Hunting for travel discounts and offers is part of the vacation booking process. But how can you become one of those enviable, savvy vacation shoppers who save hundreds of dollars on flights and hotels?
A quick online search returns thousands of results, with YouTubers and bloggers ready to spill their best travel discount tips. The problem is knowing which ones will actually get you cheaper travel. Some work better than others, and you want tried and tested methods you can easily put into practice that will buy you several extra cocktails by the pool and cover your souvenir shopping costs.
As a business focused on helping customers save money (along with being seasoned travelers ourselves), here are the six best money-saving travel tips you should be using.
1. Be flexible
There are two ways to approach flexibility when traveling. The first is to book travel during off-seasons and avoid popular holiday times when demand is lower. This means you get better fares as travel companies scramble to fill their flights. Travel costs around spring break are a perfect example of this.
Spring breakers fill planes from late February through to early April. Demand is up during this time, and so are the prices. Do an online search for flights from Minneapolis or St Paul to Mexico’s Cancun during the peak of the 2021 spring break season (March 13–20, 2021), and the prices will range from $828 to $1,360.
But if you do the same trip on the closest dates available before spring break in January (16–23) it will be up to $400 cheaper, with prices ranging from $420 to $520.*
If you can travel only during popular holiday times — perhaps the kids are in school or you’re a teacher — the deals are still there for the taking as long as you’re flexible with the day and time you travel.
It’s a poorly kept secret that mid-week and red-eye flights are cheaper. That said, work out if flying at these times is right for you. Late night or early morning flights may seem like a good deal, but getting enough rest and staying healthy while you travel so you can enjoy your trip is just as important.
2. Let the travel discounts come to you
Rather than spending precious time searching for deals on flights, why not subscribe to one or two trusted blog or online travel agencies and let the deals come to you? You’ll get alerts whenever flight and hotel deals are available for your chosen destination.
Here are our favorite websites for catching travel discounts.
Extra travel discount tip: Make a note of big sale dates (Black Friday, Cyber Monday, etc.) and look out for seasonal sales. Some travel agents may also offer deals during local travel shows, such as the Travel & Adventure Show that tours most of America.
3. Earn rewards
Airline rewards often mean frequent flier schemes, and you may already be signed up to one or two of them. But that’s part of the problem. Sticking to one reward program to save up the astronomical number of points you need to feel the benefit isn’t very practical.
An alternative to airline frequent flier programs are reward credit cards. These cards let you earn points whenever you charge a purchase to the card. The points you earn can be redeemed and spent on travel purchases including airfare, car rentals, and hotels. And using your card regularly means you’ll earn points very quickly. Just be sure to pay off your balance every month or those rewards will come at too high a price.
4. Check your membership perks
Travel discounts are available in the most unexpected places. Did you know teachers, students, military personnel and senior citizens may be entitled to travel discounts through official unions and organizations? You may also be able to find travel discounts through membership programs such as:
- roadside assistance
- travel insurers
- health and life insurers
- pension companies.
One of the largest travel membership groups is AAA. Yes, they provide roadside assistance. But they also offer travel booking services and discounts. The annual fee is nominal compared to what you get when you use the membership to its full potential.
If you’re not sure whether your memberships offer travel discounts, pull out your contracts and check the fine print. You could even call the organizations you belong to and ask what travel-related discounts they offer.
Extra tip for scoring travel discounts: EZ Air Park is proud to partner with AAA for airport parking discounts, saving you even more money.
5. Ask at the source
Searching online booking sites is still a popular way to find travel discounts. But these sites may not be offering the best travel bargains. Instead, try speaking directly to the front desk staff at your preferred airline, hotel or car hire company, as you may get better prices. As the old saying goes, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”
6. Make it clear you’ve shopped around
This is an interesting one. In 2016 a UK journalist reported how he told his travel agent he’d been looking around on travel sites for the best deal. The agent offered him a better price than anything he’d seen online. This suggests it’s worth knowing what competing companies are offering and making it clear you’re a savvy travel shopper.
Of course, you should watch for changes in the global market
The aviation and tourism industries have been hit hard by current challenges. For businesses such as EZ Air Park that rely on the travel industry, the struggle they face is difficult to watch. But the upshot is consumers are getting more favorable terms.
Many airlines and tour operators are offering waivers for cancellations and doing away with change fees. Some are doing crazy deals to recover income and ensure they have customers once things return to normal. If you’re comfortable traveling in four, six or twelve months’ time, you could secure an amazing discount on some of the world’s most popular destinations.
Take a look at this excellent resource from Airfarewatchdog that details current flight waivers and refund policies offered by US-based airlines.
What travel discounts work for you?
Whether you’re a frequent flier or travel only once or twice a year for a family holiday, what travel discount tips and tricks save you dollars? Share in the comments below and tell us how you spend the money you save.
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Reference and sources
* Prices taken from Kayak.com and correct as of 04/20/2020.
STStravel.com – Spring break dates for 2021