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Traveling is expensive, and there’s no getting around that. But with the right preparation, and a few handy tools in your pocket, you can make sure that you save money on both airfare and hotels.
We’re going to show you 9 useful tricks for how you can save money on both domestic and international traveling.
1. Always Book Flights at Least Two Months in Advance
You most likely already know that booking your flights at the last second is always going to be more expensive. At this point, you’re essentially trapped and have no choice but to pay the higher price if you still want to travel.
Data suggests that you should book your flights at least two months in advance for domestic flights. The sweet spot is between seven and ten weeks. International flights, surprisingly, reveal the same results.
Booking Too Early is Just as Bad
What might shock some people is that booking that long-haul international flight the moment the tickets become available is as bad as buying a day or two before you travel. Purchasing 200 days or more in advance will give you incredibly high prices also.
This is because the airlines aren’t worried about selling tickets now. They can keep the prices high and catch a few eager travelers. Only when you reach that 10-week limit do airlines start to make sales through discounted tickets.
2. Book Your Flights with Skiplagged
Skiplagged is one of the best platform for finding cheap flights. They find the cheapest route to your destination, even if it means getting off of your itinerary a bit early.
How Does Skiplagged Work?
Let’s say you’re flying from Seattle to New York. There might be a flight that goes from Seattle to New York to Boston that’s a little bit cheaper than a flight from Seattle directly to New York. Skiplagged will tell you to stop off of your flight early and skip the flight to Boston in order to save money.
Take note that Skiplagged is not a travel operator. They’re a search engine and only display genuine flights available through various booking platforms. It’s up to you to book the ticket they can’t help with issues specific to an airline.
Simply enter your travel dates and where you would like to go and see what comes up. If you aren’t sure where you would like to go you can find highlighted offers to select destinations on the main page.
3. Use the Right Credit Cards to Collect Air Miles
Credit cards are ideal for gathering air miles. These air miles can be cashed in on qualifying flights to give you discounts, or even free flights. You can gain air miles through making your usual purchases, so you don’t have to go out of your way to collect these miles.
Take note that to qualify for the best travel cards you will need to possess a credit score of at least 600. Travelers with low credit scores have fewer options available to them.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card isn’t tied to a specific airline. This allows you to earn air miles through methods other than actual travel. For example, you can earn two points for every dollar you spend just by using your card in a restaurant downtown.
The card comes with 50,000 bonus points if you can spend $4,000 within three months of getting your card. The only real drawback is it doesn’t come with traditional travel perks, such as free checked luggage.
All points can be transferred to frequent flier programs at a 1:1 ratio with all major airlines, including Virgin Atlantic, and Southwest.
United MileagePlus Explorer Card
United MileagePlus Explorer Card holders are most likely to benefit if they regularly fly with United Airlines. With this card you always get a free checked bag each time you fly, access to priority boarding, and one-time passes to the exclusive airport lounges.
You get two airline miles for every dollar you spend when you fly with United. For everything else you buy you get a point for every dollar spent. We love the fact that you can immediately get 30,000 bonus miles just for spending $1,000 within three months.
It makes it one of the most generous sign-up bonuses available. The only downside is you’re limited to StarAlliance partners if you want to transfer points.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier credit card is ideal for budget travelers who fly often and who mostly fly domestically. As well as gathering points for flights, this credit card will give you points for booking rental cars and hotels through partner companies, including Hertz.
It comes with another great signup bonus, with 40,000 points available just for spending $1,000 on the card within three months. And it comes with 6,000 free points per year on the anniversary of opening your account, with no spending requirements attached.
Just beware that Southwest has a limited number of international flights outside of South America and the Caribbean.
4. Join Hotel Loyalty Programs
Hotel loyalty programs are all geared towards different types of traveler. You have to decide which program works best for you. For example, business travelers may prefer a program that gives them free Wi-Fi credits.
Hotel loyalty programs work like airline loyalty programs and credit cards. You get more points every time you buy from your loyalty program provider.
Many of them have partnerships with airlines and rental car companies. These partnerships come with perks, like being able to transfer points at a 1:1 ratio. Combining hotel loyalty programs with a partner travel card expands your spending possibilities.
When you book a room through the Hilton HHonors points program you won’t be hit with the same restrictions that come with other programs. For a start, there are no blackout dates, so you can take advantage of your reward even during high periods.
