50 Genius Money-Saving Travel Tricks Experts Know (That You Don't)
Master the art of traveling more and spending less with these pro hacks.
Bookmark these cost-trimming tips and strategies.
You know a few tried-and-true hacks for scoring a deal. You've signed up for fare alerts. You leverage loyalty points. You know how to dodge steep foreign transaction fees. But you don't want to focus all your energy and efforts on browsing the internet on a fruitless search for rock-bottom prices. After all, you want to manage your time wisely, and you're not looking for a ho-hum vacation. Well, fret not: There's still time-tested expert strategies for stretching your hard-earned vacation dollars further. To help you avoid overspending on flight tickets, hotel rooms and hidden travel fees, here are little-known pro tips to trim costs with minimal hassle – even when planning the trip of a lifetime.
Book separate one-way fares.
If you're scouting out routes served by more than one carrier, consider buying two tickets as separate one-way fares, advises Brian Sumers, an airline business reporter at travel site Skift. "Airlines tend to price domestic tickets as one-way fare, and oftentimes one direction can be cheaper than the other," he explains. "A United ticket between two major cities might be $298. But that could break down as $99 for one way and $198 for the other," he says. If you buy the $99 one-way and research other options for the opposite direction, you can optimize savings. While you can put in the legwork yourself, Kayak offers hacker fares, or round-trip routes that "are actually two tickets on two different airlines."
Fly on less desirable days, and pick off-peak times of year to travel.
"Airlines will drop prices when they have empty seats. But that's only going to happen when other people don't want to fly," Sumers says. If you're looking to optimize loyalty points, you can also snag excellent values by flying "when no one else want to fly," he says. "Airlines are in the business of selling seats," he explains. That's why they make award seats available at low price points, but typically "only once their algorithms tell them they're not going to sell the seat," he says. Say you want to fly to Europe in January, you may land a bargain; conversely, in July your chances of netting a deal are likely to be slim, as "airlines can sell every seat to Europe for almost the entire summer."
Purchase your trip with a beneficial card.
When traveling abroad, make sure to book your accommodations, flights and activities with a card that will deliver a high payoff based on your spending habits. "Paying with a credit card will lock in the day's lowest exchange rate, helping you avoid the fees that come from exchanging cash," says Gabe Saglie, senior editor at Travelzoo. Just make sure to familiarize yourself with foreign transaction fees, Saglie says. Even better, choose a card that waives these fees, which can range from 1 to 3 percent. You'll also want to be wary of dynamic currency conversions when making purchases (or your home currency), which can tack on 3 or more percent to a total transaction cost.
Go where the competition is to cut costs on international flights.
To score a deal on international airfares, fly from a city offering multiple routes to Europe, "including some on discount airlines, like Wow Air or Norwegian," Sumers says. If a low-cost carrier offers enticing fares on a route that interests you, in some instances, major airlines will drop their average ticket costs to stay competitive and attract price-sensitive flyers, he explains. "Perhaps United, American, Lufthansa or KLM won't match the discounters, but they'll probably get close," he explains. "Even if you live somewhere like Colorado Springs, consider going to Denver to pick up a flight to Europe," he says.
Familiarize yourself with common airline fees.
"Travelers need to understand some fares comes with lots of fees – for everything from carry-on luggage to onboard sodas to advanced seat assignments – and some fares don't," Sumers says. While some frugal-minded flyers may be willing to forgo benefits like seat assignments or pack light to dodge baggage fees, others are unaware of the extra fees associated with no-frills bare fares, he explains. For example, you may not be able to get a seat next to your travel companion with these cheap fares. That's why travelers "should know what they're buying," he adds. "There's nothing worse than checking in for a flight and realizing you'll have to pay a lot of fees you didn't expect."
Don't believe the hype that Tuesdays are the best day to book your flights.
Savvy globetrotters claim to know the magic time to purchase flight tickets, "but I've been following airlines closely for years, and I certainly don't know," Sumers says. Instead of counting on securing the best fare on Tuesdays, track flight prices closely to net the best deals. The reality is, fare fluctuations hinge on a variety of factors, including demand for your desired route, the time of year you want to travel and the day of the week you're interested in traveling. "The best advice: If you see a fare you like, buy it," Sumers says. "It might not be there the next day – or even an hour later," he adds.
Choose flights departing at off-peak times of the day.
A top way to slash costs is traveling on nonpeak days such as Tuesdays and Wednesdays and at off-peak hours (think: midday on weekends, Saturday night and early Sunday morning), says Wendy Perrin, founder and editor of travel-planning site WendyPerrin.com. Beyond optimizing savings, by traveling at less desirable times, you'll also encounter reduced foot traffic at the airport, translating to a smoother preflight experience and shorter lines at security checkpoints. D