In the thick of the holiday season, making arrangements for spring or summer travel doesn’t necessarily top the to-do lists of many of us. At the same time, you may be surprised to discover a wealth of overlooked opportunities for incredible savings and amazing experiences by planning ahead for warm-weather travel. Not only can you snag great deals and reserve your preferred accommodations before they book up, but you’ll also find it easier to budget for your trip. To ensure that you don’t miss out, take advantage of these tactics with major payoff:
Find alternatives to the typical vacation hotspots: While some of the most popular destinations are also among the most expensive to visit during the peak travel season, you can often find a locale that has virtually the same to offer at a far more attractive price. Think La Paz instead of Maui, Big Sky Montana instead of Aspen, Cinque Terre instead of the French Riviera or Budapest instead of Prague. For more suggestions, visit http://bit.ly/BudgetTravel26AwesomeandAffordableAlternatives.
Get inspiration from online search tools: Know when you want to travel but not sure where you want to go? Many of the major online travel sites offer a feature to match the best prices for destinations throughout the world with your specific travel dates. A few to try: Skyscanner’s Everywhere Search, KAYAK Explore and Momondo’s Trip Finder.
Use flexible timing to your advantage: If you’re planning a vacation for the summer and don’t have school-aged children, you may realize significant savings by booking your travel after mid-August when kids start going back to school. Also pay attention to the day of the week when you book a flight. The cheapest days for air travel tend to be Tuesday, followed by Wednesday and Thursday. However, it’s a good idea to also check the flexible date options on online booking sites to be sure there isn’t a lower fare that would work for you. Another way to cut your costs is to travel before 8 a.m. or after 8 p.m. According to Momondo, booking an evening flight can save you up to 9 percent on your ticket.
Set up price alerts: If you have a destination in mind and flexibility on timing, it’s a good idea to track flight fares using price alerts that can be emailed to you using services such as Google Flights, Airfarewatchdog, Kayak or Skyscanner. Find an overview of “The 10 best airfare alerts and listing sites” at http://bit.ly/TravelNewsABCAirfareAlerts.
Consider spreading out your payments: Uncomfortable with handing over a large sum of money at one time or simply don’t have the funds to pre-pay your family’s vacation? Some hospitality companies and travel agencies offer vacation layaway plans that enable you to divide up the cost of a trip into installment payments that can be set up for automatic withdrawal from your credit card. For information on how these plans work, visit http://bit.ly/HuffingtonPostFamilyVacationPaymentPlans.
Also keep in mind that most hotels, cruise lines and theme parks such as Disneyland only require a small deposit to hold and confirm your reservation. This payment could be as low as $50 per person or a percentage of the trip cost. Typically, you’ll need to pay them in full anywhere from 40-65 days out.
Think beyond the typical hotel: As you plan your trip, don’t forget that you can find affordable lodging using home sharing sites and rental marketplaces like Airbnb, VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) and FlipKey. What’s more, they can be an excellent way to find unique accommodations – from igloos and villas to yurts and treehouses.
If you have an SFPCU Platinum Visa, before you book your vacation, be sure to enroll online in our CU Rewards Program to earn points for every dollar you spend on your SFPCU Visa. Rewards can be redeemed toward gift cards, name-brand merchandise, and of course, more trips! And remember that as an SFPCU member, you have access to special discounts on vacation packages, theme parks, rental cars, entertainment and more. Find them at http://bit.ly/SFPCUMemberDiscounts2017.