Looking for smart ways to save on travel this holiday season? We’ve put together top tips from travel industry insiders on when to book, times to go and where to look for inspiration on amazing, budget-friendly escapes for winter. If you have yet to start making your reservations, take a few minutes now to peruse these pointers, and you may be surprised by how affordable the vacation you deserve can be:
Book by 21 days out: Typically, it’s more economical to book flights and hotel stays as far in advance as possible. Although there are certainly some exceptions to this rule, you’ll usually get the deepest discounts on airline tickets and accommodations by making your reservations at least 21 days before your trip. After this window, you’ll often see a spike in rates. Uncertain about when you’ll be ready to leave for your trip or waiting on a friend or family member to confirm plans? Keep in mind that you can often hold airline reservations for 24 hours, and check to see how late you can cancel a hotel reservation without incurring a penalty.
Consider mixing it up with separate airlines: Nowadays, it’s a mistake to assume that focusing only on round-trip tickets will get you the best prices in air travel. In many cases, you’ll actually come out ahead financially by booking two separate one-way trips, and possibly even using different airlines. For a few great websites to use to comparing flights and rates, try Momondo.com, Airfarewatchdog.com and Kayak.com.
Pick the right days and times to fly: As odd as it may seem to some, you’re likely to find the lowest fares of the holiday season on the actual day of the major holidays themselves (i.e., Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day). This is in stark contrast to the day or two before or after the given holiday, when fares can be 80 percent higher. You’re also more likely to save on flights by steering clear of popular days for business travel, including Sunday and Monday. The cheapest travel days of the week for air travel tend to be Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by Thursday and Saturday. However, it’s a good idea to check the flexible dates option online before booking to alert you as to when you can find the lowest prices that fit your schedule. Another way to trim the cost of your airline tickets: travel early in the morning (before 8 a.m.) or later in the evening (after 8 p.m.).
Factor in hotel capacity: Just as the price of flights will rise and fall depending on the day of the week, hotel rates often fluctuate sharply according to where a reservation falls in this seven-day span. However, price trends will differ from city to city and from month to month depending on whether more people are visiting the area for work or for leisure. For example, hotel rates in South Florida tend to take a dive during the week and then increase again on the weekends when greater numbers of vacationers arrive. And of course, hotel rates in cities that are a hub for business travel are often higher during the week and then dip on the weekends.
Keep an open mind: Is your family pleading for a luxe getaway in a favorite hot spot such as one of the Hawaiian Islands, but you’re not quite prepared to bankroll such an extravagant trip? There are plenty of other exciting destinations that feature similar tropical climates but are more budget-friendly once you arrive. Just a few suggestions that may appeal to your sense of adventure: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic and Cartagena, Colombia. To find more (relatively) cheap and warm places to visit over the holidays, visit http://bit.ly/19CheapandWarmHolidayGetaways.