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50 Ways to Save More on Travel in 2018
Stretch your vacation dollars further in the new year with these pro tips and tricks.
Crisscrossing the globe doesn't have to be cost-prohibitive.
Whether you're a seasoned jet-setter or an aspiring globetrotter who's resolved to travel more and pay less in the year ahead, chances are you can benefit from clever, creative and time-tested tips to trim vacation expenses. And why settle for a ho-hum trip when you can employ cost-saving strategies that make the vacation-planning process smoother and more affordable? To help direct you to simple ways to secure the lowest airfares, hotel rates, vacation deals and attraction discounts with minimal hassle, we gathered insider secrets and intel from industry experts. Read on for essential cost-cutting hacks for 2018.
Go where the U.S. dollar will stretch the furthest.
With world-class international destinations offering advantageous exchange rates against the dollar, it pays to know where you can snag the best value. "With Brexit details still being worked out in the U.K., uncertainty could continue to take a toll on the value of the British pound, which would be good news for Americans who want to visit," explains Hannah Sampson, news editor at Skift. Currently, the pound exchanges at about $1.33, a sharp decline from the $1.60 exchange rate against the dollar a few years ago. "Canada and Japan should also be relatively attractive given the strength of the U.S. dollar," Sampson adds. Other appealing destinations for value-seekers include Sweden, Mexico and Argentina.
Time your trip strategically.
Avoid exorbitant airfares by traveling during the week on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and selecting less desirable times of day, such as morning or red-eye flights on weekends. The same applies to trimming hotel costs. If you have the flexibility to book a midweek reservation at a resort in a popular leisure destination, you can often secure a lower rate as demand dips. Conversely, if you're planning to visit a business-oriented hub, consider traveling over the weekend, after the spike in traffic during the week. And if you want to travel on points or miles, remember "a lot of award seats open up towards the date of departure," says Daraius Dubash, co-founder of the travel advice site Million Mile Secrets.
Steer clear of pesky hidden hotel fees.
These days, hotels tack on added charges for a variety of amenities and services, from baggage-holding charges to early check-in fees to Wi-Fi fees, often translating to an additional $20 to $30 per night. "On a hotel booking site, the rate you see at first might not include resort fees or costs such as parking," Sampson says. To prevent sticker shock, do some digging before you book. Look up your hotel on ResortFeeChecker.com, which showcases user reviews, amenities and charges for thousands of properties listed in its database. Also resist the temptation to lift anything from the minibar. Instead, bring along your own snacks to sidestep charges for everything from snack bars to water bottles.
Keep your travel dates open.
"If your heart isn't set on a particular destination, be flexible and keep an eye out for airline moves that could lead to lower fares on certain routes," says Sarah Schlichter, senior editor of travel site SmarterTravel.com. "We expect fares to Hawaii to drop once Southwest enters the market, and there are some new routes to Europe on the way from discount airline Level," she explains. And if you're planning a spur-of-the-moment getaway, use the Google Flights Destinations tool to explore places that match your interests (think: culture, adventure travel and ecotourism), desired region and inputted travel dates, and review prices in different cities on an easy-to-navigate map for the best deals.
Rely on flight-monitoring apps and fare alerts.
Savvy travelers stay in the know by monitoring pricing trends for their desired destination with comprehensive price-tracking platforms and price alerts. Schlicter highlights Airfarewatchdog.com as an ideal resource. "You can check out fares from your departure city or set up email alerts to let you know when prices drop on an itinerary you're interested in," she explains. Aside from Airfarewatchdog, you can track prices with Kayak, Hopper, Google Flights and Skyscanner, among other price-monitoring tools. Once you've signed up, you'll stay attuned to price drops and won't have to take any additional steps other than checking your email, so you're ready to act when a deal pops up.
Avoid sky-high ATM fees.
