Traveling these days isn’t what it used to be. You only have to watch an episode of Mad Men to figure that out. Air travel, especially, has been on the decline in more recent years with first class cabins getting bigger and economy seats getting smaller. Former freebies are out the door — a girl’s gotta pay for a bag of peanuts and to check luggage. So, how do you save a few bucks without spending weeks researching and signing up for “bonus mile” credit cards? By letting me do the work for you. These quick and dirty tips are tried and true.
Alternate Your Port of Call
If you’re going to fly into an urban area with multiple airport options, it pays to price compare. It won’t take that long, we promise. You’d be surprised that a ticket could cost less by landing in a different part of town. And you might even be able to save on transportation from a certain airport. If it takes a $50 cab ride from your most convenient option to get to your final destination and the other airport makes it easier to just get on a bus for a $5 transfer, those savings amount to dinner.
Fly on the Right Day
You can read tons of tips about when to buy a plane ticket in terms of time of day and length of time before takeoff. And while lots of studies have been done, nothing has been locked down to an actual science. But what you can figure out on your own is the best day of the week to fly. Not surprisingly, peak times are more expensive. When do most people want to hop on a plane, on average? Over the weekend or at the end of the week. That makes Tuesdays and Wednesdays a better bet than Saturday. You can see the proof with your own eyes.
Do a Double (or Triple) Vacay
It’s common knowledge that when people head out to Vegas, they sometimes like to take in the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam while they’re there, since both are only a couple hundred miles away. But that isn’t the only destination that gives you awesome day-trip options, getting the most out of your airfare. A trip to San Francisco is a jumping-off point for wine country tours further north. And if you’re going international, a hotel room in Nice makes a great spot to plan a day trip to Monte Carlo or Avignon.
Airbnb Isn’t the Only Way to Stay Local
Airbnb gets tons of press, but there’s still a little site called Craigslist where brisk business is done renting entire apartments for a stay in a different city. Just don’t hand over any money before signing an agreement with someone (duh). There are gorgeous places to rent without all the markup Airbnb-hype brings.
Everyone knows going in the off-season (i.e., during bad weather) can save you major bucks. But who wants bad weather? Better to make a seasonal compromise and go at the very end of off-season or the very beginning of in-season. I’ve found great deals to Europe at the end of March and the beginning of April. And a native Greek clued me in that spring is the time to go, when the locals are still friendly to tourists because they’re not burned out by them yet.
Let Someone Else Send the Deals to You
Finally, why go hunt down deals yourself and risk becoming a serious addict? There are a few very useful, free services that help keep you abreast of savings by sending you updates. Groupon Getaways is amazing. Even though I’d used Groupon before, I didn’t even know about the Getaways offshoot until a friend clued me in. Then there’s LivingSocial Escapes, Jetsetter (if you’re a high-roller) and LivingSocial Adventures, great for short, day-long activities.