18 Ways to Save on Travel
It may be hard to imagine, but the start of the 2014 holiday season is almost here. This time of year is taxing enough without adding on the stress and financial strain that can accompany traveling. The Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants (VSCPA) offers some tips that can help you save on your next trip.
How should you travel?
- Pick your travel days and times wisely. According to Airlines Reporting Corp., Sunday is the best day to find low fares with Saturday and Tuesday the next best bets. If you’re looking to travel during the least busy times, then it would be best to avoid the Wednesday and Sunday of a holiday weekend. If possible, be flexible and search for airfare within two or three days of your ideal departure date, and consider off-peak flight times.
- A recent CheapAir.com survey found that the ‘prime booking window’ for airplane travel is 29 to 104 days out. They also debunked the myth of drastically reduced fares for those waiting until the last minute to purchase. Research showed that fares tend to shoot up dramatically within 14 days or less of your intended travel date.
- Search for flights at more than one airport. If you're willing to depart from any airport near you or arrive at any airport relatively close to your destination, you'll have a better chance of snagging a lower-cost flight. However, be sure and factor in time and gas it will take to travel to an airport further away.
- Sign up for fare alerts. Online travel agencies, travel websites or the airlines themselves can notify you when airfare hits a low price point or drops by a certain percentage.
- Compare baggage charges. Don't settle on a fare before seeing how much extra you'll pay to check your luggage.
- Save on parking. At many airports, you have the option of parking in an economy lot. At larger airports, you may be able to save even more by parking off-site at private lots. Some hotels offer packages that allow you to spend the night before your flight and leave your vehicle there until you return.
Where should you stay?
- Check hotel websites. Many list their rate calendars on their reservations page so you can see for yourself when rooms are available (and at what price).
- If you have a large group or if staying with friends or family isn’t an option and you’re not too hip on staying in a hotel, think outside the box by renting a condo, apartment or home through sites such as Vacation Rentals By Owner at VRBO.com and airbnb.com.
- Look for freebies. For example, does the hotel offer complimentary transportation to the airport, restaurants or local attractions? Does the rate include breakfast? Having a meal included can save you a bundle, especially on longer trips or family vacations.
- Social media sites are a great way to hear about deals. Often companies will post specials for their social media followers or they will give them early access to deals.
- Another great way to save is with local daily deal sites online such as Groupon, LivingSocial and Slickdeals. However, these deals are only offered in limited quantities for a short time.
- Watch out for taxes. Though you can't avoid them, lodging taxes vary by location and are based on the room rate, so you can save money on taxes by booking a lower rate or, in some cases, by choosing a different location (a property outside the city, for example).
- Compare extra person charges. Will your kids stay for free? Hotel chains often allow up to two adults and two children age 17 and younger to stay in one room for the same rate, but policies vary, and smaller properties may require you to pay more or book extra rooms.
How should you get around?
- Look for coupon codes or discounts. These are available through many sources, such as your road and travel plan, your insurance company and your credit card issuer.
- Choose the vehicle class that offers the best value. Smaller cars are often less expensive, but not always. Rates vary widely, so check out all rental companies before settling on one. And although you can't count on getting one, it never hurts to ask for a free upgrade at the rental counter.
- Pay attention to fuel costs. If you're going to be driving long distances, make sure the rental vehicle has good fuel economy. And decide whether you want to pay for a full tank of gas up front, with the option of returning the vehicle on empty. The per-gallon price is usually posted at the rental counter and may be different than what you'll pay if you fill it up yourself off-property.
- Consider insurance before you get to the rental counter. Avoid buying duplicate coverage by checking with your insurer to see how your auto policy covers you in a rental vehicle. Some credit card companies also offer some insurance protection for rentals.
- Compare extra driver fees. You may pay a surcharge if you add an extra driver, and fees and terms vary by company and location.