If you want to save on travel, don’t focus on finding individual deals. Instead, discover the most cost-effective travel habits. It’s knowing the best time to travel as well as the best time to book flights and hotels. This week’s travel deals column has a few money-saving lessons (think 2014 New Year resolutions), as well as well as few can’t-miss offers (book your first trip of the new year).
The Best Day of the Week and Time of Day to Book Flights
Whenever you need to travel, it’s entirely possible to get a cheap plane ticket. But, you need to be flexible. Choose off-peak days, especially over the holiday season. Flying midweek is an effortless way to save money: you’ll find emptier and cheaper seats.
You also need to know the best time to buy flights. And not only that, there is a specific time if you want to get them really cheap. Buy your ticket on Wednesday at 1am, just one hour after Tuesday midnight. Around midnight, the airlines usually reload their computers with the latest low-cost fares that were announced the previous day but will be canceled if they are not purchased within 24 hours.
If possible, book your flight after the 7th of every month, as booking is busier right after payday on the first and 15th.
Another mistake is booking too early. Unless you are planning travel for high-traffic days, like Christmas or July 4, you stand the best chance for the lowest possible fare 45 days out for domestic travel and 60 days out for international.
Watch Peter explain why in this video travel tip.
Save Just By Booking Hotels Early
Hotels focus a lot of energy enticing travelers to book early. One way to save is to plan ahead. For example, Red Roof Inn just announced its Nicest Price program guests save up to 20 percent off the best available rate when booking 10 days in advance. Here’s how it works: Book online at redroof.com or by calling 800-REDROOF (800-733-7663). When you book online, click on the “Nicest Price” button. There are some disadvantages to booking early. With this promotion and many others, you must pay in advance, which means no credits or refunds are available for early departures, cancellations, no shows, or other reservation changes.
Another option for early savings is through an online travel agency that uses the agency model. Unlike the merchant model common with Hotels.com, Orbitz and Travelocity, websites like Booking.com that use the agency model offer deals up front. In this set up, the online travel agency simply gets a commission from the hotel. The benefit is you have the option to pay at checkout, not when you book.
Save Just By Booking Hotels Late
If you’re not traveling over a holiday or high-volume travel days, there are apps that actually specialize in finding last-minute hotel deals. Hipmunk has launched its Tonight Only feature that gets you up to 60 percent off hotel rooms. Hotel Tonight has options every day that are discounted from the regular rates. Priceline.com has its own version called Express Deals. It looks for same-day deals that are up to 45 percent off. You don’t have to bid… but it is opaque, meaning you won’t know the name of the hotel until after you pay.
It’s not just about technology. Sometimes the best way to save is to pick up the phone to get the best rates. Click here to see the script for the conversation you need to have with the hotel, you’re guaranteed a good rate with a few perks thrown in.
Save through Package Offers
Combining airfare with hotel reservations often results in savings. All airlines have package offers and tour operators take it one step further. Right now, you can save with package deals to Europe.
- For Istanbul, Turkey, Intrepid Vacations has air-inclusive winter vacation package deal with amazingly low rates. Its 7 days of travel, 5 nights of hotel stays with daily breakfast, sightseeing excursions, airport transers and roundtrip international flights from New York, Boston, Washington DC, Philadelphia, or Los Angeles for $1173 per person, based on double occupancy (single supplement $350). For more information, visit Intrepid Vacations online or call 800-505-5497.
- GreatValueVacations is offering a 5-Star Ireland Vacation package with seven nights in some of the country’s finest five-star properties plus airfare for $1,099 per person for travel this spring. Included in the package is round-trip economy class airfare from New York (JFK) to Dublin (DUB), a manual shift economy car rental, one night at the Heritage Golf & Spa Resort, Laois (room only), two nights at Killarney Park Hotel, Killarney (room only), the Glenlo Abbey, Galway (room only) and Druids Glen Resort, Wicklow (room only). Compete info online at www.GreatValueVacations.com or call 800-896-4600.
High Season vs. Low Season
You don‘t have to travel during the low season to get a deal. The key is to be aware. Follow hotels on Twitter and Facebook, plus sign up for any newsletters being offered. Through doing just that we came across a high-season deal at the Westin St. Maarten Dawn Beach Resort & Spa. Right now, guests save 40 percent for every second night.The deal is structured so that for every night, you pay regular rates (which start at $209 per room), you save 40 percent on the next night. You can travel anytime between now and April 30, 2014. Of course, a 2-night stay is required. Book online or call 866-716-8108, mention rate plan ZB4.
Travel at the Start of 2014 for Snow Bird Savings
Right now Marriott is running a Holiday Getaway Event for 14 of its Florida resorts. The event comes with discounted rates, as well as a $50 resort credit per night. Rates start as low as $149 per night. Book from now until December 26 for travel through January 31, 2014. Your options for Florida hotel discounts include:
- Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa
- Hutchinson Island Marriott Beach Resort & Marina
- JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes®
- Key Largo Bay Marriott Beach Resort
- Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort, Golf Club & Spa
- Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa
- Orlando World Center Marriott
- Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld®
- The Vinoy® Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club
- Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort & Spa
- Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa
- Hilton Head Marriott Resort & Spa
- Fort Lauderdale Marriott Pompano Beach Resort & Spa
- Turnberry Isle Miami, Autograph Collection
Click here for reservations, enter the promotional code P91. A minimum two-night stay is required; offer is valid for up to $200 in resort credit.
By Lily J. Kosner for PeterGreenberg.com