Welcome, 2017! It’s time to start planning a new year of travel adventures. And, to help you out — and ensure you save a few bucks in the coming 12 months — we’ve pulled together a host of money-saving tips, smart destination swaps and sneaky ways to cram in more vacations in 2017. You’re welcome…
1. Embrace the strong dollar: With the dollar strong, it’s a great time to take that overseas trip that’s been collecting dust on your travel to-do list. This year, your dollar will go further everywhere from Canada, London and Madrid to Rio, Tokyo and New Zealand.
2. Buy right: Withdrawing local currency from an ATM in your destination is the best value option when it comes to buying your vacation spending money. Despite the fact that users are charged a fee, cash withdrawals from an ATM offer the highest exchange rates. Pre-loaded cash cards offer good value, too, and are a better option than buying currency at an airport or the Post Office or using travelers’ checks.
3. Double that vacation allowance: The average American full-time employee typically received between 10-20 vacation days each year, according to a 2016 study. You can maximize this time off by cleverly combining 2017 paid holidays and weekends.
4. Mix business with pleasure: If your vacay days are limited, but you have the opportunity to travel for work, take advantage of it. Tack time onto your trip to explore a new city, or use your work destination as a jumping off point to explore a nearby area. Often times you can save on travel expenses and maximize the use of your limited vacation time by taking advantage of a little “bleisure” travel.
Swap and save
5. Keep your options open: Swapping destinations can bring big savings, without compromising on the vacation experience. Instead of choosing a specific destination, consider the type of trip you want to take. Looking for an island vacay, a weekend in the city or a winter ski escape? Don’t limit yourself to one destination, but instead consider where the deals are. Be open to an island getaway anywhere in the Caribbean rather than just to Aruba. Or, don’t limit yourself to Colorado for that ski weekend, and instead explore options in Wyoming, Utah and Oregon as well.
6. The alternative airport advantage: Where you call home can have a huge impact on the price of a flight. Before you book that flight from your go-to airport, consider nearby alternatives. Oftentimes you can save money simply by flying in or out of a different airport. For example, SoCal travelers who typically use LAX should check out the fares from Long Beach, a little more than 20 miles away. Same goes for East Coast travelers. Flying from New York? Compare prices to and from LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy Airport and Newark International Airport before you book. Check out our annual Airport Affordability Index to see which airports fare the best (in more ways than one).
Time it right
7. Midweek is golden: Tuesdays are the least popular days to travel and therefore the cheapest. Friday is generally considered the most expensive day to fly because of the increased demand from those trying to get away for the weekend. While prices are constantly fluctuating, you can’t go wrong flying midweek when demand (and prices) are typically lower.
8. Fly by night (or in the early morning): The time a flight departs can also impact the price you pay for it. Traveling at night (between 6 p.m. and midnight) or in the early morning (think first flight out) will save. A general tip to remember: fly when people would rather be sleeping. After all, families with small children aren’t usually lining up to take a 4 a.m. or 11 p.m. flight. And, an added bonus for the early bird: the first flight out is the least likely to be impacted by delays.
9. The magic 50: The best fares are advertised about 50 days ahead of departure with the most expensive being seen three days before travel.
10. Fly on the holiday: The most expensive travel days are usually the ones with the most demand, so flying during any holiday season can be pricey. However, there is one holiday travel loophole you can take advantage of to save — flying on the holiday itself. While traveling on the holiday may not be ideal, you will benefit from the best deals (and smaller crowds).
Tips and tricks
11. Clear your cache to save some cash: Internet users should delete their browser history every time they search for flights. Prices can increase based on the number of times searchers revisit a particular website.
12. Compare all of your options: Don’t assume going directly to the airline is the cheapest way to travel. Sometimes small travel agents use flight search sites to sell off packages and flights that people have canceled. Travel providers have more flexibility to offer discounts on flights + hotels or flights + rental cars or other packages since they’re not sharing (and thus undercutting) the specific price of a room or a seat on the plane.
13. Get appy: There is an app for almost everything these days, and apps can be your best friend (and trustiest travel companion) when you’re headed to a new destination. From apps to book travel, to downloadable Google maps to currency converters and translators, having a few key apps at your disposal is always a good idea. Keep an eye out for versions of these apps you can use offline, which will come in handy when you may not have access to Wi-Fi.
14. Be smart about data: If you’re traveling abroad, consider your phone needs and plan accordingly. With messaging apps like Skype and WhatsApp, and easily available (and free) Wi-Fi in most well-traveled destinations, it’s easier than ever to avoid purchasing an international phone plan. But remember to alter your phone settings before you go to avoid costly data charges. Change your settings to prevent auto-updates and restrict background data. For peace of mind, leave your smartphone on airplane mode when you land to prevent unexpected data charges from creeping up. Not only will this save you money, but it’s also baby steps towards a digital detox (with the cozy cushioning of readily available Wi-Fi there when you need it).
15. Stay ahead of the sales: Sign up to airline and travel providers’ travel deals newsletters and be sure to follow them on social media so you’re ahead of the game when it comes to flight sales, discounts and special offers. Oftentimes, flash sales and travel deals will be announced there first.
16. Make A la carte pricing work for you: Don’t automatically assume the cheapest flight you see is actually the cheapest. Be sure to look at what’s included in the price so you aren’t bombarded with fees after the fact. Plan accordingly, pack light, and make 2017 the year you embrace the benefits of unbundled airfare by choosing the perks you need and skipping the ones you don’t.
17. BYO: With shops and restaurants in airport departure terminals charging a premium, why not save some money by bringing your own food to eat onboard? Not only is it a sure-fire way to save money, it’s likely to be healthier too. Try our in-flight food hacks for in-flight dining at its best.
What are your go-to travel savings tips? Share with us in the comments.
Feature photo: iStock photo/ChesiireCat