4 tips for saving money on travel
The more you save, the more you can travel, right?
Seasoned travelers and travel experts know that no two travel itineraries are created equal … at least in terms of cost. Your seat on an airplane could have cost you hundreds of dollars more than what your seatmate paid. Similarly, your all-inclusive trip purchased through Groupon could have cost thousands more if you would have purchased the flight, hotel stay, car rental and excursions individually.
If you have the travel bug, consider these four tips to make your vacation fund stretch farther.
1. Shop Around
As with any big purchase, online research and price comparisons are a must. Despite the overabundance of online “travel agents,” most of the major booking sites are owned by just four corporations. (For example, Expedia also owns Hotels.com, Hotwire.com, TripAdviser.com, CruiseCritic.com and AirfareWatchdog.com, among others.) Despite the repetition and the eerily similar pricing these sites serve up, they do a great job of aggregating and comparing options from multiple airlines, hotels and cruise lines. When looking for the best vacation deals online, you not only should put these online booking sites to work, you should vary your search timing.
While last-minute vacation deals are a real thing, don’t expect bargain airfare prices if you’re booking a flight at the 11th hour. According to a study published by CheapAir.com in 2016, the best time to buy a plane ticket is 54 days in advance of travel. While this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule and every trip itinerary is different, this 54-day figure represented the average timing of the lowest fare offered in advance of a trip (the study pulled data from nearly 3 million “trips.”) And, according to Expedia’s Preparing for Takeoff: Air travel outlook for 2016, the weekend overtook Tuesday as the best time to book airline travel.
Don’t forget to check out the low-cost carriers like Allegiant and Southwest who only sell flights directly through their websites. No matter the carrier, if your itinerary is flexible, consider flying on days that are not peak travel days, namely, Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday afternoon.
Vacation packages that combine flights with a hotel stay often offer significant savings. According to a CondeNastTraveler.com blogger, the fare-plus-hotel package price can even be less than the cost of booking the fare by itself. When a ticket is included within a package, airlines can provide cheaper prices on the sly, filling empty seats without undermining their advertised fares.
Purchasing a vacation package is especially attractive if you’re planning a last-minute getaway. While flight prices alone for last-minute travel tend to spike, bundling your travel purchases is a great way to benefit from an online travel agency’s “locked in” low airfare and combine it with a cheap hotel stay.
*Warning: If you’re sticking with a certain hotel brand to earn reward points (learn more about earning elevated status below), purchasing a bundled package may preclude you from collecting loyalty program points. Be sure to read the fine print!)
3. Earn Elevated Status
Loyalty pays when it comes to travel. If you’re consistently using the same brands and services, be recognized and earn perks for that loyalty by enrolling in rewards programs. Accumulating airline miles can earn free or discounted flights. If you fly frequently, you also may be able nab upgraded, first-class seating, priority boarding, etc. Likewise, hotels reward loyalty with free room nights and in-room perks.
The savings can start before you even before you hit airport security. Fast Park’s Relax for Rewards program allows members to collect and redeem points for free airport parking. Bottom line, rewards programs cost nothing and enable you to achieve perks and discounted travel expenses simply by keeping track of the travel purchases you’re already making. And, with most loyalty programs, the more frequently you support these brands, the more perks and savings you accrue.
4. Be a Brand Champion
Unless you’re a frequent business traveler, earning top-tier status with a brand is a slow, and sometimes unrealistic, process. However, if you believe in a brand, consider yourself loyalist and want to earn additional benefits and perks, explore the ways in which the brand offers additional incentives to brand champions.
One of the easiest ways to champion a brand is through word of mouth. Referrals are powerful, and many brands understand that an endorsement from a friend is the most effective marketing vehicle. If you love a brand enough to refer it to friends, take advantage of referral program perks, such as free parking with Fast Park, 50,000 bonus points with Marriott or credit on your next Airbnb stay.
Consider these money-saving tips when booking your next trip. And, if you have additional insights about travel savings or top-notch referral programs, share your tips and secrets on our Facebook page.