Using ATMs abroad can quickly translate to pricey out-of-network withdrawal fees. To avoid unnecessary charges, consider creating an online account with Charles Schwab Bank, which does not impose a monthly service charge and allows travelers to recoup ATM costs tacked on by outside vendors at the end of each statement period. Another easy way to stay prepared: Look for ATMs within your card's network to ensure you receive a more favorable exchange rate for each transaction. While some ATMs charge a standard transaction fee (about $1 to $6), others charge a percentage for each withdrawal (about 1 to 3 percent), so it pays to do your homework and take out larger amounts to minimize fees.
Sidestep steep roaming fees.
Aside from mastering the art of dodging foreign transaction fees, ATM fees and other out-of-pocket travel expenses abroad, it pays to research your options for staying connected with loved ones – without paying a pricey premium for international data roaming. Start by determining your current data usage. Then, browse options for temporary unlimited roaming data with different providers. T-Mobile's budget-friendly T-Mobile One Plus International Plan, for example, is available for $25 per month. AT&T, on the other hand, offers 4G roaming in more than 100 countries and a day pass priced at $10 that allows for international roaming, enabling you to circumvent penalties for each text or call if you're traveling for 24-hour time frame.
Be a status seeker.
If you travel often and are loyal to a particular rewards program, it's easy to leverage elite status benefits, such as complimentary Wi-Fi access (otherwise around $10 to $20, depending on the property), lounge access and complimentary upgrades. Coveted freebies and special privileges aside, some programs lure loyalists with lesser-known enticements. Hilton Honors members, for example, are guaranteed the lowest-priced room when using the affiliated app and have the opportunity to collect 10 points per dollar spent during stays at Hilton properties. Meanwhile, with frequent flyer programs like the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan and Delta SkyMiles, you can enjoy added perks such as free checked bags and complimentary seat upgrades.
Travel to recovering destinations.
"Destinations that saw tourism numbers drop due to some kind of disruption – political upheaval, violence, natural disaster – should be incentivized to offer bargains in 2018," Sampson says. A simple and gratifying way to save money on travel in 2018 (and leave a positive impact) is visiting places that are still recovering in the aftershock of natural disasters. "You might want to consider traveling to the Caribbean, where many islands were not affected by this year's hurricanes but are still suffering from a region-wide dip in tourism following so many bad headlines," Schlichter says. "Travelers can take advantage by snagging some of the low fares airlines are dangling to draw people back to the region," she adds.
Take advantage of enticing fares on low-cost carriers.
"There are so many low-cost airlines and competitive fares on legacy airlines now that it would almost be hard not to save on flying," Sampson says. While you'll have to weigh cost versus convenience with a low-cost carrier, in some cases "paying those pesky fees can save you money," Dubash says, highlighting that on budget carriers like Frontier, the ticket cost and fees may still be less than the price of a ticket with another carrier. Even if you're not interested in a no-frills experience, consider flying from a hub with discount carriers such as Wow Air or Norwegian. With higher competition to appeal to price-sensitive jet-setters on those in-demand routes, bigger airlines often dangle lower rates.
Dine, shop and accrue points – without heading to the airport.
You don't have to crisscross the globe to quickly collect meaningful rewards. Even if you're a homebody, thanks to comprehensive alliance networks and partnerships, a variety of frequent flyer programs enable you to accumulate points without packing your bags. For example, United, JetBlue, American, Delta and Southwest offer affiliated dining programs that enable you to stockpile points at participating venues. You can even browse JetBlue's Shop True, Delta Air Lines SkyMiles Shopping and Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping airlines portals to shop (and collect points) with participating partners such as Apple, Macy's and Target. Check out Evreward.com to peruse participating retailers where you can collect miles and points.
Compare, compare – and then compare some more.
Chances are you browse third-party booking sites to pinpoint the lowest hotel rates and airfares. During your search, diligently check all options to ensure you snag the lowest fare. George Hobica, founder and president of travel deal site Airfarewatchdog.com, cautions against assuming that online travel agencies such as Expedia or Priceline will list identical prices. "I've seen lots of examples recently where a fare is lower on Expedia than on Priceline, and where either of those OTAs have had lower fares on an airline than that airline's own website is selling the same route and dates," he says. The same can be said for hotels. "I've seen OTAs with much lower prices than the hotel's own website," he adds.
