Did you know? Americans logged nearly 2 billion leisure trips each year since 2014. For those who are cash-strapped, how did they actually afford it?
You don’t need to be rolling in disposable income to be able to take a trip, you just need to know how to find the cheapest deals. Here are a few ways to save some serious dough when booking your next vacation.
Be Flexible on Dates
Time of Year and destination flexibility
Want to really save some money when traveling? Go during the offseason and look for dates where most people are not traveling. According to USA Today, there are mainly two times during the year when people aren't traveling as much. Early December and late January. Plan ahead and figure out where you want to go and figure out when the peak season is for that location.
Skyscanner is a great tool if you’re not sure where or when you want to travel to search for the cheapest month to fly from your departure city. You can also search based on price instead of selecting a specific destination. Simply enter dates and a location of origin to see flight prices for options around the globe.
Days of the Week
Fact: Weekend departures cost more. According to Expedia, you’re a lot more likely to pay 20% less for a flight that departs on Thursday and returns on Monday. Great days to depart if you're trying to save money are Sunday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, and return Monday, Wednesday, or Thursday.
Create Fare Alerts
Sign up for a fare alert. You can set up an alert for either an exact date or for the lowest price on any date.
Book at the Right Time
CheapAir.com found that the best time to book a domestic flight falls within a window between one and four months before the flight. Plan ahead!
When possible, book your international travel 90 days out. Prices vary greatly by location, not the date of booking.
Sign Up for "Last Minute Trip" Emails
Sometimes, flights and ships need to fill up unbooked rooms or seats before they take off. This is where you can really score a great deal! So what are you doing this weekend?
Harness the Power of Social Media
Get on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram and follow your favorite travel agencies, airlines, hotels, to stay in the know on special sales and promotions.
If you’re a frequent traveler, you can rack up points if you use a certain company. Travel rewards credit cards are specifically designed to earn points and applying those points directly toward flights and hotels. Some travel rewards credit cards are limited by affiliation with a specific company. There are others that allow you to apply points toward a wider range of travel services.
Consider Alternative Lodging
You don't have to stay at traditional hotels and motels. Consider small bed & breakfasts, vacation rental homes, hostels, or couch surfing!
Try a Vacation Rental
Nowadays, Airbnb, VRBO, and HomeAway are slowly becoming more and more popular with tourists. This is where homeowners can put up a room, property, or couch up for rent to strangers and make a little extra money for doing it. Got a family get-together coming up? Book an entire house instead of individual hotel rooms! It's more fun.
Use the Couchsurfing Website
Wanna get really personal with strangers? Try couch surfing! Sure this isn't for everyone, but if you're a free spirit who loves meeting new people, this could be a perfect way to do just that. Guests are usually expected to reimburse the cost of food or even tip by buying a gift for hosts.
Become a Sales Lead
Have you ever noticed that after doing a search for a specific item online, the advertisements on the web pages you visit afterward are full of that very item? This is not a coincidence. Those ads might contain discounts on the exact vacation you were looking for once you get over how annoying they are. There are even some websites out there are set up to send coupons to customers who ALMOST make a purchase (when you add an item to a cart but don't check out).
Book a Package
Most travel sites offer discounts when you book your flight, hotel, and car rental at the same time.
Value Reviews over Star Ratings
I hate to say it, but some of those star ratings on these review sites are rigged. Pay attention to guest reviews by real people. Sometime's these real person reviews will offer other local ideas you haven't thought about.
Priceline’s “Name Your Own Price” Option.
Enter the day you’d like to fly and the price you’d like to spend. Priceline comes back with a counteroffer from an airline or hotel. You'll get the flight times, star ratings and general location of the hotel, but you won’t get to know the airline or hotel name until you book.
Hotwire’s “Hot Deals”
It's kind of like playing the lottery or a grab bag for travel. You can actually book flights, hotels, or car rentals without knowing the name of what you're booking and save some serious money. Unlike Priceline, Hotwire publishes the prices up front.
Flightfox allows you to enter your preferred travel dates, destination and travel companies compete to offer you the lowest-priced trip that meets your criteria. Whereas with SkyAuction.com, companies offer flights, hotels, or packages, and users can bid on the trips. When the auction closes, the top bid wins. It's like eBay but for travel.
Shopping for deals can be a lot of fun. But, be wary of deals that seem too good to be true. There are scammers out there that are ready and willing to take advantage of people who just want a good deal. Use your common sense!