Erik Isakson | Tetra Pictures | Getty Images
Americans want their summer vacation.
After a year of pent-up during the pandemic, 80% said they were ready to travel, according to a recent survey by tourism market research firm Destination Analysts.
However, this demand goes hand in hand with higher prices. According to the May Consumer Price Index, released Thursday by the Labor Department, airline tickets are up 7% in the month, up 24% year over year.
Car and truck rental prices rose 12.1% in May, up 110% year over year, and gasoline rose 56.2% last year.
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However, there are still ways to spend smartly.
“Internationally or nationally, it is best to plan each leg of your trip in advance to ensure there are no hidden sticker shocks,” said Jordan Staab, President of SmarterTravel Media.
This can save you money when planning your next vacation.
1. Road trip it
The best way to save money is to drive your own car to your destination, Staab said.
To find the best fuel prices during your road trip, he recommends downloading the GasBuddy app.
2. Don’t wait until the last minute
Staab anticipates that flight costs will continue to rise until July 4th. So if you want to book a summer trip you should start right away, he advised.
If you have more flexibility and can comfortably wait, the chances are that prices could go down after Independence Day.
However, if you book the flight too soon before the actual travel date, you may end up paying more. The best time to buy your plane tickets is in what Scott Keyes, founder of the travel website and Scott’s Cheap Flights newsletter, calls the “Goldilocks Window” – not too early and not too late.
For domestic flights, the low cost flights will most likely appear one to three months before your travel date. If you travel internationally, they likely occur two to eight months in advance, he said. You can monitor tariffs by setting up price notifications.
3. Be flexible
Usually people choose a destination, when the trip takes place, and then look at the cost of the flight.
Instead, turn this upside down, Keyes said. Search for cheap flights from your home airport and pick the destination that interests you most. Then see what dates work with your schedule.
“By making price your top priority rather than your last priority, you get such cheap flights,” Keyes said.
The Great Arch in Zion National Park, Utah.
DANIEL SLIM | AFP | Getty Images
You can also find a cheaper airfare at another nearby airport. It can mean another trip, but not necessarily a longer journey time. This longer journey can mean, for example, that a flight does not have as many stopovers.
If you’re traveling to a destination far away, you can also find a cheaper flight to a larger city and then catch a local low-cost airline, ferry, or train to your destination.
4. Remember the days
It no longer applies that there is a best day of the week to book a flight as new prices keep coming online, Keyes said.
However, there are usually cheaper days to actually fly: Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday.
5. Think outside the box
Beaches and national parks are very popular in summer. If you want to visit a national park, Staab recommends making a reservation first. In many parks, these reservations are compulsory.
To save money, consider somewhere that is not your normal travel destination, like the mountains instead of the beach.
“If it’s something that everyone wants to do, it will be expensive,” said Staab.
6. Don’t forget the Covid tests
An airport hostess waits to assist passengers going through a rapid Covid-19 testing area at Malpensa Airport in Milan, Italy on April 2, 2021.
PIERO CRUCIATTI | AFP | Getty Images
You may need a coronavirus test before you travel. So, do some research on your travel destination to make sure you know what is required.
Some drugstores offer PCR testing at no additional cost if you purchase insurance or fall under a federal program. Rapid and PCR tests can also be obtained at some airports for a fee.
While you often have to pay for the test before you travel, many hotels and destinations offer free tests, Staab noted. Some travel destinations even pay you for a negative Covid test. For example, the Azores off the coast of Portugal are offering a 35 euro voucher to offset the cost of the mandatory Covid test, he pointed out.