As the warmer weather finally starts to creep in, it's hard to not get excited about traveling this spring or summer. With the cheaper gas prices and lower overall airfare, it just might be a good year to finally book that family vacation you've been considering. Here are a few insider tips that'll help you stretch your travel dollar as far as possible.
1. Book Airfare on a Tuesday
According to FareCompare.com, which helps travelers compare airfares to find the best deals, Tuesday around 3 p.m. EST is the best time to book a flight. They found that this is when many airlines release the majority of their sales, which then encourages other airlines to lower their fares to stay competitive. In contrast, try not to book airfare on a Friday morning as you'll end up paying 3% more for fares on average.
2. Fly Out on a Tuesday or Wednesday
If you can be flexible in terms of the day you fly out, you can definitely save some money. According to Airfarewatchdog.com, if you can fly out on a Tuesday or Wednesday you'll find lower overall airfares. While not a perfect science, these two days usually yield lower airfares. For example, CheapAir.com found the difference between a Sunday round-trip flight and a Tuesday round-trip flight to be $58 on average. Also, when booking air travel for a week-long vacation, book Tuesday-Tuesday or Wednesday-Wednesday, as it is by far the cheapest way to fly.
3. Book Hotels Directly This Year
Online travel sites like Expedia and Hotels.com charge hotel chains a hefty 15% fee for an online booking. As a result, many hotels are trying to avoid this booking fee and are willing to negotiate a deal with potential travelers who call them directly. For example, if the Expedia rate is $100 a night, call the hotel and ask politely if they can beat that rate. Since the hotel has to pay around $15 to Expedia, they'll often give you the room for $90/night. It's an extra $5 in their pocket and they've made you a happy camper in the process.
4. Vacation Where the Best Deals Are
Clark Howard is one of my favorite frugal gurus. Every year he takes his staff on a big trip, and how he selects the destination is pure genius. He goes online and figures out what destination currently has the best travel deals, and that's where he takes everyone. By booking travel this way, he has visited every continent except Antarctica and every state except North Dakota. I love his perspective on this travel tip: "I don't pick a destination that I have to go to. I wait for a deal somewhere, buy the deal, and then figure out why I want to go there." To make it happen, Howard suggest using Kayak Explore as it lets you find the best airfare deals for your specific budget.
5. VRBO and Airbnb "Last-Minute" Hack
It's pretty obvious that vacation homeowners using VRBO and Airbnb to rent their place don't make a cent if their place lies empty for the weekend. Because of this, many owners are willing to lower their rate a little bit for last-minute travelers. By last-minute, I'm talking about those trying to book a place within a week of arrival. So the next time you attempt to plan a last-minute getaway, consider politely asking for a 15%–20% discount when using either website. You stand a great chance of negotiating a deal.
6. Hotel Check-In Trick
Have you ever wondered if it's still possible to get a room upgrade when checking into a hotel? According to many hotel employees, you can absolutely still do it, and slipping the front desk attendant a $20 bill is still highly acceptable. There's almost always a better room available, or cool upgrades like free movies, free room service, or late checkout — and sending an Andrew Jackson across the counter is a great way to make it happen.
Also, the same hotel employees share that online booking sites like Expedia, Hotwire, and Orbitz are often going to get you the worst rooms available. The reason is because hotels see these guest as "non-loyal" travelers simply looking for a really low rate. They're not going to give you the rooms with the best views and overall features.