Travel during the shoulder or off-season.
For thinner crowds and reduced prices on hotels and flights, visit in the fall or spring shoulder seasons. "If you're willing to go outside the destination's peak season, you can save on just about every aspect of your trip, including airfare, lodging and car rentals," Schlichter says. If you want to visit a popular European capital, consider traveling in the winter months rather than summer, when airfares tend to spike. And if you're clamoring for a Hawaiian getaway, dodge tourist crowds and sky-high accommodation rates by visiting in early fall, says Wendy Perrin, founder and editor of travel-planning site WendyPerrin.com. Also consider international destinations where accommodations and flights will be less expensive (think: Sydney or Rio de Janeiro in fall, which is spring in the Southern Hemisphere).
Bundle your airfare and accommodations.
Don't discount the excellent values (and predictable prices) you can secure from vacation packages. "Air plus hotel package deals really can save money, sometimes a lot of money," Hobica says. Sampson suggests looking for package deals on third-party booking sites such as Priceline and Expedia as well as through airlines. Peruse sites such as Kayak and Cheap Caribbean for enticing offers. Another trick of the trade: Scope out packages with your preferred hotel brand or carrier. With JetBlue Vacations you can accrue frequent flyer points and save on packaged hotels and flights. Meanwhile, with Delta Vacations you can rake in bonus miles and benefit from reduced prices with partnering companies, including car rental agencies and hotels.
Go when you can land a deal.
It's no secret that at certain times of year, popular places are much more affordable to visit. "It's almost always cheaper to travel when kids are in school if you have that flexibility," Perrin says. "New Zealand or Australia have lower demand – and lower prices – during their fall (March-May) and spring (September-November) seasons," she says. Conversely, "the Caribbean or South Florida will offer better deals during hurricane season," she explains. Still, it's a wise idea to "weigh the benefit of lower prices against the potential risk of a blizzard, hurricane or just bad weather that could make being outdoors unpleasant," she cautions.
Become a loyalist.
With increasingly devalued perks and privileges for elite-status tiers, you may be hesitant to stay loyal to a particular loyalty program. "Most airline loyalty programs have moved to a spend-based system of recognition instead of distance-based, which means those who spend the most get the best rewards," Sampson explains. "If you're not flying a lot and booking expensive airfare, it'll be hard to reach that elite level," she adds. But while elite-status privileges have been diluted, some hotel rewards programs boast low thresholds to collect points, meaning you can rapidly rack up points for an award stay. "And sometimes other perks associated with loyalty programs – like the ability to skip a line at a rental car counter – is priceless," she adds.
Utilize ride-sharing apps.
Value-minded jet-setters should consider ride-sharing apps, "and they should think outside the Uber and Lyft box," Sampson says. While availability will depend on where you're traveling, major players in the ride-sharing space "might be present, but there might be local or regional options as well, including BlaBlaCar, Gett, Juno, Ola, Didi Chuxing, Cabify and others," she says. The only snag: surge pricing, which can quickly translate to a steep fare. An easy workaround is the carpool option to moderate rider costs, she adds. Dubash also highlights ride-sharing services as typically cheaper and more efficient than hailing a cab and suggests sharing your ride with others to lower costs.
Avoid overspending at the airport.
Catching a flight comes with a handful of stressful situations – from breezing through airport security lanes to navigating delays to other headaches. But while there are some variables that are out of your control, packing strategically is an easy way to set yourself up for success. "Pack an empty water bottle and fill it up after you're past security, and pack your own snacks," Perrin suggests. Another way to curb costs: "Carry a credit card that saves you from paying baggage fees," she adds, highlighting the Delta SkyMiles cards from American Express and the United MileagePlus credit cards from Chase. Also consider leveraging a cobranded card that "gives you airport lounge access, which means free snacks, drinks, Wi-Fi and more," Perrin says.
