Whether you’re planning a modest long-weekend trip or an elaborate European vacation, here are some tips for travel this summer.
Consider borrowing luggage from a friend if you don’t travel often. Pack as lightly as possible—have no more than a week’s supply of fresh, washable, weather-appropriate clothing.
If flying and checking luggage, mark the bags in some way so that they stand out in the airport baggage claim carousel (i.e. big pink ribbon), and make sure your current address and phone number are securely attached to the outside of bags in case they get lost.
Speaking of lost luggage, make sure your carry-on bag contains a spare outfit (or two if you have room) to tide you over in the event of a baggage delay.
PLANNING AND BOOKING FLIGHTS
If you’re traveling to a popular location, consider going in “low season.” This may be when it’s rainy or cold, so do your research. For instance, mountain ski towns may be cheaper during the fall before snow season starts or early spring before summer season has begun.
Flexibility may pay off, too. It’s usually cheaper to fly on a Tuesday or Wednesday, or directly on a major holiday date, like on December 25. (If you’re going out of the country, be sure to check their holiday dates which are different than ours.)
Or take advantage of last-minute deals. There are specific websites dedicated to this, like Expedia’s. And you can set up price alerts, which will automatically email you new travel deals from sites like Kayak.
You can save money by booking non-refundable flights/hotels if you are certain of your travel plans. If plans are uncertain, you may want to go ahead and pay a bit more for refundable bookings which return your money if you have to cancel.
Some premium credit cards offer travel insurance automatically when you use their card, so read the fine print.
BOOKING ROOMS / CAR RENTALS
Most travelers don’t realize that airlines, hotels and rental car companies pay broker fees to booking websites—as much as 15%. Hotels and car rental agencies who ask customers to book with them directly are usually willing to negotiate. In other words, don’t accept the first rate on a hotel stay or car rental, go direct and ask for a better deal.
Think about your lodging options, like Airbnb or house-swapping mobile apps. For even more creative ways to save money, you could become a house or pet sitter, or stay in a monastery.
CASH BACK / REWARDS
Due to the many travel aggregator sites charging commission on bookings, new websites have sprung up which funnel part of the broker commission back to you as an instant cash refund—you could expect from 5-7%.
Of course, many credit cards offer rewards, cash back, miles, perks, sign-up bonuses, points or loyalty program discounts when you book travel through them.
If you’re traveling internationally, be aware that some credit or debit cards charge from 1-5% of the total transaction in foreign transaction fees and/or foreign currency exchange fees. Airport or big shopping center ATMs or retail exchange bureaus can charge even more.
Premium travel rewards credit cards, or even your local bank or credit union, sometimes waive or charge lower fees for foreign currency exchange; it pays to check before you leave home.
Consider walking, biking or using public transportation to get around rather than renting a car. But remember, if you have booked less-expensive lodging located away from tourist attractions, you may not save money in the long run if you end up paying more for cab or Uber rides.
If your hotel offers free meals like breakfast, lunch buffet or high tea, take advantage of them.
Consider trying local street food vendors or supermarket prepared foods for a taste of local flavor at discount prices.
If you want to dine out, lunch can be a much better deal than dinner at restaurants.
ACTIVITIES / TOURIST ATTRACTIONS
A walking or bus tour can give you a good overview of a new city for a bargain price.
Once you know the lay of the land and what you want to do, take advantage of free museum days. And find out if there are multi-attraction passes or discounts available through the city’s tourism office or an organization like AARP.