To save big on summer travel, start planning now. Here’s how.
When the next major holiday on the calendar is Presidents’ Day, it’s hard to even imagine the most modest of summer travel, let alone planning a full-blown surfin’ safari. But to land the best deals for getting out of town in July and August, you should start mapping out your warm-weather vacation strategy ASAP.
When to book a bargain
While there’s some argument over just how early you should purchase plane tickets to lock in the best fare, at least six weeks in advance is a general rule of thumb, and some experts suggest a minimum of two months ahead for domestic travel and up to almost six months for travel between North America and Europe.
It’s been a long-held belief in travel circles that Tuesday is the best day of the week to get the lowest fare on plane tickets—and there’s still some truth to that. Tuesday’s fares tend to be cheaper than Monday’s. But the first day of the work week also touts some of the highest prices of all seven days, just behind Friday. (Snagging business travelers at a premium when they’re most likely to buy seems to fuel these price spikes.) Recent studies, however, have shown that the weekend, especially Sunday, is in fact the best time to lock in the week’s overall lowest fares.
If you’re targeting a specific holiday for your getaway, super-saver site DealNews teamed up with budget travel app Hopper to devise a handy calendar for when to lock in the best deal for specific travel dates.
How to fly the (budget) friendly skies
So now that we’ve narrowed the window on when to buy those tickets, what are the best ways for you to book when the bottom line is top priority?
There are some great sites and apps that can help you find low fares. And while the list can seem endless—Kayak and Google Flights are among the most well-known services for bargain hunters—there are a couple I really like.
Hopper, which I mentioned above, is an easy-to-use app that will notify you when the absolute cheapest fare for your chosen destination and dates is available. If you’re hesitant to turn your life completely over to algorithms, know that Hopper touts the fact that “real humans” are involved. (Take that, A.I.)
Scott’s Cheap Flights is a site that delivers great results for international travel. Like Hopper, there are actual humans (Hi, Scott!) combing through fares, so any amazing deals that an algorithm might not pick up on, Hopper and Scott’s will. Additionally, if you sign up for Scott’s newsletter, he regularly publishes his rarest of rare finds. Ever dreamed of checking out the sacred monkey forest sanctuary in Bali? Scott might just dig up the blink-and-you’ll miss it deal that will get you there this summer.
How to land supercheap lodging
According to one reliable travel expert that has run tests year over year, the absolute cheapest hotel rates can be found on Booking.com. Whether you’re a hotel lover or more of an Airbnb type, keep in mind that you can contact a hotel or host directly to kindly inquire if there’s any room to negotiate on price. You’d be shocked how often there is, especially during off-peak times of the year.
Of course blowing your travel budget often comes down to the little things—those forgotten expenses can pile up. To make the most of your vacation dollar, there are now a few handy travel-specific budgeting apps worth checking out. One that’s available for both iOS and Android is Trabee Pocket, which will help you set a budget in advance. It can also track both cash and credit purchases—those swipes can sneak up on you!—and switch between different currencies seamlessly.
One last thing: Make sure that if you pay for your vacation with a credit card (maybe you’re a rewards points fiend), you pay off the full balance right away. There is nothing worse than returning home from a relaxing break to a waiting credit card balance piling up with interest. Here are my tips for tackling any credit card debt so you can truly unplug while you’re away.
Now, how are you fixed for sun screen?