Plan an off-the-beaten-track budget-friendly ski break.
If you're dreaming of fresh powder without the high price tags, consider staying in an outside-the-box retreat for bargain-friendly rates. For example, in Aspen, Colorado, trade staying at the popular The Little Nell for a stay at the Basalt Mountain Inn, which offers reasonable rates and an enticing Ski and Stay package, with prices starting at $198 that include lift ticket combinations. Or if your heart is set on tackling the slopes in Park City, Utah, ditch staying at pricey in-town accommodations for a stay at the Homestead Resort, located in nearby Midway, which boasts a geothermal pool and offers enticing ski packages at Deer Valley Ski Resort.
Know the caveats when skimming the web.
"Be careful where you search," Hobica cautions. "If you search on Hipmunk, Hopper or FareCompare, you won't see Delta's airfares, and if you search on Vayama, you won't see JetBlue's fares – and always check Southwest.com separately," he advises. And when booking accommodations, though it can be tempting to book a low-priced room with a third-party online travel site, you'll often forgo added freebies such as upgrades and Wi-Fi. And with some hoteliers dangling attractive offers to lure travelers to book direct, there's an added enticement to cut out the middleman. With Marriott, for example, loyalty members can take advantage of the "best rate guarantee" promotion, and enjoy 25 percent off their stay if they turn up a better rate elsewhere.
Buy multiday theme park passes and time your trip strategically.
As any parent can attest, taking the kids to popular theme parks such as Disney or Six Flags can quickly add up to a steep bill. However, a simple way to save is booking a multiday pass. With Disney's one-day Park Hopper Option ticket option, for example, prices start at $99.50 per day. But if you purchase a five-day pass, prices start $74 per day, which can spell serious savings if you're traveling with a family of four. Another easy trick for optimizing savings is visiting at off-peak times. Instead of planning a winter holiday at Disney, plan a midweek trip in September, when kids are back in school and crowds (and prices) dissipate.
Look for one-way routes.
When researching airfares, search for routes served by multiple carriers and flights originating in different airports to pinpoint the cheapest tickets. Also, keep in mind flights in one direction can be less expensive than the opposite route, so conducting separate searches is key to optimize savings. Research separate tickets or use helpful sites like Kayak to peruse "hacker fares," or round-trip flights that breakdown to two separate one-way tickets on different carriers – enabling you to skip paying a steeper round-trip fare. Another helpful tool is Skiplagged, a hidden-city ticketing service that scans for little-known affordable two-leg flights, so you can purchase a cheaper ticket with a connection and forgo taking the second flight.
Be wary of no-frills airfares.
"Low-cost airlines will advertise dirt-cheap rates, but consider that luggage (even carry-on bags) are often extra, as well as seat assignments and snacks on board," Sampson says. And though the three major carriers – Delta, American and United – have rolled out bare fare options that offer deeply discounted fares with minimal amenities, such as no seat assignments or ticket modifications, it's important to consider whether these fares are suitable for your needs. With Basic Economy tickets from Delta and United, travelers can purchase extras such as in-flight meals or check their bags, but they'll come attached to an additional fee. "Bottom line: If the price seems too good to be true, check to see what's not included," Sampson says.
Procrastinated on making your reservations? Snap up last-minute deals.
Say you've decided to travel on a whim. The best way to land a hotel steal is carrying the right tools that let you secure last-minute bookings at a deep discount. With Hotel Tonight, for instance, you can tap into available hotels for the same day (along with advanced bookings up to 100 days ahead of your check-in date). Similarly, the One Night app by The Standard offers same-day accommodations at a discount for check-ins starting at 3 p.m. Meanwhile, the Recharge mobile app allows you to book New York City accommodations at select luxury hotels by the minute, enabling jet-setters to shave hundreds off their stay at high-end retreats like the W New York and 1 Hotel Central Park.
