By traveling at the right time, knowing when to purchase plane tickets and keeping an eye out for hidden fees, you can save a bundle on your next vacation.
When it comes to travel, being “cheap” can sometimes be a good thing. There’s nothing wrong with making reasonable efforts to stretch your dollar. You can save a bundle by traveling at the right time and doing research in advance to purchase the cheapest plane tickets and hotel rooms. Before leaving on your next trip, prepare to get the most bang for your buck with these tips.
1. Score Cheap Airfare
Since airlines constantly adjust their prices, nabbing the most affordable flights can be a challenge. Analysis has shown that airfare prices are typically lowest on Tuesday afternoons, so that’s an ideal time to buy. Sign up for price alerts from various travel websites (such as Kayak) and make your purchase as soon as the price drops. Avoiding weekend travel, flying at unpopular times of day (such as very early in the morning or very late at night), and tolerating layovers are other ways to bring down flight costs.
2. Consider the Offseason & Shoulder Season
Many travelers plan trips to tropical locations such as Hawaii in the middle of winter as a way to escape the cold temperatures back home. But since everyone has that idea, expect to pay more for Hawaii flights and hotels during the winter. (You’ll most likely be able to find a deal to visit Hawaii in May, towards the end of their rainy season.) The same is true of Colorado skiing trips during the peak winter months. (Try visiting the week after Thanksgiving, but well before Christmas.) Adjusting your travel schedule, even by just a few months – visiting Alaska in late May instead of July, for instance – can bring down costs significantly.
3. Save on Lodging
Another way to spend less is to minimize your lodging costs, which can often be accomplished by booking a room in a hostel or staying in a private residence. Staying in a hostel doesn’t have to mean sleeping on a bunk bed in a crowded room with ten other travelers. Most hostels offer individual rooms where couples can enjoy their privacy while paying much less than they would at a regular hotel. These days, you can also find accommodations from private homeowners in the form of home exchanges or peer-to-peer rental services like Airbnb, Roomorama, and VRBO.
4. Use Reward Points
If you do choose to stay in a hotel, consider signing up for the rewards programs of the major hotel chains, which can eventually earn you free nights. And it goes without saying that it’s worth joining the frequent flyer programs of your most commonly used airlines to build up points towards free flights. Your credit card may also offer rewards points for every dollar spent, and often times those points can be redeemed for a free flight or hotel room.
5. Avoid Hidden Costs
Whether you encounter baggage fees on airplanes, cab fares to get around town, parking fees and/or resort fees for health club and internet access at hotels, most trips come with a number of hidden costs that are easy to overlook when planning your initial budget. Research these in advance to determine whether you can book with an airline that offers free baggage, or try using a larger suitcase so your family will need to check only one bag. And it’s always a good idea to look into local public transit options instead of relying on taxis.
Scott Shetler is a freelance journalist and frequent traveler who enjoys national parks, urban nightlife, and everything in between. He blogs about his adventures at http://quirkytravelguy.com.