Dec. 5, 2012 -- Dead weeks: It's far less macabre than it sounds, at least as it applies to the travel industry.
For travelers on the hunt for bargains, dead week is actually one of the best (read: cheapest) weeks of the year. And it's coming up.
Mark Jan 4 – Jan 16 (ish), 2013 on your calendar. Coming on the heels of the Christmas-New Year's Eve travel period, the dead week brings incredible savings on airfare, hotels and cruises. On its own but especially by comparison, the deals during the dead week are ubiquitous.
"A lucky handful of flexible travelers can scoop up the cheapest prices of the year - slashed by more than 60 percent compared to the holidays - with the added bonus of an empty middle seat," said Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare.
So why the bargains? Simple: a dramatic drop in the number of people traveling. The number of domestic air travelers in December 2011 was about 37 million, according to industry group Airlines for America. The following month (January 2012), that number dropped to 34 million.
Think of it as a holiday travel hangover. Many people have traveled for Thanksgiving or Christmas or both, and perhaps even New Year's. Wallets are light from holiday shopping. Kids are going back to school. All this leads to the perfect recipe for people staying home.
Which is exactly when the budget-conscious should strike. But beware – the dead time comes and goes quickly. Once Martin Luther King weekend comes around (Jan 21) and many are celebrating a three-day weekend, prices start to creep back up.
Below, some of the dramatic savings available during dead week.
The period between Christmas and New Year's is always one of the most expensive when it comes to airfare, and this year is no exception. Travel-booking website Orbitz said fares were up 8 percent this year versus last year. All the more reason to postpone that vacation if possible.
Los Angeles to New York: The cheapest nonstop, round-trip flight during Christmas week was $700, including tax (dates searched Dec 22 – Dec 29). During Dead Week, the same flight is $400 (Jan 4 -11).
Chicago to Orlando: The cheapest nonstop, round-trip flight during Christmas week was $530, including tax (dates searched Dec 22 – Dec 29). During Dead Week, the same flight is $230 (Jan 4 -11).
New York City – Cancun: No nonstop flights on dates searched. Cheapest option was $900, including tax (dates searched Dec 22 – Dec 29). Nonstops available during Dead Week, cheapest flight is $430 (Jan 4 -11).
Many travelers are drawn to hotels and resorts during the holiday season for the beautiful decorations and festivities. You can get the same holiday cheer if you travel early in the year, before the decorations come down.
If skiing is your thing, check out the savings by choosing to stay at the Beaver Creek Lodge after the first of the year as opposed to Christmas week. During the holidays, prices at the all-suite luxury property that's steps from the lifts costs as much as $700 per night. But during the dead weeks, the same hotel room can be had for less than $400 per night.
And it's the same for the sun. Take, for example, the Catalonia La Romana All Inclusive Resort in the Dominican Republic. Rates during Christmas week were as high as $370 per night. Wait a while, and the rates drop to $240.
For those who can't bear to miss New York during the holidays, rooms at the four-star Warwick hotel in Midtown are as high as $430 per night, but as low as $230 per night during the Dead Week. And the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree stays up until Jan. 7, 2013.
Christmas on the high seas may seem strange to the uninitiated, but it's a popular time to take a cruise vacation. Other times of the year though, not so much.
"On the cruise calendar there are two times each year when there really is a 'dead spot,'" said Carolyn Brown, editor-in-chief of CruiseCritic.com. "In the post-Thanksgiving-pre-Christmas season, and right after New Year's up until about the Martin Luther KingJr. holiday, you can generally find excellent deals, very sparse crowds both onboard and in port, and the often rare special offers for solo travelers."
Need proof? A seven-day western Caribbean cruise departing Dec 23 from New Orleans on the Carnival Conquest is priced from $819 per person for an inside cabin. The same cruise departing on Jan 6 is priced at $379.
"It's also a good time if you want to experience luxury at less than the usual splurge," Brown said. Case in point: Luxury line Regent Seven Seas offers a price from $5,499 on a 10-day, round-trip from Miami Caribbean cruise. Depart on Jan 7, 2013, instead and that cruise $4,599.