2.
Tours want you back
During the pandemic, with international travel stifled and travelers seeking to avoid strangers, group tours suffered. It's no surprise their substantial incentives are seasonal bait.
G Adventures will put more trips on sale, and more of them will be steeply discounted, including nearly 100 trips at 30% off. After the discount, and excluding airfare, a nine-day trip in Colombia comes in at $1,434 and eight days in Morocco at $679.
Abercrombie & Kent is putting many of its private journeys that depart in the first half of 2022 on sale, most at 40-50% off, Nov. 29 to Dec. 3, including an eight-day trip to Botswana that normally starts around $6,000 priced near $3,000.
Depressed demand for international trips means you may find sales there.
For example, while you won't find a huge deal at the Broadmoor's Cloud Camp wilderness property near Colorado Springs — which is offering a Cyber Monday sale of 10% off select 2022 stays that normally start at $1,055 — you will find deals in Chile. There, Tierra Hotels, which operates remote lodges in Patagonia, Chiloe and the Atacama Desert, is offering its first seasonal sale at 40% off stays booked Nov. 29 for travel through April 30, 2022 and 30% off stays beyond that, through April 2023 (two nights minimum). Rates normally start at $800 a person a day.
Ecoventura will offer 15% off its 20-person-yacht Galápagos cruises, which start at $8,950 a person before the discount on select 2022 departures January to March booked Nov. 25-30.
Cruises now, and later
While you will see Black Friday cruise deals from lines like Royal Caribbean and Holland America, you may also see them during "wave season," a sales period that runs roughly from mid-January to March. "Wave season is kind of considered our Black Friday," said Michelle Fee, CEO and founder of Cruise Planners.
She recommends booking early as a risk-free way to get what you want — such as the exact dates, ships and cabins — since most cruise lines will re-price your deal should the fares drop before your final payment is due.
Some deals to come include 20% off and a $1,000 shipboard credit on select sailings through May 5, 2023, with the boutique cruise line Azamara during its sale through Dec. 3. A seven-night cruise for two in Greece in June starts around $5,100 before the sale.