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.
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