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With the holidays fast approaching and children ages 5 and up finally getting vaccinated, more and more Americans are planning vacations. But it’s harder and harder to find a deal.
Planning a trip can be costly with flights, accommodations, tours, excursions, dining and more.
Still, there are deals to be had if you know where to look. Start by subscribing to emails from travel partners and follow them on social media, so you’re among the first to learn about flash sales and special saving opportunities. Being flexible with travel dates and traveling off-peak are also easy ways to save.
Looking for a few more ways to trim that travel budget? Here are five tips you don’t want to miss.
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1. Be flexible with airport choices
If you always fly out from a big-city airport that’s closest to your home, you might want to explore other options. That airport may have the most flights, the most carriers and the widest range of departure times, but the fares might not be the best out there.
Although it’s always easy to do what you’re familiar with, pushing yourself to fly from a different airport can save you hundreds.
For example, if you are flying from Philadelphia to Fort Lauderdale, use Google Flights to search for other airport options like nearby Trenton for Philadelphia. Sure, you may not have as many carriers or flight choices, but the fares can be considerably lower. The savings can be very steep, especially during peak-travel times, or if you’re traveling with others.
Additionally, consider an airport that’s within a few hours’ driving distance to your destination. In the example above, you might want to swap Palm Beach International Airport for Fort Lauderdale. This may add a bit of commuting time but it could yield substantial savings.
2. Understand airline search algorithms
If you’re traveling with multiple people, you might find that the enticing flight deal you want disappears when you add any additional passengers to your itinerary.
“This happens because airline tickets are sold in different classes called ‘fare buckets,’ which are essentially groups of fares that are priced similarly based on certain rules and restrictions,” says Willis Orlando, senior product operations specialist with Scott’s Cheap Flights.
Instead of having one steady price, airlines offer various prices for the exact same product, in an attempt to sell as many tickets to as many people at as high a price as possible, says Orlando.
“Airlines do this to maximize the amount of revenue they can get for each flight,” he continues.
“When the price jumps, decrease the number of passengers and purchase one ticket at the lowest price, with any additional tickets purchased at the higher price of the next fare bucket,” Orlando says.
If you discover that you can snag better fares by purchasing your tickets separately, buy one at a time and then call the airline afterward to ‘link’ your itineraries, he says.
3. Consider bundling hotels and flights
It’s easy to use sites like Expedia or Kayak to book trips on one platform, bundling both flights and rooms. But take the time to do your research to make sure the rates are truly better than if you booked the trip on your own.
“Vacation packages can save you $500 or more,” confirms Steve Oliverez, CEO of InsanelyCheapFlights.com. “If you plan on staying at a hotel during your trip, always check to see if a package deal is cheaper. Brands are usually more willing to offer discounts when it’s less transparent, such as in a bundle.”
And if you can be a bit spontaneous, you can grab an even better deal. “Unlike flights, package deals are often discounted when booked at the last minute,” Oliverez says.
In addition to the booking sites you may know, many airlines like American, Delta and JetBlue offer vacation packages as well. For example, you can save money on a getaway through JetBlue Vacations by using promo codes to save up to $500 on packages to Aruba, Cancun, Montego Bay and Punta Cana. JetBlue Vacations is offering this deal to promote its Insider Experience, which features local concierge services included at no additional charge.
There are four different offers available, each with an associated promo code:
- Get $50 off with promo code INSIDER50
- Get $100 off when you spend $2,000 with promo code INSIDER100
- Get $250 off when you spend $4,000 with promo code INSIDER250
- Get $500 off when you spend $7,000 with promo code INSIDER500
This JetBlue Vacations promo code offer is good through December 31, 2021, for travel through March 2022.
4. Consider different lodging options
You can get access to booking top resorts through timeshare marketplaces and garner direct-from-owner pricing from platforms like RedWeek.
According to RedWeek, here are some current price comparisons that would save a traveler $500 or more off a trip:
- Marriott’s Aruba Surf Club, 7 night stays for only $1,650 compared to $2,152 elsewhere (savings of $502)
- Marriott’s Maui Ocean Club, 7 night stays in January for only $3,500 compared to $4,183 elsewhere (savings of $683)
- Marriott’s Newport Coast Villas, 5 night stays in November for only $995 compared to $1,632 elsewhere (savings of $637)
RedWeek is a timeshare rental platform that allows any traveler to book a trip from a timeshare owner that isn’t using it. Don’t worry, you’re not joining a timeshare — you just book your vacation, similar to how a homeowner might rent out a pad on Airbnb, but in the case of RedWeek you’re actually staying at a hotel or resort. Timeshares typically boast more space, kitchen and laundry amenities, and other perks like free parking and on-property shopping.
5. Sign up for a travel credit card with a big welcome bonus
More and more card issuers are offering generous welcome bonuses that can be cashed in for travel purchases.
Chase is offering elevated welcome bonuses on select Chase co-branded airline credit cards: new cardholders signing up for the British Airways Visa Signature® Card, Iberia Visa Signature® card or Aer Lingus Visa Signature® card can earn 100,000 Avios points after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening. Avios can be transferred to American Airlines among other carries and cashed in for domestic travel.
If you’re a frequent Southwest flier, all three of the consumer Southwest credit cards (Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card) now have the same massive welcome offer.
You can earn up to a total of 100,000 Rapid Rewards points: Earn 50,000 points after spending $2,000 on eligible purchases in the first three months your account is open, plus another 50,000 points after spending $12,000 total on eligible purchases in the first 12 months from account opening.
Southwest points are worth around 1.4 cents apiece, meaning the 100,000 points from the bonus alone are worth roughly $1,400 towards Southwest flights.
If you’re more interested in a general travel card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is currently offering a welcome bonus of 60,000 points if you spend $4,000 on purchases within three months of account opening, which is worth $750 if you spend it on travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal.
It can be a little bit of work to maximize your points to cash in on free travel, but it’s worth the effort. Check out our guides on using the Amex Travel Portal, the Chase Ultimate Rewards® travel portal and how to make the most of your Avios points for a few ideas on how to get started.
Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.