It's time to start scouting for deals and prepping for holiday travel (props to you if you've already done this!), before the prices start rising. Don't book your trip at the last minute, because the holidays are prime travel season, which means sky-high costs for airlines, car rentals, and hotels. Read on to find out the best ways to save on your upcoming holiday trip.
Picking a destination
Perhaps you're not planning on returning home for the holidays and would like to use the days off to take a trip — you need to start researching some budget destinations. Some countries to look at include places that are seeing a decline in travelers. One in particular would be Japan as many people are still afraid of traveling there because of earthquake and radiation scares. Most parts of the country have not been affected, and cities like Osaka and Kyoto have been left relatively unscathed.
If you're interested in traveling to countries that have seen a drop in travel due to political unrest such as Egypt, it's best to reach out to locals to hear their thoughts on safety. Ask friends and family if they know anyone living in those countries, or post a question on Quora, Facebook and Twitter. For countries that have had civil and religious upheavals, you might want to check important political, historical, and religious dates that may cause conflicts. Check out some of Budget Travel's picks for top budget destinations this year if you're looking for more international travel ideas.
Another alternative is to check out underrated places that people often pass over. Lonely Planet gives a neat list of US cities that are often neglected and passed over for more famous spots such as New York, Las Vegas, and San Francisco.
Read after the jump to find out how to save on your travels.
Do your price research
You should start looking around right now and use tools like Bing's Price Predictor feature to see if the ticket price is predicted to drop or rise. The tool gives a percentage of how confident it is in its evaluation so that's a nice gauge as well. You may want to keep in mind that a third party audit has found that the Price Predictor works 75 percent of the time.
Set travel alerts on Airfare Watchdog that will let you know if the route you're interested in goes down in price.
The best times to buy
Holiday plane tickets are usually the cheapest during the first half of October and on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, according to Mint Life. Keep in mind that you shouldn't hold out for these dates once you find a deal because of the airline cuts.
Where to look
There are plenty of travel sites out there, but sometimes you need to dig around and try out different services to compare prices. For example, I personally always find really great deals on Travelocity for some reason, but my friend swears by Orbitz. Use aggregator websites like Kayak to do a general sweep of all the travel sites to find the best deal.
If you choose to blind book on sites like Hotwire and Priceline, be sure you know the tricks to bidding for hotels. A good tool for Hotwire fans is BidGoggles, a site that guesses which hotel you're bidding on based on past data by users.
Little tricks to keep in mind
- Avoid the crowd: Don't book flights for peak travel days because you might incur peak travel day fees as well as higher ticket prices due to the greater demand. For example, if you're traveling for Thanksgiving, book a flight for early Thursday morning instead of Wednesday. Or take a day or two off before the major holidays and travel on those days instead.
- Take public transportation: If possible, take publication transportation if your destination is not too far away. In fact, the recommended amount for traveling by public transportation is less than 400 miles, says MoneyWatch. That's a good rule of thumb because you don't want to waste your precious vacation days on the bus.
- Save after your buy: There are ways to save after you've booked and paid. Certain airlines such as JetBlue, Alaska Airlines, and Southwest will refund the difference. Stay on top of the price changes with online price tracker Yapta.com. As for hotels, try to pick one with a good refund policy and be sure to read the fine print when booking. If you rent a car through autoslash.com, the site will keep on looking for lower rates and alert you when it has found one. Then if you want to go with the lower rate, autoslash will rebook it for you.
- Think outside the hotel box: Skip the traditional hotels and check out places on Airbnb.com, a website where individuals rent out their rooms or house to travelers. There are pretty great bargains to be had and you'll see rooms available in prime locales that have cheaper prices compared to hotels in the same area.