The summer travel season is fast approaching and we've found that more and more travelers plan to hit the skies this year. In an effort to help you get the best value from your vacation, we've put together a list of our top money-saving tips for summer travel.
Get fare alerts via email and Twitter
Your first step is to set up airfare alerts by email. You can choose specific routes (such as Tampa to Rome) or look at all the low airfare deals from any airport you choose. Airfarewatchdog is unique in that it includes Southwest, and indeed all airlines (some apps these days don’t include Delta so be forewarned). And Airfarewatchdog even lets you decide which airlines you receive alerts on in case there are some you’d never fly. We list some of our best deals on Twitter, too, @airfarewatchdog.
Avoid ‘peak’ summer travel
Summer doesn’t officially end until well after Labor Day. Since school starts earlier and earlier these days, you’ll find that airfares and hotel rates tend to go down for travel after around August 18, when kids return to school. So plan your travels for “off-peak summer” if you can.
Use a flexible search to find better deals
When planning your travel, try to be as flexible as possible with your departure and arrival dates. That way, you can take advantage of flexible travel date airfare searches. If you can flex your travel dates slightly, and don’t need to travel on specific dates, you can take advantage of huge savings, sometimes simply by booking a day or two earlier or later. Read our guide to flexible date search here.
For European travel, focus first on crossing the Atlantic cheaply
At this point, it’s no secret that fares to Europe are at historic lows, and the euro has dropped considerably, both of which make for cheaper travel to and within the continent. However, some cities may still be pricier than others, so to get the best deal you may have to fly into a nearby airport and then travel city-to-city by plane or train. Check out some of our favorite smaller airlines, such as Norwegian, Condor, and WOW Air, where you’ll find great deals to and within Europe. While you might have to spend some extra time getting to your actual destination, you’ll save money while touring two cities for less than the price of one. For example, while round-trip fares to Vienna may be about $1,200, you could instead fly into Milan for $400 (thanks to US and European carriers trying to keep pace with low fares from Emirates). A flight or overnight train ticket from Milan to Vienna is fairly inexpensive and the savings certainly add up.
Check out your options with frequent flyer miles
When researching flights, see if it makes sense to cash in reward miles with any of your frequent flyer programs. In certain situations, you might have better luck calling the airline’s reservation center and speaking directly with a booking agent.
Do your research before booking an air + hotel travel package
While the package deals for airfare and hotels stays seem promising, sometimes they are significantly overpriced. Before whipping out your credit card and snagging that “great package deal,” search airfare and hotel prices on their own. That way, you’ll get a feel for what the prices are when they are separate and you’ll know if you’re actually saving money by booking a package. For example, British Airways often has package deals for airfare and five nights in London for far less than the cost of the flight alone. In these scenarios, the package deal is a definite a no-brainer!
Check to see if your credit card offers travel insurance
Many travelers purchase travel insurance without first checking to see if their credit card offers any coverage. The credit card you use on a daily basis might already offer you enough insurance to cover your trip. Our favorites are the Chase Sapphire card, United Explorer card, and some Citibank AAdvantage cards, which all offer superb insurance protection. See our guide here.
After you book, check for airfare and hotel price drops
Airfare and hotel prices fluctuate on a daily basis. If you stay on top of it and check for price drops after you book, however, you might still be able to save some money. You can either get cash or a credit for future travel if you know how the system works. For example, Tingo will give you your money back if the price of your hotel room drops after you book. Southwest will issue a travel voucher if you discover that the fare has gone down on the exact flights and dates you previously booked.