Summer represents the busiest season for travel, with consumer spending on weekend getaways and weeklong vacations expected to reach over $65 million through Labor Day. Though planning ahead is key to saving on hotel, airfare and car rentals during this peak travel time, you can still book a trip now without blowing your budget
Follow these last-minute travel booking strategies to save big.
Flexibility is crucial when it comes to finding the best rates on a last-minute getaway. If you’re hung up on a specific destination or date of travel, the deals will be limited. Look into vacation spots experiencing their off-peak season for cheaper airfare and hotel rates. Use a third-party travel booking site like Travelocity or Orbitz to review prices for a full 30 days to pinpoint the least expensive option. You can also name your own price on airfare, car rentals and accommodation through Priceline, as long as you don’t mind not knowing with whom you’re booking.
Stick to the road.
Gas prices hit a peak at the end of spring, offering summer travelers lower fuel costs than seen in recent years. According to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report, the national average for regular unleaded gas is hovering around $2.70, down nearly a dollar compared to the same time last year. Find a vacation getaway that’s within driving distance to slash the costs of getting there by planning a road trip. Make sure tires are properly inflated for optimal fuel efficiency and check gas station prices along your route using GasBuddy.com so you can plan your stops accordingly.
Beat the Friday rush.
According to the U.S. Travel Association, the busiest travel days of the year are Fridays in June, July and August. Not only are you looking at bigger crowds and delays, but prices on airfare and even fuel will peak on summer Fridays. Whether flying or driving, plan to take off on a less busy day like Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday for the best last-minute rates. Hotel stays and car rentals from Sunday to Thursday are typically cheaper compared to the more in-demand weekend days.
Use your smartphone.
20 percent of travel bookings are now carried out via smartphones and tablets, which represents an 86 percent increase over last year. Thus, travel merchants are targeting mobile users with on-the-go deals. Tap into the HotelTonight App to find last-minute luxury accommodation for up to 70-percent off; use Jetsetter’s NOW feature to book same-night hotels and complete vacation bookings for up to 60-percent savings; and search Travelzoo’s app for deals on everything from full-blown, all-inclusive vacations to deeply discounted tickets for local events.
Apply a coupon code.
Sign up to receive coupons from your favorite hotels, car rental companies and travel booking sites or follow them on Twitter to get the latest deals in your tweet feed. You can also use a coupon aggregator like Rebateszone.com for a quick and easy search. The site organizes travel coupons, making it easy to find a deal for your specific needs instantly. Currently, you can find offers like $50 off $350 at Hotels.com, $30 off a 3-night hotel stay through BookIt, $30 off $250 at HotelWiz and $15 off a 3-day weekend rental at Budget.
Compare warehouse club deals.
Warehouse stores aren’t just a great place to buy oversized bottles of ketchup and a month’s supply of tissue paper; you can also use that membership to save on travel bookings. You’ll find competitive car rental rates and vacation packages through the travel site of your warehouse club store. I saved over 30 percent on a last-minute car rental for a trip to Hawaii through Costco.
Get creative with accommodation.
Hotels aren’t your only options when it comes to accommodation. A little creativity can go along way when it comes to saving money. For instance, you can rent a room or two from a local via AirBNB, consider Couch Surfing for a free stay if you’re traveling solo, or purchase another traveler’s non-refundable room reservation at a discount via RoomerTravel.com. Search for cheaper rates at hostels where you can find private rooms for families, and don’t forget about the great outdoors: you can find inexpensive campings sites through ReserveAmerica.com.
You can skip pricey guided tours which cost more during this peak travel time by using apps to uncover historical sites, architectural design, gardens, museums and more. Use the EveryTrail app to find 10 downloadable Fodo’s walking tours for $1.99, offering turn-by-turn directions and everything you need to know about great places to stop along the way from Boston’s Freedom Trail to La Rambla in Barcelona. The Field Trip app uses your location to find cool spots for you to check out like historic sites, shops and even offers a “special deals nearby” feature. Historypin identifies local landmarks based on your location with historic and design details.
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