Written by Amy Wilde.
Once upon a time, long, long ago, travel agents found the best fares for travelers, making trip-planning an absolute breeze. The early 2000s gave rise to fare aggregators like Kayak and Expedia, but while still convenient today, those methods now require more digging than ever to find a good deal. Read on for some tips to save money the next time you head out on a new adventure.
Here’s some good news: a little flexibility can mean hundreds in savings if you’re willing to slide your travel dates around a little. Supply and demand keep airfare and accommodation pricing in a state of flux, and you can use that to your advantage. Most fare-finding platforms offer a search feature showing which return and departure days are the most budget-friendly near your desired dates. Use it!
Downloading a price tracking app like Skyscanner and subscribing to city-specific deal-finders are two clever ways to save big. One catch: it’s important to keep an eye on your alerts and act fast when fares are at their lowest.
Leverage your spending
Most major airlines offer credit cards with huge sign-up bonuses for spending a certain amount within a set timeframe – say, 50,000 miles for $2,500 in the first three months. Credit card debt is no joyride, but it’s possible to use a new card to your advantage without overspending.
Card member agreements often have rules against earning points for balance transfers or recurring bills, but if you’re already planning an expense like a home repair, summer camp tuition or orthodontist’s bill, you can charge it to the new card, pay it off immediately and reap the benefits of thousands of free miles. Apply them to your next trip and enjoy a free or deeply discounted vacation, courtesy of your own sleight of hand.
Gone are the days of straightforward travel arrangements. Today, the flight class once known as “Coach” is divided into subsections like “Economy” and “Basic Economy,” with extra fees for added legroom or even bringing a carry-on. Keep an eye on your fare’s restrictions to avoid last-minute charges (upwards of $50 per bag or seat upgrade). If you’re packing light, choose a few versatile wardrobe staples to stretch into multiple mix-and-match outfits, and wear your heaviest shoes on travel days.
To prevent emergency expenditures once you reach your destination, pack for the weather so you don’t get stuck buying an umbrella or scarf on the go. To avoid the siren call of airport snacks, bring your own – just make sure they’re TSA-friendly (no liquids!). By planning ahead, you can save big on small things that add up quickly. With extra cash comes extra freedom, and who doesn’t want more of that?