A lot of folks are turning their attention to weekend getaways and summer vacation. Robert Firpo-Cappiello, editor in chief of Budget Travel, has put together some start-today tips that can help plan your dream trip without breaking bank.
BOOK FLIGHTS AT THE PERFECT TIME: This is the question we get asked most often at Budget Travel. The simple answer is: Buy your airline tickets about two months before you fly, and you'll likely get the best price by booking early in the week, when fares are adjusted to meet supply and demand. That said, we also recommend that you follow all the major airlines on social media, sign up for their rewards programs, and subscribe to their free e-newsletters to get the inside track on deals.
DO SOME HOTEL HOMEWORK: Budget Travelers don't snap up the first appealing room at a decent price that they find. They visit a variety of web resources like BudgetTravel.com, Kayak, and Hotels.com to research location—how close will they be to a city's major sights?—and make sure that a good price doesn't also come with a time-wasting long-distance schlep every morning. But DON’T book online: Instead, call the hotel directly (not the national sales line, get the front desk at the actual location you’ll be staying) and ask them to meet or beat the online price, ask for the most appropriate room options, and ask for a free upgrade. Be nice, but ask for what you want.
PICK UP YOUR RENTAL CAR FIRST THING IN THE MORNING: Book the smallest car you can live with (aka, the cheapest), and schedule your pickup first thing in the morning. Chances are, the compact cars won’t be returned yet and the rental agency will have to give you a bigger car at the same price.
BOOK YOUR CRUISE EARLY--OR LATE: Nabbing a cruise six months to a year in advance usually means getting the best price. At that early point, supply is high and demand is relatively flat, so you'll find appealing prices. As rooms get snapped up, of course, demand rises and so do prices—with one exception. Once you get down to the final few weeks before a cruise, the line may scramble to fill empty rooms, and you can again swoop in and find a deal.
VACATION RENTALS ARE A FAMILY’S BFF: When faced with the notion of shelling out $1,400 per week for a beach house, some travelers will blanch. That's $200 per night, right? Way more than a Budget Traveler wants to pay for a hotel room. But consider the size of your brood. A rental home that comfortably sleeps five and includes a full kitchen is going to be much more comfortable and likely save you money on food.
PSST! HERE’S THE BIGGEST SECRET IN TRAVEL: Airlines and hotels are willing to practically give away their inventory rather than see it go empty. That's right. Airlines sell their seats at rock-bottom prices. Hotels do the same for their rooms. Why haven't you heard this before? Because they don't exactly go parading down the street announcing it to the world. Instead, they roll those empty airplane seats and hotel beds into package deals. When you book a package deal, you'll get a good rate on airfare and hotels, some meals, often guided tours, and some ground transportation. Don't believe us? Take a look at a package deal and then try to book the airfare and hotel separately—the package will almost always be significantly less.