July 24, 2024


Full Of Eastern Travel

Score cheap rental cars, airfare and more for summer travel

After two years of staycations and reduced travel, Americans are ready to roam far from home. 

More than 80 percent of New Yorkers are planning a summer sojourn – or two – according to a survey conducted by online travel journal and planning guide, The Vacationer. That pent-up demand and post-omicron boom in travel is exciting, but you’ll pay more. 

Travel comparison company Hopper reports the average cost for domestic airfares is up 40 percent since the beginning of the year. According to AAA Travel, cruise bookings are twice as high as they were this time last year. 

Even in light of high gas and jet fuel prices, inflation, the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and perpetual concerns about COVID, Americans are determined to vacation this year, said Eric Jones, co-founder of The Vacationer.

Forty-two percent of  vacationers in our region intend to travel more, according to the survey, and they are so eager to go they are willing to make sacrifices to do so. Nearly 65 percent of those polled said they are fine suffering an inconvenience such as paying more or more flight layovers to reach their destination. 

“Overall, I think our Summer Travel Survey indicates more people than at any point during the pandemic are ready to travel. And, most importantly, they will travel,” Jones said. “We will see a drastic increase in travel this summer which is good for both consumers and businesses.”

There’s a lot to contend with, but there are still plenty of ways to enjoy a summertime respite without wiping out your savings. When booking a budget-friendly vacation by land, sea or air, there are plenty of resources. The web offers a wellspring of information and travel booking sites.

A wealth of options is great, but it can also be more overwhelming than a crowded flight and surprise two-hour stint on a tarmac. Jones offers these tips and website recommendations to help track down best prices on flights, hotels, cruises and car rentals. To see a complete list of top websites in each category, visit TheVacationer.com

Finding cheap hotels:

Start any hotel search with Google Hotels. “It offers powerful filters that allow you to find a variety of hotels near your intended destination,” Jones said. “It shows the cheapest prices from various online travel agencies (Booking.com, Expedia, Travelocity, etc) as well as the rate for booking directly with the hotel.”

If an online travel agency has the cheapest price, call or email the hotel directly and ask if they are willing to match the rate.  Booking directly guarantees you will earn status and points with the hotel, and should anything arise, you’ll deal directly with the hotel, not a third-party site. 

“If you have a lot of flexibility, consider using HotelTonight the day of or a few days in advance,” Jones said. “You can save as much as 40 percent or more for last-minute bookings, but it may be risky relying on this.”

Before you book, check to see if the hotel’s website or the online travel agency participates in a cash back program. Popular programs like Rakuten and BeFrugal often offer 3 to 5 percent cash back on hotel bookings.

If all else fails, consider Airbnb and Vrbo. Depending on the destination, it may make more sense to rent a house as opposed to staying in a hotel even if you do not need the extra space.

Finding cheap cruises:

Flexibility is vital to finding a great deal on a cruise, Jones said. The best – aka cheapest –  time to go on a cruise is when most kids are in school. Avoid the heart of summer and holiday breaks. 

“For the cheapest prices, I recommend booking at the end of summer through the early parts of fall,” he said. “During that time, most kids are back in school and it is peak hurricane season, which will deter many other people.”

Patience may pay off. Cruise lines eager to fill all cabins tend to drop prices as the departure date nears. 

“The major exception is if there is a cabin or room that you want to secure,”  Jones said. Check sites like CruiseDirect and Cruise Critic for suggestions and offers. “In that case, you should book early to guarantee it is available,” he said.

Finding cheap rental cars: 

Start your search with an online travel agency like Booking.com, Expedia, and Travelocity to see prices from a variety of different car rental companies. 

“In most cases, I recommend booking directly with the rental car agency as it is often easier to cancel and modify your reservation,”  Jones said. 

Only choose a rental that offers free cancellation, book as far in advance as possible and monitor price changes. If prices go down, you can cancel and rebook with no fee. 

“In some cases, I have rebooked multiple times because the price kept going down,” Jones said. “The key is flexibility, so you always want a free cancellation policy.”

Skip the expensive add-ons like GPS and toll packages. And, before you spring for rental car insurance, check to see what you may already have through your credit card. Many credit cards offer secondary rental car insurance, but others offer primary insurance,   

“With primary rental car insurance, you file a claim with your credit card company first as opposed to your personal auto policy,” Jones said. “Car rental companies charge as much as $35 to $40 per day to buy this coverage, so it is an expense you want to avoid if you already have coverage.”

Finding cheap airfare:

“Flexibility is the key to finding a great deal on a flight,” Jones said. “Instead of picking travel dates and then booking your flight, you should find the cheapest days to fly to your intended destination.”

Start with Google Flights because the feature displays prices from a variety of airlines and allows you to book directly. Use the calendar view to see prices for a variety of dates. Sometimes shifting plans by just a day or two can mean hundreds of dollars in savings. 

“The flight is often the most expensive part of any vacation, so I highly recommend finding cheap days to fly and then booking the rest,” he said. 

If you’re hesitant to book on a Friday because you’ve heard Tuesday is the best day of the week to nab deals, don’t be. 

“Contrary to popular myths, low prices are available every single day of the week, so I recommend starting your search as soon as possible for summer travel,” Jones said. “For days to actually fly, it is generally cheaper on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.”

If the prices still have you more stressed than a red-eye flight during a thunderstorm, consider the “shoulder season,” the middle to the end of June and the middle of August to the second week in September.  

“Prices on airfare, hotels and rental cars are often cheaper during the shoulder season because it takes place before and after the peak summer travel period,” Jones said. “The good news is it is usually still warm enough to enjoy typical summer activities at a much lower price.”