1. Find cheaper flights
Those who are strategic about saving spend 23% less on flights than those who aren’t, according to a survey of budget travelers by booking site VacationRenter.
Top strategies include booking with a budget carrier (52%), joining a carry-on (48%), using credit card points or rewards (39%) and tracking ticket prices (28%).
One in three respondents said they use apps to save money on flights. One such app, Skyscanner, allows users to set price alerts, search for flexible flight dates and nearby airports, and mix and match airlines to find the best fares, according to its website.
Fewer are willing to sacrifice comfort and convenience by booking “red-eye” flights (25%) or choosing a more distant airport (16%).
Price alerts in apps like Skyscanner check fares so travelers don’t have to, notifying them when fares go up or down.
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Having flexible travel dates is one of the best ways to get a flight deal, according to travel app Hopper, which said that leaving on a Wednesday instead of a Friday saves about $35 on average.
The same tactic works for hotel stays, says Hopper. Checking into a hotel for a two-night stay on a Thursday, rather than a Friday or Saturday, can shave an average of $60 off the bill, he said.
Another tactic is to keep an eye out for new routes or new airline services coming into local airports. When an airline adds a new route, competition between airlines can cause airfares to fall, according to Hopper. Airlines often launch promotions to get the word out, too, he said.
That’s what happened when Frontier Airlines began service from Chicago Midway International Airport this summer, said Hayley Berg, chief economist at Hopper.
“Chicago to Tampa airfare dropped from an average of $278 per ticket to just over $100 per ticket for departures after April 26, when Frontier service began,” he said. “Fares have been recovered for later dates [about] $187 ticket, still almost $100 less than before Frontier launched.”
To learn about new fares and services, travelers can “subscribe to their airport or local airline newsletters,” Berg said. Also, “keep an eye out for press releases and signage at your local airport announcing new services.”
2. Consider a cruise
Travelers often have strong feelings about cruising. But deeply discounted cruise fares may be enough to convince die-hard naysayers.
Since the start of the pandemic, some travel costs have increased by more than 50%, according to a Visa Business and Economic Insights travel report released in June.
But cruise fares remained largely unchanged, the report said.
Four-night cruises on Carnival Cruise Line in August traveling from Los Angeles to Mexico can be booked for $26 a night, according to booking site Priceline.com. Fares include meals on board but do not include taxes or government fees. Once these fees are added, the cost for two people is $456, or about $57 per person per night.
Similar deals can be found on cruises to the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos and Cayman Islands. Summer cruises underway Norwegian Cruise Line to Alaska start at $58 on Priceline, excluding fees.
In Europe, a four-night cruise to Croatia and Israel starts at $70 a night, while travelers in Asia can sail from Singapore to Penang, Malaysia, for $80 a night, according to Priceline.
In addition to discounted fares, cruise lines are rolling out other deals to entice passengers back to sea. Royal Caribbean allows children to sail free on select cruises, while Celebrity Cruises offers onboard credits and savings of up to $500 on airfare, according to both companies’ websites.
3. Book in new hotels
Looking for hotel openings is another way to save money.
The Standard, Bangkok Mahanakhon, which opens in Bangkok on 29 July, is offering 25% off its best available fares to those who book before 31 August through its ‘Start with a Bang’ promotion.
To celebrate its launch, Royal Uno All Inclusive Resort & Spa is discounting rates by 25% and offering guests $500 in resort credits, according to a company representative. The resort opened in Cancun, Mexico, last month, according to a company representative.
New hotels often accept reservations before official opening dates that include discounted rates and other savings available to those who book early.
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However, this strategy is not without risk, as new hotels may experience opening delays. The Royal Uno hotel in Cancun told CNBC that two of its restaurants, in addition to the spa and gym, have not yet opened, but that “management has mentioned that they will be open by the end of the summer.”
This happened to New Zealander Debbie Wong, who booked a holiday at a luxury hotel in Cambodia that was scheduled to open in early 2019.
“We were booking months in advance, but as we got closer to the dates, they said they weren’t ready to open,” he said.
Because the trip coincided with the Lunar New Year, other hotels in the area were full, Wong said.
“So they agreed to let us stay for free, with free spa treatments,” he said. “It was 200 employees just for us, another couple and a few people [the hotel’s] thirst”.
Wong said he believes part of the reason the hotel entered into this deal was that it has stayed at the brand’s sister properties in the past.
“It was the most amazing trip we’ve ever had,” he added.
4. Cover the gas
Some hotels are directly addressing travelers’ transportation concerns by offsetting increased gas rates.
Crowne Plaza HY36 New York, San Antonio’s Hotel Valencia Riverwalk and Little America Hotel in Flagstaff, Arizona have stays that include a $50 gas card, while guests staying at Tennessee’s Graduate Nashville can get up to $100 off their bills by showing the gas receipts at check-in.
5. Delay summer plans
The top tip in CNBC’s search for savings strategies was to delay plans until late summer or early fall, the so-called “shoulder season.”
Travelers who book summer plans in the last two weeks of August can save an average of $120 per flight, according to Hopper.
According to email subscription service Scott’s Cheap Flights, those with international plans pushing their plans into the fall need to save even more. The company directly compared flights to Europe, the Caribbean and Mexico to show how much travelers can save by delaying travel until the fall.
“It’s easy to look at the higher summer fares and assume the days of cheap flights are over,” said Willis Orlando, the company’s senior product operations specialist.
His response: “Not so fast.”
“Today’s skyrocketing prices are more likely than not a temporary reaction to an extreme increase in demand,” he said. And that’s why “there’s never been a better time to be flexible with your plans and travel in high season.”