Yes, you can save money on travel despite rising airfare costs

The journey is back. At least that’s what I was thinking when I took a trip to Spain via Chicago in March. The airports were sardine-packed and the seats were filled despite the masking and COVId-19 test requirements for international travelers.

Almost a month later, the picture of what travel looks like for the rest of 2022 will be in sharper focus. The near future for travel is expensive. At least in the United States worm mandate in principle no longer exists – but airline cancellations and delays skyrocket, along with fuel costs. These rising prices will affect both car travel and flights. In fact, flight costs rose 10.7% in March, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The rise in travel comes at a time when inflation has done so reached its peak since 1981. Gas prices are rising the world is exacerbated by the ongoing war in Ukraine. Food costs are also higher (some warn of a global wheat shortage as a result of the conflict), and global economies remain deficient as a result of the pandemic.

Still, 85% of Americans expect to travel this summer, according to the US Travel Association. If you are one of them, you want to use all the tools you have to reduce costs, whether you are jumping into a car, boat or plane. How to save on travel despite the climbing costs.

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Take advantage of the covid era’s booking flexibility

Many covid-related changes for airlines and hotels are here to stay. “Airlines have mostly removed the penalties that have been a long-standing frustration for travelers,” said Scott Mayerowitz, editor of CNET’s sister site The Points Guy.

Most major airlines will now allow you to change flights without having to pay fees for most domestic, Caribbean and Mexican destinations. However, change fees will still largely apply to international flights, Mayerowitz said, so keep this in mind if you plan to travel further afield.

The same goes for flights booked with miles. Airlines used to charge a mile refund fee, Mayerowitz said. Now you can book a flight directly with an airline with points and cancel without penalty.

This mass elimination of change fees could be an opportunity to save money, said longtime globetrotter Stephanie Zito in an email. “Book early when tickets are cheaper,” she said. “Change or cancel then if your plans change. If there happens to be a price reduction on what you booked, you can still cancel and rebook” at a lower price.

Basic economy is cheaper, but think twice before you book

While scheduled flights will be easier to change or cancel due to covid, basic economy tickets will be more restrictive. Basic economy tickets usually offer the lowest advance rates, but they lack flexibility – you can not rebook or cancel at all – and they charge extra for almost everything from bringing hand luggage to choosing a seat. And you will most likely be one of the last passengers to board the plane.

It is important to keep this in mind as most booking portals, including those from airlines and credit card loyalty programs, will show you basic financial options first, sneaking sometimes. You may think you’re getting a good deal, but if you read the fine print at that price – as you always should with all travel bookings – you will realize that you are painting yourself into an alternative that may cost more than you bargained for. final.

A quick search for flights from Austin, Texas, to Amsterdam in April by kayak and Expedia showed me round trip options between $ 560 and $ 612, which sounded pretty good for that route. But it was just after I chose the tickets for which all restrictions came. When I chose the standard economy option, the cost of the same trip rose hundreds of dollars to $ 842 in both places.

Travelers need to do their research first and be comfortable with the restrictions they agree to. If you need to be flexible with your dates and can afford the extra cost of standard tickets, it may be a better value in the long run.

Pack strategically to save money (yes, really)

Can the way you pack your bags save money? Absolutely, even if it depends on the situation.

If you fly with an airline where you are not a loyalty member, you can save up to $ 30 per traveler for each stage of the trip if you pack everything you need in hand luggage. If you check in bags, it can halve your total costs in that department by doubling up so a large suitcase can hold two people’s clothes (especially if you are part of a family group).

While some airlines, such as Delta, are experimenting with removing baggage charges to reduce delays, low-cost airline Frontier Airline has lowered its weighted limit for checked bags to 40 pounds from the 50 pound industry standard. In this case, you can save more by packing less.

(Remember, many airlines’ credit cards offer at least one free checked bag, plus priority boarding, as part of their benefits.)

Keep in mind when checking in bags that you risk handling unexpected delays and lost luggage – and in the worst case, a night without your suitcase.

You may want to bring more snacks, extra days’ medicine and an extra change of clothes in your hand luggage, Mayerowitz suggested, should your flight be canceled or plans changed.

“Airlines are making very big timetable changes to this day” and restaurants are not fully staffed in many places yet, he said: “As a traveler, you just need to be prepared for all sorts of scenarios.” While some the airlines will reimburse you for basic needs under certain circumstances, you will be largely alone for food, toiletries and additional amenities.

Redeem the points you have sat on

Thousands of travelers have not traveled since the pandemic began. If you’re one of them, it’s an easy way to save money by dipping into the reserves now.

“There’s just a huge stockpile of unused points and miles out there,” Mayerowitz said. How many? Travelers collected over 27 billion unused miles by the end of 2020, according to a ValuePenguin study.

“I think the cost of air travel in cash recovers a little faster than the cost in points,” said Emily Sherman, editor-in-chief of the education site Optimal and a self-proclaimed points and mileage fanatic. “The cost of a flight in points is often more affordable than in cash, and you will not feel the charge hitting your account,” Sherman said in an email.

Not all point structures are the same, and the longer the flight, the more points it generally costs. Still, a dip in your points reserve can help reduce the total cost of the trip while saving you money for your next trip.

Join your favorite hotel’s member club

Signing up for a hotel loyalty program – such as Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton Honors or World of Hyatt – can save you money in the long run in several important ways. Remember that these are bonuses that go together. I’m not talking about room upgrades, although they are always nice. Benefits such as free faster Wi-Fi, free breakfast, late check-out and additional bonus points have the corresponding monetary value.

Taking your family on a five-day trip now can help you earn a free night later in the year. And a room that gives you a check-out at 16.00 instead of the usual 12.00 can save money by using the hotel’s amenities longer before a late flight, compared to finding other activities to fill your time before heading to the airport.

Joining hotel loyalty programs is free and they usually offer discounted rates or guaranteed lowest rates to their members, but you must book directly with the hotel to reap the rewards. Uses a brand hotel credit card When you book directly with a hotel, you can help you further your rewards and savings.

Just keep in mind that the benefits may vary depending on the hotel chain and individual properties, so you are not guaranteed all the benefits every time you travel.

Say yes to alternative destinations – and low season

While millions of travelers remained during the first two years of the pandemic, many popular destinations that sank under the weight of the overpopulation of tourism – also known as over-tourism – had the chance to reconsider their attitude towards visitors. Cruise ships have now been formally banned from Venice’s historic city center in Italy. Barcelona, ​​Spain, has banned short-term rental of private rooms. Amsterdam, the Netherlands, has banned new hotels and souvenir shops in the city center. Other places like Dubrovnik, Croatia and Machu Picchu, Peru, are taking similar measures in response to the potential massive return of tourists.

Choosing alternative destinations, traveling domestically and taking trips during the so-called shoulder season – the time between high season and low season – is a proven way to reduce the outflow of cash while you explore or relax.

Tools like Hopper and Google Flights can help you find great deals on unexpected destinations, says Sherman, the avid scorer. “It’s amazing how much you can save by traveling outside of the normal tourist season,” she said, “and there’s usually still a lot to do at your destination.”

Whether you are traveling domestically or planning to branch out further, make sure you stay up to date travel restrictions to avoid unexpected obstacles. If you are worried about uncertainty when planning a trip, you may want to consider travel insurancewhich you can buy as a stand-alone insurance or get through one travel credit card. This can give you peace of mind while protecting you financially.

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