Curb car rental costs.
Rather than paying a steep sum for a car rental, consider using the Low Price Finder tool on Costco Travel to take advantage of promotional codes and discounts based on your preferred vehicle. Plus, Costco members can benefit from waived fees for second drivers at select locations. Dubash also suggests turning to the rental site AutoSlash, which tracks "the price you pay for a rental car and will rebook for you at a lower price." Also make transportation-related purchases with "a card which gets you three times the points per $1 for travel expenses," Dubash says. With the Citi ThankYou Premier Card you can earn triple the amount of points on travel-related expenses, including car rentals and hotels.
Download must-have apps.
For cost-conscious globetrotters, there are few expert-endorsed apps that make saving on travel a cinch. "Hopper, which is known for suggesting cheap times to fly and the ability to book flights, has started venturing into hotel rate predictions and bookings for rooms," Sampson says. "And Hotel Tonight, which was a short-term option – you could only book a room within a seven-day window – has expanded to a 100-day booking window," she adds. Travel tools aside, Dubash advises staying in-the-know by downloading apps from your favorite travel brands. "I like having my airline and hotel app on my phone, so I can check in online and save time," he explains.
Tap into cost-effective parking apps.
Rather than paying exorbitant $20 to $30 hotel parking fees – on top of a slew of other hidden charges for minibar restocking, early check-ins and Wi-Fi – park off-site. With the tool SpotHero, you can search for the lowest-priced options in the area and net up to 50 percent in savings. Another valuable tool is BestParking.com, which can direct you to reasonably priced garages in the area. Also consider skipping parking at the airport in lieu of taking a ride-sharing service to curb costs. And once you arrive to your final destination, "don't rule out the public transportation option, especially in cities with far-reaching and relatively inexpensive systems," Sampson says.
Stack points and cash to optimize rewards.
Nowadays, there are a variety of rewards programs that allow members to stockpile frequent flyer and hotel loyalty points. With the Hilton Honors program, for example, loyalists can use a cobranded credit card, obtain elite status and choose to collect points and miles with a partnering frequent flyer program. Plus, members can increase their points by making purchases with partners. Meanwhile, Uber-riding Starwood Preferred Guest program members can benefit from using the Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card, which affords SPG points in addition to three points per dollar spent with Uber. Delta SkyMiles members can also stack points, thanks to its partnership with Lyft, which enables riders to earn 1 mile per dollar spent on rides.
Start your search early.
The adage that the early bird catches the worm holds true, especially when it comes to clinching travel deals. "January through March is also a time to be thinking about booking your next Christmas [and] New Year's trip," Perrin says, emphasizing that the peak winter holiday travel season is the "most in-demand travel period of the year." During the rush, "popular beach and ski resorts, and affordable airfares to the Caribbean and Hawaii, sell out many months in advance," she explains. So, if your heart is set on a particular resort, it pays to reserve early on. "Just be sure to mark your calendar with the date by which you must cancel in order to avoid the cancellation fee, should your plans change," she cautions.
Transfer your points wisely.
By enrolling in travel credit cards that allow you to easily transfer points to partnering hotels and airlines, you can take advantage of generous rewards. For example, the Citi ThankYou program grants cardholders the opportunity to redeem ThankYou points at a 1-to-1 transfer rate with KLM, Etihad and Air France. Meanwhile, the Chase Ultimate Rewards Program gives cardholders the flexibility to cash in points for award trip with Singapore Airlines, United and British Airways at a 1-to-1 rate. But before you transfer your hard-won points, take into account your travel habits and spending patterns to assess where you can acquire the highest value per point.
Follow social media accounts to seize upon flash sales.