Take note that more popular Hilton Hotels will require a larger number of points, which can take months and years to accumulate.
Due to a partnership with United Airlines, you can also trade in points for miles, and vice-versa. Points are earned through flights, hotel stays, and every day purchases, just like a conventional credit card.
Hyatt Gold Passport
The Hyatt Gold Passport is a favorite among travelers because it isn’t restricted by hotel or by price point. You can book the nicest suite in the hotel of your choice, if you have the points. Most membership benefits are available through the program. But elite member perks, such as expedited check-ins aren’t available at certain hotels.
There are three membership levels, with the highest being Diamond. The Diamond membership provides a 30% point bonus, for example, so regular travelers will find this worthwhile.
Like the Hilton program, you can gain points through your stays, through eating at certain restaurants, and even staying in certain locations on certain dates.
Best Western Rewards
Best Western has one of the most recognizable hotel loyalty programs in the country, with five possible membership levels. They have 4,000 eligible hotels worldwide, though they lack of high-end options, and they have connections with a wide range of programs.
The Best Western Rewards Program has connections with airlines and retailers, so you can redeem your points for free nights, transferrable gift cards, and airline miles.
5. Clear Your Cookies First
Before making any searches for airlines, hotels, or other time-sensitive deals you should clean your cookies via your browser. This has the effect of ensuring that you’re really getting the latest deals, but it also erases the breadcrumb trail that follows regular searchers around.
These tailored prices are based on consumer behavior; therefore you aren’t necessarily going to get the best price every time you search. The only way to avoid this is by cleaning your cookies or to use an incognito window.
6. Take Advantage of Lounge Pass
Entering an airport lounge is normally reserved for business class passengers and/or people who have spent some of their loyalty points to gain access. The airport lounge allows you to get away from the hustle and bustle of an airport terminal. It can make that wait a tad more bearable.
Lounge Pass is a program that can get you into a luxury airport lounge for less than $20. They currently have 300 lounges at 190 airports around the world. These are exclusive lounges, so they’re only accessible by members of the Lounge Pass program.
How Does Lounge Pass Work?
Getting a place in a luxury VIP lounge is easy with Lounge Pass. On their website you just have to choose your desired airport and pick the lounge you like. Choose your date at least 24 hours in advance of your arrival. You can take up to five passengers into the lounge with you.
Fill out the names of everyone who will be part of your traveling party and pay via the secure online network. You’ll be shown your booking confirmation in PDF form within a few minutes. You need to show this upon entering your chosen lounge. It’s essentially your ticket.
7. Book Your Hotel Through their Website
Using popular sites like Expedia is convenient and it gives you a snapshot of the options on the table. Contrary to the apparent offers on the screen when you book, these are not actually the best deals you can find. This is simply the platform price matching with other booking platforms.
Hotels prefer it when you book with them directly, and they’ll usually offer you a discount to encourage you to do it. This is because every time a booking is made through a dedicated booking platform the hotel has to pay a portion of the booking to that platform.
Booking through the website allows them to avoid that fee.
8. Consider Airport Hotels
Airport hotels are rarely the first choice for travelers. People assume that they are going to be the most expensive option because they’re in a prime position next to the airport.
However, airport hotels offer competitive prices for this reason. They know that most travelers instantly assume they’ll be expensive. They often come with key benefits that can reduce the cost of your final vacation bill.
For example, many airport hotels provide free parking. This can prevent you from having to pay expensive parking charges separately.
Another key benefit is that many airport hotels have partnerships with local cab companies. These taxi companies tend to charge guests of partner hotels less than if you hailed a cab from the side of the street or immediately outside the airport.
9. Get a ‘Best Price Guarantee’ on Everything
From airline tickets to hotels and rental cars, make sure that you always have a ‘Best Price Guarantee’ in place. Sites like Expedia have deals where if you find a cheaper room within 24 hours of making your initial booking they will give you a coupon worth $50.
Savvy travelers who book at the last second can easily take advantage of offers like this. That way you’ll never lose out on any last-minute deals.
The one thing that all these tips have in common is that it pays to plan ahead. Start taking out travel credit cards and make sure you join a loyalty program for your favorite hotel chain.
See something that’s not on this and should be when it comes to saving money on airfare and hotels? Let us know in the comments down below. Thanks for reading and happy frugaling!