Americans are busy preparing turkey dinners and buying Christmas gifts, but according to data revealed by Priceline, Cancun spring breakers-to-be should make sure they purchase their flights this month. The caveat? Securing a hotel now could result in lost savings.
Spring break dates vary by school, but usually go from late February to mid-March. Based on Priceline's data, Cancun airfare rose from $427 in November 2018 to $444 in March 2019. Fast forward to spring break 2022, and the average flight to Cancun jumped in price from $368 to $523, a more than 42 percent increase.
There's a catch, though. Unlike accommodations in Cancun, which typically follow a similar price change trajectory year over year, flight prices are more susceptible to fluctuations. Airline competition, fuel costs, and customer demand are factors that can influence how expensive a 2024 spring break flight will be. Case in point? Spring break 2023 saw a decrease in Cancun flight prices as travel dates approached when comparing November 2022 to March 2023.
Nevertheless, Christina Bennett, Priceline's Consumer Travel Expert, recommends travelers not drag their feet for booking flights this coming spring break. “Based on historic pricing, now is a great time to lock in your spring break flight to Cancun. March airfares to Cancun are typically the lowest in November and steadily rise as Spring Break nears.”
Tuesday, Be Gone
Research supports Priceline's recommendation to book Cancun spring break flights now. The Quarterly Journal of Economics published a piece in September 2023 suggesting that many mainstream beliefs about how flight prices work are myths. Although someone may have landed a lower flight price on a Tuesday once, or while browsing in incognito mode, most airlines have a set, small number of prices assigned to seats on any given flight. They sell those seats on a first-come, first-served basis.
So, what does set pricing look like in real-time? An airline may allot 25 economy tickets for a flight to Cancun at the lowest price. Once those 25 tickets sell, the price increases for the next 25 tickets, and so on. The issue for budget-conscious spring breakers is that the price differences between these seats within the same class can be significant once the lowest-priced ticket set sells out.
Booking on the Edge
Travelers who love to plan ahead may want to move outside their comfort zone in the name of savings. According to Priceline, landing the best deal on Cancun spring break accommodations requires booking at the last minute.
During spring break 2023, the average accommodation dropped from $354 in November 2022 to $316 in March 2023, a more than 10 percent savings. Spring break 2022 showed a similar trend, with last-minute bookers receiving an average of 4.8 percent savings. Of course, there's a risk with booking accommodation shortly before a trip — a traveler may not land a room in the hotel they wanted or even in the area they wanted.
Bennett offers a meet-in-the-middle opportunity if a last-minute Cancun hotel booking feels too unsettling. “Keep an eye out for seasonal sales. We're approaching Black Friday, when brands like Priceline offer some of their best discounts of the year.” She notes it “could be an opportune time to lock in your plans.”
Should a traveler decide that booking their spring break accommodation shortly before the trip is worth it, they don't have to limit themselves to Cancun's Hotel Zone. Places like Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and several smaller beachside destinations are within a two-hour drive from Cancun, expanding the opportunities to land a stellar last-minute accommodation deal.
Traveling between Cancun and these beach destinations is easy and safe, thanks to well-maintained roads and excellent public and private transportation. Travelers can hop on an economical ADO bus at the Cancun airport or arrange a private taxi from inside the airport.
Spring Break Policies
Regardless of where a traveler stays in the Yucatan Peninsula, this is true: Not all hotels are friendly to the stereotypical spring breaker. Hotel Riu Cancun has a no-tolerance policy for spring breakers both during traditional spring break dates and all other times of the year. Similarly, certain other Cancun hotels state that one or more guests in a room must be over a certain age to make a reservation during spring break.
Some Cancun hotels also have minimum night stay policies during spring break. Whether the traveler books an accommodation during Black Friday or waits until the last minute, checking minimum night stay policies is vital so they don't end up paying for nights they don't need.
The clock is ticking. Anyone who is still on the fence about visiting Cancun for spring break, should make November 30th the deadline to book a flight so that, statistically, they have the best chance of locking in the lowest prices.