Along with a respite from work and the joys of celebration, the holidays can bring stress…and debt. One of the biggest culprits is the cost of travel. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to cut those travel bills down to size:
When to book: You can pay considerably different prices for the same flight and seat depending on when you buy your ticket and earlier isn’t always better. There are some rules of thumb like purchasing tickets 30 days to 3 months before a domestic flight and 1 ½- 5 ½ months before an international flight and specifically on a Tuesday at 3 pm ET (when airlines release the most sales). If you have an iOS device, another option is to use an app called Hopper†, which tries to predict the best time to book your flight.
Finding the best fares: When it’s time to book your ticket, check out a site called Yapta, which stands for “Your Amazing Personal Travel Assistant.” It’s powered by Kayak (the sites even look the same) and adds a feature that makes it live up to its name. It can automatically alert you if the price of your flight drops more than the exchange fee and helps you get a credit for the difference. The service works with most of the major US airlines but no foreign-based carriers.
One carrier that doesn’t work on Yapta but that you’ll also want to consider is Southwest. They allow you to change your flight with no fee or cancel for a credit so you can always switch if you see a better deal. Sometimes I even purchase more than one Southwest flight to give me multiple options and then cancel the unused flights for credits I can use in the future.
Choosing your seat: If you’re traveling alone, never choose a middle seat. If your only options are middle seats and premium seats for a fee, consider leaving your seat selection blank. You’ll be assigned a seat at check-in and there’s a good chance you can score a premium seat for free if they’re the only ones left. (This often happens since people will often choose a middle seat to avoid the fee when booking.) There’s no guarantee there will be any available but choosing a middle seat guarantees…a middle seat.
If you’re traveling with someone, you and your travel partner might want to each choose an aisle and window seat in the same row. If someone sits in the middle seat, I’m sure they’d be happy to switch with one of you. But if no one chooses to sit in the middle, you have the whole row to yourself.
Another site called Autoslash does basically the same thing as Yapta for car rentals except they automatically re-book you if the price goes down since you generally don’t pay for car rentals in advance. They also search and apply for coupons you may be eligible for. However, they only include certain car rental companies.
Tingo works the same exact way as Autoslash for hotel reservations. They automatically re-book you if the price drops and refund the difference back to your credit card. But unlike Autoslash, Tingo works with virtually every major hotel group and thousands of independent hotels.
There’s one more step you can take after booking the best deal you can find on Tingo. Just before the hotel becomes non-refundable, check an app called Hotel Tonight. It provides great last-minute hotel deals for select cities.
These methods don’t require any sacrifice and little to no extra time. In fact, you don’t really have to change your behavior much at all. Don’t you wish saving money during the holidays was always this easy?