On the heels of National Travel and Tourism Week, the tourism industry is getting a bit of good news. Despite a brief dip due to recession, leisure travel is expected to rise 1.9 percent this year to more than 1.63 billion trips, reports the U.S. Travel Association. Unfortunately, there’s also some bad news. The rise of leisure travel is accompanied by the actual rising cost of travel — making your vacations more expensive. Read on to find out more about several booking tips that may save you money when on the search for travel deals.
1. Search as if you were a solo traveler
Even though you may be flying with a partner or in a group, a “quirk of travel booking systems is that they will show the lowest fare available to seat your entire party,” said Rick Seaney, chief executive of FareCompare.com in an interview with Today. For example, if you’re searching for tickets for a family of five, the site will report numbers for five available seats — even if there are two very cheap seats, one slightly more expensive seat, and two very expensive seats. In simpler terms, this means that the booking sites will only give you fares that are the same price and that you can save money cobbling together tickets one, two, or even three at a time and booking them in separate transactions. To use this option, begin your search for a party of one, and then move up your party number until you see prices change.
2. Time your purchase
A closer look at the airline industry reveals that there are “best” times to buy a ticket, says Farecompare.com. The website reports that airlines typically have as many as 10 different prices points on a single plane, and that knowing when to buy and when not to buy is key to getting cheap plane tickets. After examining its database of current and historical airfares, FareCompare found that the best day to shop for airline tickets is on Tuesday. Why? Airlines typically kick off airfare sales on Monday, and competitors are spurred to join in so that they don’t miss out on a chance to hook travelers. This “price matching” is usually complete by early Thursday afternoon, making 3 p.m. EST the best time to browse reservation systems for newly discounted airline fares.
3. Check social media
“Liking” a Facebook page or following a company on Twitter is not just for amusement anymore — travel companies routinely use the medium to communicate with travelers and offer deals. One such popular account is JetBlue’s “Cheeps,” which tweets last minute deals and for a limited time. There are also Twitter handles completely devoted to sending out deals from a variety of airlines, and a quick “follow” could alert you to some amazing deals and help you save some money. Still, deals go quickly after they’re posted, so it’s best to flexible and to act fast.
4. Be flexible about your destination
Want to escape for the summer, but don’t want to break the bank? New features of several booking sites are making this more and more possible. One such example, Kayak’s “Explore” feature lets you see where you can go and for how much. Because the site is showing you when airfares are lowest all around the world, putting in exact dates and locations defeats the purpose. You can, however, put in the month you’d like to travel and a map of the world with locations, airlines, and dates will pop up. Another website, Skyscanner, lets users put in specific dates and select the destination option “Everywhere.” Users are then given country options in order of price and city options within the country.
5. Don’t forget about discount airlines
While certain discount airlines — e.g. JetBlue, Air Tran, and Spirit — are popping up more frequently on booking sites and aggregators, some still aren’t listed. Make sure to research budget airlines that have a hub in your area, and go directly to their website to find fares — Allegiant Air and Southwest Airlines are two such examples of airlines that have limited their fares on third-party websites. Though they may not show up directly on sites, another likelihood is that these airlines will come up in a search for “flight deals in [name your city.]” When checking discount airlines, however, make sure to closely examine baggage fees and extra costs to ensure the fares are actually cheaper than those of main carriers.