"Follow places you're interested in staying at, eating at or visiting on Twitter and Facebook," Sampson says. She also advises following your preferred brands on Yelp. "If they're offering a discount to followers or perks for those who check in, chances are good that's how you'll find out," she adds. Dubash also highlights social media as a key platform for taking advantage of time-sensitive flash sales and discounts. JetBlue even posts flash sales on its @JetBlueCheeps account. "They often extend offers only to folks who follow them on social media, or offer discounts for referring to a social media promotion," Dubash says.
Carry the right card.
If you're a frequent international traveler, it pays to invest in a credit card with no foreign transaction fees (you’ll otherwise pay a 1 to 3 percent charge on transactions overseas). It's also a benefit to invest in a cobranded airline credit card to circumvent exorbitant travel fees. "Get an airline credit card to avoid paying the fee for checked bags on some airlines," Dubash says. While picking the right card depends on your habits, goals and travel patterns, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve card are ideal for those "who travel and want to save money on travel and earn points which can be transferred to hotels and airlines." Even better, some cobranded credit cards offer automatic benefits like points bonuses, priority boarding access and travel accident insurance.
Try a repositioning cruise.
If you want to set sail and are flexible with your travel dates, consider a repositioning cruise – when ships relocate to different ports of call during select seasons. On these select one-way itineraries, cruise lines dangle deeply discounted fares. Look for repositioning cruises in the summer, when you can embark on transatlantic voyages from popular U.S. ports like Florida's Fort Lauderdale to Europe. In fall, after the peak summer cruising season, search for Alaska itineraries, as ships relocate to the Caribbean. Aside from snapping up a bargain, you can also make calls at lesser-known ports and take advantage of more space with fewer fellow vacationers.
Visit free museums and join free walking tours.
For culture vultures, paying to enter cultural institutions can add up quickly. Rather than paying sky-high admission rates, search for off-the-beaten-track art museums that offer free entry to curb costs. For example, LA's Getty Center, the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Smithsonian museums in the District of Columbia are free to the public. And in Europe, London's Tate Modern and National Gallery are free to explore. If you would rather join a group led by a knowledgeable guide, consider searching online at FreeToursbyFoot.com to discover free walking tours in major metropolises such as New Orleans and Paris. Prefer to roam on your own? Check out the VoiceMap app, which offers themed tours in many cities.
Pick a rewards card with lucrative perks and built-in flexibility.
If you're an occasional traveler, skip trying to attain elite-status perks such as priority boarding and free checked bags by traveling, Dubash says. "Most hotels and airlines have credit cards which gets you the entry-level or mid-tier status with most airlines and hotels," he explains. What's more, in the year ahead, American Express will debut "a premium Hilton credit card which gets you top-tier Hilton Diamond status," he says. Alternatively, invest in a flexible credit card that allows you to transfer points with partners. For instance, cardholders can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to World of Hyatt at an attractive 1-to-1 rate and transfer American Express points to Hilton Honors at 1-to-1.5 transfer ratio.
Dine like a local.
Dining as locals do offers a simple, hassle-free way to curb meal costs. "Every meal doesn't need to be from a restaurant, so find a local grocery store to stock up on snacks, breakfasts or easy lunches," Sampson says. Perrin also suggests trimming meal costs by sampling street foods (where safety isn't a concern) and picking up provisions at a local market to plan a picnic. She also suggests visiting expensive restaurants for lunch rather than dinner. "In many countries people make lunch their big meal of the day anyway," she adds. Another way to reduce meal costs is looking for coupons on sites such as Restaurants.com or Groupon.com, Dubash says.
Look for coupon codes and other discounts.
To save on hotel rooms, look for current coupon listings and promotional codes. Scour Coupons.com and Coupon Sherpa for current coupons available and search for discounted rates on attractions, fights, car rentals, tours and other travel expenses. And if you're an AAA or AARP member, don't forget to inquire about military and government rates and other available discounts. You can often find promotional codes on third-party booking sites like Orbitz and Travelocity. If you would rather not put in the legwork yourself, use the hotel deal site goSeek.com, which focuses on surfacing hidden hotel discounts and enables you to save 20 percent or more on accommodations.
