Smarter travel planning this summer

GondolaIt’s time to plan some summer fun, and yesterday’s “Smarter Travel” Tweetchat with Ally Bank featured some great tips. (You can check out the conversation using #allymoneychat on Twitter.)

Here are some ideas to cut your costs:

Travel outside the box. Your options aren’t just “fly or drive”? Donna Freedman recommends checking out the Megabus. “I went from Philly to NYC for $1.50. Could make day trips really cheap.” She also traveled on the Megabus in the United Kingdom for a fraction of what the train fare would have cost. Speaking of trains, overnight trips on Amtrak can be pretty expensive, but we’ve scored free roomettes (double-bunk sleeper) and bedrooms on overnight trips up and down the West Coast using Starwood points that we dumped into Amtrak’s Guest Rewards program.

Cut hotel costs. Once again, your choices aren’t just “hotel or bunk with friends”? Check out Airbnb or VRBO or consider a house swap.

Book strategically. The best day to book airfares is often Tuesday, while the cheapest day to fly is usually Wednesday. But Bing’s price predictor can help you figure out whether to snap up a fare or wait a little longer. (Just search for an airfare, and the predictor will give you the likelihood the current fare will increase or drop.) Join frequent flyer programs and sign up for email newsletters so you can hear about special sales. Kiplinger has more here in its “21 secrets to save on travel.”

Rescue orphaned miles. Got points in a travel program you no longer use? You may be able to shift them to a loyalty program you do use. Check out’s Mileage Converter to explore the possibilities. Speaking of points:

Don’t settle for expensive. Last-minute trips don’t have to be budget-busters. Airlines may release more seats a few days prior to the flight so that you can book them with frequent flyer miles. Priceline and Hotwire are great places to bid for cheap flights, rooms and cars.

Re-shop your reservations. Change fees make rebooking airfares tough on most carriers, but you can typically change hotel and car rental reservations without penalty. I usually book a few months in advance, then check three weeks out and again a week out to see if hotel or car rates have fallen.

Plan cheap fun. Last time we visited Hawaii we bought an Entertainment book for the islands before we left. The $10 we spent for the book was offset with our first museum visit; the coupons for other activities and restaurants were a bonus. Donna suggests talking to locals and doing searches for “free/cheap things to doyou’re your destination. “Maybe something just opened & isn’t on the general radar yet,” she noted.


  1. Liz in Boston says

    I just recently read a few articles that say it’s no longer true that booking flights on Tuesdays saves you money, and I certainly have never found it to work for me. My mom uses KAYAK to determine the likelihood a certain flight will go up or down in price. I’m not sure how accurate that is.

    One thing that has worked for me is to travel in the off season, or at least the “shoulder” season. Don’t go to Europe in the summer, go in the spring or fall. My boyfriend and I went to Turkey in April. Not only was the tour much cheaper than just a month or so later, but there were fewer crowds. There were a few grey days, but it was sunny and warm most of the trip.

    Which brings me to a new way I found to save: package tours. Growing up, my family never took package tours abroad, but going with a company that includes most food and especially airfare can save a bundle, because they get everything at a discount. I was wary of “sharing” my vacation with 20 people, but we had a fabulous time and were able to afford a quality of hotel we couldn’t have without the tour discount. Just read the reviews or get recommendations before you book!

    • lizweston says

      Good tips. There was a recent A&M study showing Saturdays and Sundays are now better days to book. But some of the best deals I’ve found have been via frequent flyer newsletters. Vacation deals are another option to explore–packages that combine airfare, hotel and sometimes car rental. These packages often offer lower overall prices than what you could get shopping separately.


  1. […] Smarter Travel Planning This Summer “It’s time to plan some summer fun, and yesterday’s ‘Smarter Travel’ Tweetchat with Ally Bank featured some great tips… Here are some ideas to cut your costs:” Ask Liz Weston […]