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29 June, 2018 12:49:54 PM
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11 Ways to Save Money When Booking Travel

Independent Online Desk
11 Ways to Save Money When Booking Travel

Booking flights, rental cars and hotels can add up quickly, but with a few simple tips you can save big when booking your next vacation. We asked a few travel experts how to travel luxuriously on the cheap.

Earlier this year, Brian Kelly flew Singapore Airlines’ new first-class suite on its A380 airbus, taking off with a glass of Dom Pérignon and 50 square feet of legroom. The market rate for his flight from Sydney to Singapore was over $3,000. Mr. Kelly’s cost?

“150,000 points and $72,” he said. “So while not the best redemption in terms of the value I got per point, the flight itself was one of my most memorable ever. It actually has both a seat and a bed.”

Mr. Kelly is perhaps better known as The Points Guy, the guy with the website that tells you how to maximize your travel dollars. As founder and chief executive, Mr. Kelly knows a thing or two about traveling on the cheap, so we asked him and a handful of other experts for their best advice on how to cut the cost of booking travel, from flights to hotels to car rentals.

Get a Big Credit Card Bonus

Blogs and online forums refer to it as travel hacking, stacking, or credit card churning, but the idea is the same: sign up for credit cards with big bonuses and cash back programs to earn points redeemable for free travel.

Chase made the practice more mainstream when they advertised their Sapphire Reserve credit card in 2016, which included a 100,000-point sign up bonus and a number of other perks, including lounge access in airports around the world. My husband and I used the card to book free flights to Tokyo that year, and while Chase has since slashed the bonus in half, we still rack up lucrative rewards points on the card.

“I always advise travelers to understand their credit and their financial situation before getting into it,” Mr. Kelly warned, adding that travelers shouldn’t sign up for these cards unless they understand how credit works in the first place. Namely, revolving a credit card balance can cost you in interest in fees, making your “free” travel rather costly. “If you’re not in the right place, don’t sign up for a credit card.  You could be hurting yourself in the long run,” he added.

That said, if you use them responsibly, credit card rewards can be, well, rewarding. “Do your research before signing up for a card to make sure you’re getting one that makes sense for you,” Mr. Kelly said. If you dine out frequently, for example, you might want a card that comes with a higher cash back rewards for restaurant spending. Other cards reward you more for spending on travel or gas or groceries.

Some rewards cards are co-branded with airlines or hotels, meaning you can only use your points on that specific airline or hotel. Instead, Mr. Kelly recommends finding a card that allows you to transfer your rewards points to other airlines or travel programs. Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards or Citi ThankYou Points are among those that do. While co-branded cards “definitely have value, transferable points give you the flexibility to redeem directly through any of a program’s transfer partners,” he said. Many of these cards also come with annual fees ranging from $90 to well over $400. For example, the three cards here each have annual fees around $95, but many are waived for the first year and you earn rewards for your spending, which can make them worthwhile. Just make sure to read the fine print and know what’s included. If you need tips, Wirecutter, a New York Times Company, has an in-depth review of many travel cards and their bonuses.

Fly on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday

Like any other industry, airline flight prices depend on supply and demand. Prices are cheaper when there’s less demand, and that’s typically during the week, said James Filsinger, president and chief executive of Yapta, a website that tracks airfare and hotel prices. “Instead of flying with the masses on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday, travel on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday and you’ll find that prices are lower,” he said. “Essentially, do your best to ‘zig’ when the rest of the travel population ‘zags,’ and you’ll find that travel is not as costly.”

For the same reason, flights are usually cheaper on holidays, but significantly more expensive on the days before and after the holiday. You can save a considerable amount of cash flying on Thanksgiving, for example, instead of the Tuesday before. Of course, the downside is that you will have to travel on a holiday, but the upside is beating the crowds.

Track your Flight and Get Price Drop Alerts

On the other hand, airline fare pricing is a science that can be tough to predict, said Mr. Kelly. “Between availability, airline revenue managers, when you’re traveling and more, there are so many moving parts to airfare that you can’t really focus on one too much.”

A better option: find tools to do the work for you. Online tools like Yapta, Hopper and Google Flights allow you to search for flights, then keep track of them through their interface or even via email alerts. If a flight drops or increases in price, you’ll get a notification.

Mix and Match Airlines and Airports

When booking your round-trip flight, search for two separate one-way tickets, too, possibly on different airlines. “Instead of buying a round-ticket on one carrier, piece together two one-way tickets on two different carrier,” said Scott Steinberg, the founder of SELECT CITY, an online travel magazine.  “Sometimes, the overall price is less expensive for two one-way tickets instead of one round-trip ticket,” he added. Many flight search sites like the ones we’ve mentioned will automatically do this for you, or let you switch between area airports if a flight into one and out of another is less expensive.

This might also come in handy if you need to cancel just one leg of your flight. For example, if you’re flying to London, but your departure date changes, it may be cheaper to pay a cancel fee for your one-way departing ticket than to cancel and rebook your entire round-trip flight. Of course, this also depends on how the airline handles flight changes. Also, if you end up extending your trip to stay in your destination city longer, it may be easier to make a change when you book separate tickets.

