You know what they say: April showers bring May flowers. After that comes summer fun! The kids will be out of school in just a few short months, so now's the time to start planning. 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 best money-saving tips for summer travel.
- 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 go start to return to school. So plan your travels for “off-peak summer” if you can.
- Look into low-season destinations. Check out some of the not-as-popular summer destinations that still offer great activities and good weather. Since thousands of tourists won’t be flocking to those locations, prices for hotels, transportation, and everyday activities will be lower. Plus, crowds will be much smaller.
- 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 date, you can take advantage of huge savings, sometimes simply by booking a day or two earlier or later. Some of our favorite flexible search tools include those of JetBlue, Southwest, and United for airlines, along with Google Flights and Kayak.
- For Europe travel, focus first on crossing the Atlantic cheaply. At this point, it’s no secret that the euro is at an historic low, which makes for cheaper travel within Europe. 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 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 Amsterdam may be about $1,500, you could instead fly into Frankfurt for about $799 (which we recently saw on Singapore Airlines from New York). A flight or train ticket from Frankfurt to Amsterdam is only about $100. All of those savings 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 Airlines recently had a package deal for airfare and five nights in Dublin for about $750 per person. When we searched for airfare independently, we found that the flight alone would be more than $900. In this case, the package deal was definitely 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.
- After you book, check for airfare and hotel price drops. Airfare and hotel prices fluctuate on a daily basis. It’s a total bummer when you’ve paid for a hotel or flight and find out that someone else paid less. 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; and Yapta is useful for tracking airfare price drops.