Travel is back. At least that’s what I thought when I traveled to Spain via Chicago this March. Airports were full of sardines and seats were stuffed, despite mask and COVID-19 testing requirements for international travelers.
Almost a month later, the picture of what travel looks like for the rest of 2022 is getting sharper. The immediate future of travel is expensive. At least in the US that Basically, masks are no longer compulsory — but airline cancellations and delays are skyrocketing, along with fuel costs. These rising prices are affecting both road trips and flights. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, airfare costs actually rose by 10.7% in March.
The travel recovery comes at a time when inflation has come to an end reached the highest level since 1981. Rising gas prices around the world are being exacerbated by the ongoing war in Ukraine. Grocery costs are also higher (Some warn of a global wheat shortage as a result of the conflict), and the global economy remains understaffed as a result of the pandemic.
However, according to the US Travel Association, 85% of Americans plan to travel this summer. If you’re one of them, you’ll want to use every tool to cut costs, whether you’re boarding a car, boat, or plane. In this way you save despite rising costs on arrival.
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Take advantage of COVID-era booking flexibility
Many COVID-related changes for airlines and hotels remain in place. “Airlines have largely eliminated change fees that have long frustrated travelers,” said Scott Mayerowitz, editor-in-chief of CNET’s sister site The Points Guy.
Now most major airlines allow you to change a flight without incurring fees to most domestic, Caribbean and Mexican destinations. However, change fees will still largely apply to international flights, Mayerowitz said, so keep that in mind if you plan to travel further abroad.
The same applies to flights booked with miles. Airlines used to charge a mileage refund fee, Mayerowitz said. Now you can book a flight with points directly with an airline and cancel without penalty.
This mass elimination of exchange fees may be an opportunity to save money, longtime globetrotter Stephanie Zito said in an email. “Book early when the tickets are cheaper,” she said. “Then change or cancel if your plans change. If there is a price drop on your booking, you can still cancel and rebook” at a lower price.
Basic Economy is cheaper but think twice before you book
While regular flights are becoming easier to change or cancel due to COVID, basic economy tickets are becoming more restrictive. Basic economy tickets typically offer the lowest upfront fares, but they lack flexibility — you can’t change or cancel at all — and they charge additional fees for almost everything from bringing a carry-on bag 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, first shows you basic saving options, sometimes secretly. You might think you’re getting a lot, but if you read the fine print on this fare — as you should always do with any travel booking — you’ll find that you’re painting yourself into an option that could cost more than you end up having negotiated.
A quick search for April flights from Austin, Texas to Amsterdam on Kayak and Expedia showed me round trips between $560 and $612, which sounded pretty good for the route. But it was only after I selected the tickets that all the limitations came to light. When I went with the standard economy option, the cost for the same trip increased hundreds of dollars on both sides to $842.
Travelers need to do their research first and be comfortable with restrictions they agree to. If you need to be flexible with your dates and can afford the additional cost of standard tickets, it may offer better value for money in the long run.
Pack Strategically to Save Money (Yes, Really)
Can the way you pack your bags save you money? Absolutely, but it depends on the situation.
If you’re flying on an airline you’re not a loyalty member with, packing everything you need in one carry-on bag can save you up to $30 per traveler on each leg of the trip. Checking bags can halve your overall cost in this department by doubling it so one large suitcase can hold two people’s clothes (especially if you’re part of a family group).
While some airlines like Delta are experimenting with scrapping baggage fees to reduce delays, low-cost carrier Frontier Airline lowered its checked-bag weight limit from 50 pounds — the industry standard — to 40 pounds. In this case, packing less can save you more.
(Remember, many Airline credit cards offer at least one free checked bag and priority boarding as part of their benefits.)
Keep this in mind when checking bags that you are taking a risk with unexpected delays and lost luggage — and in the worst case a night without a suitcase.
You might want to pack more snacks, medicine for extra days, and spare clothes in your carry-on, Mayerowitz suggested, in case your flight is canceled or your plans change.
“Airlines are still making very big schedule changes to this day” and restaurants are still not fully staffed in many places, he said. “As a traveler you just have to be prepared for all sorts of scenarios.” While some Airlines reimburse you for basic needs In certain circumstances you are largely on your own with groceries, toiletries and additional amenities.
Redeem the points you sat on
Thousands of travelers have not taken a trip since the pandemic began. If you’re one of them, diving into the reserves is now an easy way to save money.
“There’s just a huge pool of unused points and miles out there,” Mayerowitz said. How many? According to a study by ValuePenguin, travelers accumulated over 27 billion unused miles by the end of 2020.
“I think the cost of flights in cash is recovering a little faster than the cost in points,” said Emily Sherman, senior editor at education site Optimal and a self-proclaimed fanatic for points and miles travel. “The cost of a flight in points is often cheaper than cash, and you won’t feel the fee draining your account,” Sherman said in an email.
Not all point structures are created equal, and generally the longer the flight, the more points it costs. Still, dipping into your points reserve could help reduce overall travel expenses while saving for your next trip.
Join your favorite hotel’s member club
Signing up for a hotel loyalty program like Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton Honors, or World of Hyatt can save you money in a number of ways in the long run. Remember these are bonuses that add up. I’m not talking about room upgrades, although they’re always nice. Perks like free faster WiFi, free breakfast, late checkout, and extra bonus points have equal monetary value.
If you take the family on a five-day trip now, you can earn a free night’s stay later in the year. And a room that gives you a 4pm check-out instead of the usual 12pm could save you money by using hotel amenities longer before a late flight than finding other activities to complement your Time to fill before heading to the airport.
Hotel loyalty programs are free to join and they usually offer discounted rates or guaranteed lowest rates to their members, but you must book directly with the hotel to receive the rewards. use of a trademark hotel credit card When you book direct with a hotel, you can increase your rewards and savings even further.
Just remember that benefits may vary by hotel chain and individual property, so you are not guaranteed all benefits on every trip.
Say yes to alternative destinations – and the off-season
While millions of travelers stayed put during the first two years of the pandemic, many popular destinations suffocating under the weight of tourist overcrowding – also known as overtourism – had a chance to rethink their approach to visitors. Cruise ships have now been officially banned from the historic city center of Venice, Italy. Barcelona, Spain has banned short-term rentals of private rooms. Amsterdam, 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 alternate destinations, traveling domestically, and traveling during what’s known as the off-season — the time between peak and off-peak seasons — is a proven way to reduce cash drain while you explore or relax.
Tools like Hopper and Google Flights can help find good deals in unexpected destinations, said Sherman, the avid points collector. “It’s amazing how much you can save by traveling outside of the normal tourist season,” she said, “and there’s usually still plenty to do at your destination.”
Whether you’re traveling domestically or planning to branch out further, make sure you stay tuned travel restrictions to avoid unexpected obstacles. If you’re concerned about the uncertainty when planning a trip, it’s something to consider travel insurancewhich you can purchase as a standalone policy or receive through one travel credit card. This can give you some level of security while also keeping you financially secure.