Americans seem to be traveling more than ever before and are doing so by either flying the friendly skies or sailing the seven seas.
While more of us may be flying high or traveling the high seas, most of us would like to avoid the high cost of air and ocean travel.
The following year-round travel tips may prove helpful:
- Check out consolidators: A consolidator is the “bargain basement” of the travel industry. It is a company that buys unsold airline tickets at low prices and sells them to travelers at a lower cost than the airline, often up to 20-50% off standard fares. Some consolidators sell directly to travelers but most work through a network of sub-agents who garner business through classified ads in the travel section of newspapers or on the Internet.
Because a ticket purchased from a consolidator is usually nonrefundable—or subject to substantial penalties if you make a change—you need to use great care in using a consolidator. Before you do business with a consolidator, check it out with the local Better Business Bureau or American Society of Travel Agents.
Familiarize yourself with airline fares to your destination so you’ll know a good deal when you see one. Some tickets may not be much cheaper than what you might pay to an airline if you buy your tickets 21 days in advance and stay over on a Saturday night.
Compare the total cost against the airline’s cost. A consolidator’s price may not include charges for overnight delivery or taxes, and some may impose a fee if you use a credit card.
Pay attention to which airline the consolidator is offering. It may not be offering an airline that is well-known or one on which you feel comfortable traveling. Three final tips are: 1) charge it—if there’s trouble your credit card company may provide further assistance; 2) after you buy the ticket, confirm your seat with the airline itself—it should have your reservation on record; 3) the “safest” way to buy from a consolidator may be through your travel agent.
- Choose your schedule wisely: If you are able to travel between mid-September and December 15th, you may find some really good deals such as a cruise to almost anywhere and, if you’re flexible, you could save up to 70% or even receive an upgrade. Traveling to gulf coast Florida in the off-season could also save you money—many people flock to Florida in the winter, but the fall season also offers sunshine, temperatures in the 70s, and cheaper hotel rates. Off-season (mid-April to mid-December) rates for the Caribbean, Mexico, and Florida are often significantly lower than in-season rates.
- Be flexible: By keeping an open mind on places to visit and checking with your travel agent, you may get a great deal. Also consider night flights, package tours, and bed-and-breakfasts as other possible cost-saving options.
- Ferret out savings: Travel on Tuesday or Wednesday and stay over Saturday night. When renting a car, rent by the week and get the cheapest daily rate (be sure you get unlimited mileage, particularly for long trips). For a good hotel price, call the hotel chain’s toll-free number (or go online) and ask about their discounts, then double check directly with the hotel itself.
As with any purchase you make, take time to do some comparison shopping and learn what money-saving options are available to you. Being an educated consumer means you may get more mileage out of your travel dollars.