Planning to escape somewhere warm for Memorial Day? Still looking for the perfect place at the perfect price? There's hope for an affordable last-minute getaway. With some help from CheapOair senior executive Bill Miller and Orbitz senior editor Jeanenne Tornatore, U.S. News Travel has compiled six simple ways for you to save on the long weekend.
To nab the best hotel and airfare discounts, stay plugged into social media. According to Miller, following deal sites and booking sites on Facebook and Twitter and registering for free email fare updates can help you book last-minute "fire sales," which can save you up to 50 percent. Travel sites, like Travel-Ticker and TravelZoo, and trend trackers, like CheapOair and Hotwire's Trip Watcher, are excellent resources for budget-oriented travelers. Another trick to maximizing savings: Include your desired destination on your email registration. This will allow you to receive instant notifications when prices drop. Also, try to purchase your flights in the evening, when airlines "tend to launch major fare sales," says Miller.
The more flexible you are in your travel plans, the more opportunity you'll have to save on airfare and hotel stays. "It has been proven that people who can leave a day earlier or later wind up saving a lot of money in the end," explains Miller. If you take off on a day that's less in demand, you'll find lower prices and a wider selection of available flights. So rather than planning to fly mid-day on Friday, leave on Saturday afternoon to accrue more savings (and vacation days for future summer vacations).
It comes as no surprise that airfare prices soar during the summer months, and the first long weekend is no exception. "Expand your search options to include airports within a reasonable radius [of your departure and arrival destinations], and you'll find yourself with more flight and price options," says Tornatore. Driving the extra miles to or from a less convenient or popular airport could save you some extra dough.
By enrolling in loyalty programs and point systems, you can accumulate significant rewards and may be able to book a luxurious stay during a popular travel time in the future. However, you'll have to bite the bullet and pay full price on the first go-round. "Many loyalty programs have eliminated blackout dates for points redemption, so you can get free nights even during peak season," says Miller. Some programs even offer new members major incentives upon registration, so you can save coin instantly (even on your upcoming Memorial Day trip).
Consider reserving your hotel, flight, and car rental together for the most savings. "Hotels with excess inventory give sites like Orbitz rooms to sell at greatly discounted rates as part of a package," Tornatore notes. "They don't have to tell you just how cheap their rooms are going for, and you get a great deal." Package deals, offered by travel providers like Orbitz, Travelocity, and Priceline, will save you more than if you booked each travel component separately. Plus, it'll save you time.
Dreaming of a retreat to Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles, or New York City? If you're planning to visit a popular city, consider looking at hotels in less-visited areas. While you may not be in the midst of the action, these districts can boast their own charms and activities for half the cost. According to Tornatore, "You can often find rates from 25 [to] 40 percent less than in the city centers, and in metro areas that have good public transportation (Chicago, D.C., NYC, to name a few), it isn't an issue getting around." An added perk: By staying a few miles away from the action, you'll likely find more-affordable restaurants and shops than you would in the heart of the city, which will trim even more off your expenses.
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