It may also be cheaper to fly into or out of an alternative airport. If you’re flying into Los Angeles, for example, don’t limit your search to LAX. Search for flights to and from surrounding airports, like Burbank. Just make sure they’re not too far out of the way of your destination, otherwise you could find yourself on a mini road-trip from the airport to your hotel.

Try an Airline’s Home (or International) Website

Some overseas airlines list cheaper flight prices if you use their country’s version of the website. “Particularly, Norwegian Air is famous for offering discounts as high as 30 percent when you book through the foreign version of its website,” Mr. Kelly said. “If you’re booking a one-way flight from Oslo to New York, you can often find get major discounts by selecting Norway as your home country rather than the U.S.”

You may have to ask Google to translate your page, but if you can navigate the website and book your ticket, this is a relatively easy way to save.

Take Advantage of Long Layovers

Layovers will often make your flight cheaper, but the downside is, well, a layover. One way to use this to your advantage is to turn a longer layover into a bonus trip. For example, if you’re flying to London and flights with layovers in Dublin are cheaper, search for the flights with the longest layovers to see if the prices are similar. If you have a 14-hour layover in Dublin, that could be enough time to grab a hotel, head to Temple Bar and return to the airport in the morning.

Google Flights allows you to sort by duration, which makes it easier to find these flights (just search for the longest ones), but there are other online tools designed for this strategy. At AirWander, for example, you plug in your destination and origin city and the website will populate a list of flights with extra long layovers to help you squeeze in a bonus trip.

Calculate the Cost of Bundling

Flight prices are cheaper than ever … sort of.

Airlines have introduced “basic economy” airfare for customers who don’t want a lot of extras, but be sure you understand what constitutes an “extra.”  With unbundled flights, nearly every accommodation will cost you: checking a bag, picking a seat, and, in some cases, even printing your boarding pass.

While this makes travel more accessible to people who might not otherwise be able to afford it, be aware that by the time all of those extras are bundled, you might end up paying close to the price of a standard airline ticket, if not more. Search tools like Kayak and Google Flights allow you to filter flight prices by ticket class. Google will also reveal baggage fees for flights in their search results, making it easier to compare.

Call the Hotel Directly for the Best Prices

Even if you use a website or app to find a discounted rate on lodging, most hotels prefer you to call them directly when you book, and offer even lower prices for booking directly.  “With OTAs (online travel agencies) spending so much on paid search and bidding on hotels brand words, it’s a fight to get in front of the guests,” said Matt Barba, an innkeeper at Deer Path Inn in Lake Forest, Ill.  “Hotels appear to be doing all they can to entice guests to book direct, so take advantage of it.”
For example, Mr. Kelly said that some hotels offer best price guarantees, so if you find a cheaper price than the one the hotel advertises on their own website, they will match it. More properties are willing to do this, Mr. Barba said, so it can’t hurt to call and at least ask. “At other hotels, I’ve seen a stigma associated with guests that booked with an online agency,” he added. “They don’t get the same attention and may even get assigned to their ‘last sell’ room types.” As you can imagine, these are less desirable rooms, usually smaller, near an elevator or without a view.

On a more encouraging note, Mr. Barba said an added bonus of booking directly through the hotel is that it’s easier to get upgraded. “You can increase your chance of an upgrade by informing the front desk of a special occasion, anniversary or birthday,” he said. Of course, a little politeness toward the front desk staff will go a long way, too, and Mr. Barba suggested never asking for an upgrade outright.

Beware of Big Events

Hotel prices will soar if there’s a conference or other event in town, so check to see what’s happening in your destination city before you etch your plans in stone. “If there are big events going on like a sporting event or trade show, or if it’s during peak holiday season, prices may be higher than usual,” said Thomas Wrobel of Trivago, an online travel search tool. “Sometimes only shifting your travels by a few days could make a big difference.”

Negotiate Car Rental Upgrades

If you’re going to book a rental car, start by booking the cheapest car you can find online. “Then try to negotiate for a free upgrade when checking in at the car rental counter,” said consumer expert Andrea Woroch, a consumer expert for KTLA television in Los Angeles. “Also, check deals available through the travel portal of your warehouse club membership.”

Membership programs like AAA, AARP and Costco often come with a handful of travel discounts that are easy to overlook. If you already pay for any kind of monthly membership, look into possible discounts that come with that membership.

Skip the Rental Car Insurance

Car rental insurance can jack up your bill quite a bit, and the good news is, your existing car insurance policy might come with some form of coverage for rentals. While there are exclusions, chances are, your credit card probably comes with a policy that can make up for anything your personal auto insurance doesn’t cover.

Most cards cover theft, damage to the car, and towing, but they might not include injury or property damage. For example, American Express is particularly good about what their rental car provisions include, but other cards may include as little as liability coverage and leave the rest to you. Again, you’ll have to book the car rental insurance with the credit card in question in order to be covered. Look into exactly what both policies cover, but in many cases, you can skip the rental insurance and save some cash.

Source: The New York Times

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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