Travel in the off-season
NUM LPPHOTO/ShutterstockThough you might want to head to the Riviera Maya for spring break or visit the nation's capital when the kiddos are out of school in the summer, if you want to cut cost, choosing off-season timing is a more strategic choice. Explains Michelle Weller, vice president of sales and customer service at Travel Leaders, the peak times to visit are among the most expensive and congested, making for a pricey and often stressful getaway. But go on the off-season, and you can save big bucks. For example in winter, the hip W Hotel in downtown Chicago can be had for $150 a night and the ultra chic Majestic in Cannes goes for $200 a night rather than its peak season $600. "You may not be able to lounge on the beach, but you will be able to tour all the best attractions without hoards of tourists. It also makes you feel like you have the entire city to yourself."
Use cashback sites
Andrey_Kuzmin/ShutterstockConsider all of the online shopping you do in a given month—from purchasing must-haves on Amazon Prime to ordering pantry items, and scoring a killer deal on an adorable sweater during a sale, your credit card gets plenty of exercise on the interwebs. What if you could make money back with everything you buy? Travel blogger Elizabeth Blasi suggests using cashback sites, like Ebates, that automatically delivers a percentage of cash back into your Paypal account on your orders. As a bonus, travel booking websites like Expedia, Booking.com, and Groupon Getaways partner too, so you can get back 4 to 10 percent on travel. "Along with the automatic cash back, they also notify you when an amazing deal is happening on a given site and go the extra mile to ensure you're getting a good deal," Blasi says.
Before you book, get all the facts about deal sites.
Buy plane tickets on Sundays
conejota/ShutterstockArguably the highest cost of any part of travel is plane tickets—especially when you're traveling with a family and all that accompanying gear that needs to get checked in at an added cost. But, it's pretty impossible to get away from planes completely, since most international travel requires crossing at least an ocean. An Expedia survey revealed that Sunday is, in fact, the best day to buy plane tickets—and you should do so at least 21 days in advance.
Stalk your favorite airlines on social media
Georgejmclittle/ShutterstockFollow airlines on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, since they sometimes tweet out exclusive deals you can't find anywhere else, shares Sarah Parent, travel expert. For example, Jet Blue will advertise its #jetblueflashfares on Twitter, but nowhere else. Make sure you've brushed up on your flying etiquette before your next flight.
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Use layovers to your advantage
Vlad Teodor/ShutterstockWhen travel writer Lisa Niver wants to book a flight, she uses Kiwi.com to map out her best route. More often than not, the least expensive journey isn't non-stop. But instead of rolling your eyes or getting stressed about layovers, Niver says to use those to your advantage and take it as an opportunity to see more of the world. "When I was planning a visit to Morocco, I realized that I could fly from Los Angeles to Madrid and then fly by JetStar or EasyJet, smaller local airlines from Madrid to anywhere in Morocco. The stop cut my airfare in half and I had a lovely visit to Madrid," she explains.
Book cruises for September to October
Rawpixel.com/ShutterstockPrefer to collect your passport stamps via the pathways of the oceans and the sea? For nautical families, senior cruise specialist Doug Young suggests booking cruises for the off-season. Not only will you still see some of the most beautiful islands in the world, but you'll save money, too. Aim for September and October for the best rates for Caribbean cruises—and you don't have to worry about it being hurricane season. "The Caribbean has the potential of turbulent weather, but the benefit of being on a cruise ship is that it can travel to a different location and get out of the way any storm," he explains. Check out these best cruises that aren't in the Bahamas.
Sign up for travel deal emails
Rawpixel.com/ShutterstockLet's be real: you don't have a ton of time to endlessly price compare hotels, resorts, train tickets, plane tickets, etc. to plan the best trip. Why put in the extra effort when it's easy enough to sign up for newsletters that alert you to price drops and last-minute sales. Blasi—who has been to 44 countries and counting—recommends utilizing TravelZoo, Groupon, LivingSocial, and similar sites to take the pressure off. "I bought a trip to the Azores through TravelZoo and for $650 received a full vacation package for two to Portugal's Azores islands, including flights, hotel, and excursions. To this day, it remains one of my favorite trips!" she adds.
Go for the all-inclusive
Maksim Shmeljov/ShutterstockWhether it's on a cruise ship or a resort in the Caribbean, once you've checked in, you can leave your wallet at home. Instead of nickel-and-diming for every-last coffee and snack, you can sit back and savor your vacation. "It's so nice to be able to walk up to a café to grab a bottle of water on your way off the ship or first thing in the morning go to the coffee bar to grab your morning espresso without a worry in the world," Young says. Find out our favorite wallet-friendly all-inclusive resorts.
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Be strategic with your credit cards
Africa Studio/ShutterstockIf you're not booking your vacations and travel plans with credit cards designed to reward your purchases, you're missing out on some major deals, according to Blasi. Because many of the recommended travel credit cards, including Chase's Sapphire Reserve, not only offer bonus points if you spend a certain amount in your first three months, but also give you 2X the points on travel-related and restaurant bills, you can end up racking up enough points to buy plane tickets outright. And when they partner with airlines? Blasi explains the perks take you even further—literally. "JetBlue airlines will offer points when shopping through Amazon or Groupon with your TrueBlue account. Southwest Airlines will give you points when buying your next gift through 1-800-Flowers or any of their partners," she says.
Wait until the last minute
Smile19/ShutterstockThough it might challenge your type-A personality, travel marketer Christopher Burkhardt says sometimes it pays to wait. Because most hotels, resorts, and destinations don't sell out of their inventory during most months of the year, waiting until a week before to finalize your details could result in big savings. Just make sure you don't use this tactic when you're seeking a very specific experience or an exotic place during its peak season, as you might end up missing the boat when everything is sold out.
Read the fine print
Shahril KHMD/ShutterstockIt might seem like a no-brainer, but rushing through the checkout process results in more mistakes than you might think. For example, Niver once booked a flight from Los Angeles to Phoenix when she was meant to go the other direction. "I was checking so many different options for dates, times, and airlines but somehow managed to pick the very cheap option which was the wrong direction." In addition to double and triple checking your dates, find out if your hotel or car rental deposit is refundable. "Cheap" flights, hotel, and other arrangements become very expensive if you have to book them twice. Find out the 13 things airlines don't want you to know.