How to Save on Summer Travel (Without the Burn)
Sure, gas is $4 a gallon and inflation is driving up the cost of everything, but if you’re going to travel this summer by road or air there are plenty of ways to save money.
Airlines use a complex algorithm to set the price of flights, which is why prices change from day to day. But they’re still ruled by the law of supply and demand and the slowest days for air travel.
Tuesday and Wednesday are almost always the cheapest days to fly.
So whenever possible, try to plan your trips on those days to get the best price. For example, the cheapest round trip flight from San Diego to Boston departing Friday, July 8 and returning Friday, July 15 is $383. The same flight on Tuesday in both weeks is $340.
When you plan a trip, buy your tickets at least two weeks in advance and shop around online for the best rates. Kayak and Bing Travel are two of the better sites to find bargains and gives fare predictions with a percentage of accuracy. And, if you’re a risk-taker, book connecting flights through busy airports to get an even lower rate. Yes, there’s a reason why flights routed through Chicago and New York City are cheaper than others.
Also be sure to travel light. Packing everything in one large carry-on bag will spare you the $25 (or more) fee many airlines charge for additional bags and save you the hassle of waiting around the baggage claim.
Though the options are more limited when traveling by car, you can still save money. The basic idea is to tune up your car’s engine, inflate your tires to get maximum gas mileage, and buy gas at stations off the beaten path (away from the highways) to save up to 30 cents per gallon when filling up.
If you’re renting a car, always check the Internet for coupons. The major rental car companies like Hertz (coupons) and Alamo (coupons) use a method similar to airlines in setting rates and they offer discounts for rentals during slow periods and for rentals longer than three days. The coupon approach is hit-or-miss but always worth a try.
Once again, online travel sites are the best place to find bargains on hotels. Sites like Expedia.com are good because they provide customer reviews along with prices. Reviews can help you decide whether a great rate you stumble upon is a good deal or just a way for a shabby hotel to lure into staying there (reviews are usually sketchy but they’ll give you a general idea of hotels to avoid).
And, again, being flexible about when you travel and where you stay are keys to finding great deals. Staying at a hotel outside of a major city instead of downtown can save you hundreds of dollars and provide you with a better place to stay.
In keeping with the law of supply and demand, it’s usually best to plan a trip the week after a major holiday. Instead of traveling the weekend of Fourth of July, which falls on a Monday this year, try traveling the week after when tapped out consumers will be more likely to stay home and provide you with better rates.
If you plan ahead, do your research and be flexible about when you travel, you can have a great vacation on the cheap this summer.