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.
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