Travel Tips that Buck the System

Vacations are expensive, right? Not if you ask the advice of the most  frugal adventurers! The truth is that most people simply shell out way too much of their hard-earned cash for their vacations, and never learn of their expensive mistakes. There are a number of ways that you can reduce the cost of airfares and hotels if you are willing to put just a bit of effort into the hunt, and let technology help you out.

Let a specialty website monitor airfare for you

Airfare prices are much more dynamic than many people realize. If you were to check a specific flight every day for a month, you would see the price fluctuations that would rival a day trader’s stock game. Airline companies use booking data to set the highest prices for tickets early on, when non-business vacationers are eager to lock in their travel dates, then, depending on how fast they move, ticket prices will begin to drop as time passes. The biggest mistake that travelers make is buying their tickets too early. So how do you know when to strike? You could log in and monitor the fares every day, but that would be a gamble. Instead, let technology assist you in finding the best ticket prices. Websites like AirHint and Airfare Watchdog have devised algorithms that track price patterns and offer reliable predictions about when certain fares will drop (or dropped), allowing you to nab them at the rock-bottom price. This system applies to both domestic and international flights, often the most costly part of a vacation, and could potentially save 50% or more off of airfare costs.

Take advantage of “blind” vacation deals

In order to attract a bigger volume of travelers, large self-booking websites like Priceline and Expedia offer “blind” deals on airfare, hotels, cruises, and car rentals at significantly reduced prices. You choose the dates, locations, star level, and general requirements of your purchase, but the actual hotel name or flight details are not revealed until after you pay. If you are willing to be flexible on certain aspects of your trip, these deals are a huge money-saver. Be aware that these types of offers are almost always non-refundable, but you have control over the location and general quality of your digs. Also, you’ll find these deals tend to pop up with steeper discounts as your travel dates draw near, and more companies are looking to fill unoccupied airline seats and hotel rooms.

Utilize credit card miles and rewards to your advantage

For disciplined credit consumers, utilizing the rewards offered by credit card companies is one of the smartest ways to obtain free money for traveling. Offers generally reward credit usage with either “miles” or cash back. The rewards generally work like this: for every dollar you charge, the credit card company will match it with an incentive, such as 1.5 miles, or 3-4% cash back. Many companies also offer one-time cash rewards after you surpass a certain initial charge amount. When you want to redeem miles for travel later, typically it takes about 100 miles to redeem a dollar. That may not sound like much, but if you use the card to pay for everyday purchases, the miles will mount quickly. Just remember to use it for only what you would normally pay cash for, then pay off the card right away. You don’t want to turn your miles machine into a mountain of debt instead of a vacation!

Be flexible to reap the best deals

Sometimes in order to secure the cheapest travel deals, you have to let the deal come to you. Use those fare-monitoring websites to alert you to when the cheapest flights are being sold to your favorite vacation spot, but don’t adhere rigidly to a particular date. Book your vacations around the deal, rather than the reverse. For instance, southern Caribbean cruise destinations tend to be the most expensive simply because of the cost it takes in airfare to get to specific ports. A great way to save money would be to choose several dates that could potentially work for you, and allow the fare-finders to get to work. Your trip now becomes a fraction of the cost because a fare predicting site just got you a flight for next to nothing! Try to travel during off-peak times when travel volumes are down, and you’ll not only enjoy big savings, but fewer crowds as well. Flexibility can also mean willingness to travel destinations that you hadn’t even considered before. Sometimes the best experiences are made with just a little spontaneity and faith. If you find a cheap travel offer to an unexpected place, give it a shot.

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