Here’s my contrary tip to save money this summer and have your dream vacation too:
Don’t book early.
In fact, don’t book at all. Booking early and paying the max is exactly what airlines, hotels and car rentals are counting on right at this time.
If you’re reading USA Today’s article Cheap Tricks for Summer Travel, you’ll see their suggestion to “book far in advance.” If you’re feeling philanthropic towards the ailing airline industry, then by all means do follow that advice.
I, however, suggest the following money saving tips:
- Wait. The summer travel period is booking right now. There are few, if any deals, to the most desirable destinations. This is a cat and mouse game. If you book right now, you are the mouse.
- Exercise patience. The industry is counting on your hearing all of the news spin, panicking and jumping into the melee. They are doing their best to talk you out of your hard-earned dollars.
- Have two or three vacation plans in mind. If you have your heart set on only one destination, or one resort, with only specific travel dates, then they have you where they want you. If, however, you can play with just one of these variables, you wrestle the control away from the industry, and into your own hands. So for example, if you cannot vary your dates, but you can still chose from several possible destinations, that will work. The more variables you can play with, the better the deals will be. Tip: August is the best month in which to find the last minute summer deals.
- Monitor the deals constantly. Plan to use all the tools that you can find and book only as last-minute softness occurs (and it definitely will). You need to be watching deals several times each day. They will come and go that fast.
- Negotiate. Here I concur with the USA Today article. Almost everything is negotiable, and hotels and car rentals are at the top of my list.
Recommended sites for finding the last minute deals:
Airfarewatchdog. Lets you track “most” airfare deals.
Your favorite airlines’ websites. Here you can find not only last minute deals (subscribe to their weekly deal alerts), but you can usually find very last minute availability of mileage awards. When I look now, I don’t see most of my carriers having awards available until the end of August or early September. But I know that they will have softness, and when they do, I’ll be jumping on it without delay.
Last minute hotel discounters. We reported on several of these recently, and how to best use them.
Yapta. Find when tickets to your selected destinations reach your price threshold.
Bidding for travel. Stay abreast of what deals others are finding today on Priceline.
Fare Compare: A great site for researching airfares.
We’ll report on what happens with our summer travel. Be sure to share your experiences with us too.
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