Invest in a city pass.
"Many cities sell passes that give you unlimited use of their public transit systems for a certain number of days," Perrin says. "Many cities also sell passes that provide unlimited access to a collection of local museums, tourist attractions and other sites – and often allow you to skip the lines too – for use within a certain time frame," she explains. For example, rather than buying individual admission to the Louvre, buy the Paris Museum Pass for access to more than 60 attractions and skirt lines at top collections. And in Southern California, opt for a CityPass for entry into Legoland, Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure and SeaWorld San Diego at a discounted price.
Circumvent the single supplement.
Thanks to the rise of single travelers, a variety of companies waive the dreaded single supplement fee – the extra charge single guests often incur for staying in hotel rooms and cruise cabins with prices based on double occupancy. With adventure tour outfitter Intrepid Travel, for example, solo sojourners do not incur a single supplement fee, but they still have the option to pay for their own accommodation at an added cost, depending on the destination and itinerary. Meanwhile, with the tour company G Adventures, soloists are matched with roommates and forgo the single supplement. Cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line have also rolled out solo-friendly studios with waived fees to lure solo sojourners.
Clear your search history.
Don't allow your search history to impact the airfares you spot on the web. Instead, clear your cache on your computer before you start your search. Doing so will help ensure booking sites aren't tracking your history and travel patterns for repeated flight searches to serve inflated prices based on your IP address. Though there's no sound evidence that major carriers monitor user behavior and activity, it's a wise idea to give yourself some leverage by scouring the web for flight in private mode on Safari, Firefox or Chrome (open an incognito browser). Alternatively, book your flights on a different computer or from a separate location to circumvent getting your search history tracked.
Stay connected without feeling the pinch.
"International travelers should consider a Google phone plus Google's phone service, Project Fi," Perrin says. "For $20 per month you get unlimited domestic texts and calls and unlimited international texts, and you pay only $10 per 1GB for data usage in more than 135 covered countries," she explains. Dubash also recommends Google's Project Fi, highlighting its fast, 4G speeds and low rate. Best of all, "Using data at home costs the same as using data overseas, and you get a credit back for any unused data," Perrin says. When in transit, Perrin also advises looking for free Wi-Fi, not only in common places like coffee houses, "but in libraries, museums and often hotel lobbies."
Use stopover flights to your advantage.
Booking stopover flights might not come to mind as a convenient way to save on transportation. But with many carriers offering complimentary programs that give you the chance to explore an additional destination before reaching your final stop, these routes offer an enticing proposition for value-minded jet-setters. With Tap Air Portugal, for instance, you can take advantage of a free stopover in Porto or Lisbon without paying an additional price, and you can seize upon exclusive promotions and special discounts. Meanwhile, with Icelandair you can tack on an extra week in Reykjavik, and with Finnair you can stay up to five days in Helsinki on routes between North America and Asia or Europe – at no additional cost.
Pick a hotel with cost-saving benefits and perks.
This is a no-brainer. Choose a property that will tender meaningful privileges that translate to significant savings. "Some hotels give you free Wi-Fi, and some exempt you from Wi-Fi fees if you sign up for their frequent-guest program," Perrin explains. Sampson also suggests looking for properties "that include breakfast, shuttle service or free parking." In some cases, simply asking about complimentary amenities available can translate to savings. These days, a variety of high-end hotels offer little-known freebies, from complimentary happy hours to free shuttle service to gym facilities to toiletries. Before you book, check what's available to you.
Take advantage of the little-known 24-hour rule.
Even seasoned globetrotters often overlook this underutilized U.S. Department of Transportation rule that enables you to cancel or tweak your reservation with most carriers for domestic flights within 24 hours of booking. The only snag: If you're planning a spur-of-the-moment trip and you've purchased tickets within a week of your departure date, the 24-hour rule doesn't go into effect. So, if you need to pivot your plans, make sure to tweak your reservation within 24 hours to avoid incurring a sky-high change fee. And to benefit from the rule after locking in a reservation, search the web and trusted booking and price-monitoring tools (again) for a better price or seize upon flash sales.
