Summer is coming, which means it’s time to escape reality and disembark to a brand new (or beloved favorite) destination for a precious few days. To save money on your next vacation, you need to become a travel hacker. While the typical traveler will shop around a little bit, a true travel hacker will stay ahead of the game by knowing all the tips and tricks.
For those who aren’t obsessed with travel and are not part of the travel hacker community, here are five of the most valuable strategies to get you started:
1. Price airline tickets individually.
If you are booking more than one ticket, you might find higher prices for two or more people than if you booked each reservation as a single ticket. This is because airlines offer tickets in so-called buckets at different fare levels. So if you are searching for two tickets and only a single one is left in a low fare bucket, then the airline will automatically show you the higher price for both tickets. In fact, this phenomenon even exists when searching for frequent flier awards, as the airlines will show the higher mileage rate, even if lower mileage award are available for less than the entire group.1
2. Search for the outbound and return flights separately.
Most travelers will check the price for round-trip flights from several carriers, and never think to get a separate price for outbound and return. In the past, many airlines would charge the same or even more for a one-way flight than they would for a round trip, so this strategy used to make sense. But today, these old pricing rules rarely apply, and travelers are free to mix and match different airlines as part of the same trip. And as an added benefit, you may find flights with the most convenient schedules when you piece together your own itinerary from multiple airlines.
3. Plan your credit rewards far in advance.
The least expensive way to travel can be when you use credit card rewards to pay for your vacation, or at least part of it. Nevertheless, it takes time to earn and redeem your rewards most effectively. Travelers will want to apply for a reward credit card far in advance in order to earn sufficient points or miles to cover the cost of their vacation. In addition, many airline and hotel reward programs will have capacity controls on the rewards they offer, so the best ones are likely to be taken several months in advance, which is all the more reason to earn your travel rewards as early as possible.
4. Consider alternate modes of transportation.
Too often, travelers get hung up on finding the lowest airfare and disregard other ways to get from Point A to Point B. For example, there is a new generation of low cost bus services that offer amenities such as onboard Wi-Fi and electricity. In addition, many people are re-discovering train service that is more reliable and enjoyable than air travel. Finally, you might even consider renting an economy car that has higher fuel economy than then the car you own. With all of these options, travelers are spared the time, expense, and inconvenience of going to the airport.
5. Go beyond online travel agencies.
Many travelers use online travel agencies such as Expedia and Orbitz to book all of their airfare and hotel reservations quickly from the same place. Nevertheless, there are some airlines and hotels that do not appear on these sites, and you can miss out on good deals. For example, Southwest and Allegiant are discount airlines that do not offer tickets through these sites, and there are independently owned hotels that do not either. And even when an airline does offer flights to online travel agents, it may omit some valuable options.2