Consider all lodging options.
If you're looking to break away from a cookie-cutter experience and cut costs, consider alternative options, "from B&Bs and hostels with private rooms to home and apartment rentals," Schlichter says. And if you know you'll want to take advantage of specific amenities, such as a fitness center, a pool and diverse on-site dining options, consider staying at an all-inclusive, with meals, daily activities and entertainment bundled into a predictable rate. If you're contemplating where to stay on a family getaway, an all-inclusive is a particularly attractive choice with age-appropriate activities geared toward toddlers and preteens. As an added bonus, some all-inclusive retreats even offer babysitting services (read: free day care), enabling parents to enjoy quality alone time.
Stay in the know and spot price drops with email notifications.
Apart from using price-monitoring tools such as Google Flights, Kayak and Hopper, it's a wise idea to subscribe to savvy travel deal sites like Airfarewatchdog.com and The Flight Deal to stay attuned to current promotions. Get a sense of current pricing by utilizing airfare-forecast tools like Hopper, so you know when to book to snag a favorable price, and also search for deeply discounted prices on Skyscanner, Google and Airfarewatchdog. That way, you'll be ready to pounce when you receive a price drop notification. Also, sign up for airline newsletters. With major carriers like JetBlue, you can often stay looped in on short-lived flash sales by simply becoming an email subscriber.
Don't give up points.
After racking up thousands of miles and hotel points, the last thing you want to do is let your points expire. Even if you don't want to redeem miles instantly, you can avoid letting them go to waste by utilizing handy tracking apps. With AwardWallet, for instance, you can monitor your frequent flyer miles, hotel loyalty points and credit card points on one platform and receive alerts if your points are at risk of expiring. And with Points.com, you can transfer points and miles to different programs and keep track of your account balance. Another tool to keep in your arsenal is TripIt Pro's Point Tracker, which records points accumulated in different programs.
Stay in second cities.
Los Angeles. Paris. Tokyo. There's one problem with these popular destinatations. They're already on the worldly traveler's radar. Instead of dealing with inflated crowds and prices, look for less-trafficked, yet equally alluring destination where you can maximize savings. Across the pond, consider checking out destinations where you can take advantage of a strong dollar. Perrin highlights Portugal, Spain and Eastern European countries – including newcomers such as Estonia, Romania and Montenegro – as top destinations for value-seekers. Also consider Southeast Asia to maximize value. "Thailand and Vietnam, for instance, deliver luxury hotels with some of the world's lowest prices yet the best service," she says.
Curtail luggage fees.
It's no secret that checked baggage fees can be lofty. Whenever possible, it's a wise idea to skip the headache and hefty cost of checking a bag. Instead, weigh your bag in advance of your trip and brush up on the added fees required from each airline. Delta Air Lines, for example, imposes a $25 fee for checked bags and a $35 fee for an additional bag for Main Cabin seats. JetBlue similarly requires $25 for the first checked back and $35 for a second checked bag. And if you're contemplating booking a bare bones Basic Economy ticket, pack strategically. With American or United, you could incur a $25 gate-handling cost for bringing a carry-on.
Tap into online warehouse clubs and subscription services.
If you're already an avid user of warehouse clubs like Sam's Club and Costco, consider checking out Boxed Hotels to seize upon enticing travel perks. With Boxed Hotels, you won't incur a membership fee, and you can take advantage of receiving bulk products at a cheaper price than you would pay elsewhere. Plus, you can tailor your search to your specific criteria and pick out the hotel price, name and rating that best matches your needs. Another booking tool worth adding to your arsenal is FinalPrice, a subscription-based platform (for a $99 annual fee) that aims to provide the lowest prices on hotels, car rentals and airfare by listing exclusive rates at-cost.
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