Vacation on a Budget | Best Time to Book a Flight, Hotel Hacks, & More
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Wondering when is the best time to book a flight? These tips will help you save BIG when you travel!
Ready for take-off?
Sure, there’s an element of luck when scoring the best travel deals. But you can still vacation on a budget just by being “hip” to all the latest hacks – starting with knowing the best time to book a flight. This travel timeline will have you snagging enviable flight deals in no time and leave your friends thinking, “How are these affording so many trips each year?!” 😉
Consider these helpful flight tips before you book:
To start, if you want to know when is the best time to buy plane tickets, sign up for price alerts on travel deals 1-4 months before your trip.
Airlines have frequently been accused of hiking rates based on previous search history. However, according to Scott’s Cheap Flights, that’s really not the case. Instead of using Incognito mode when researching travel deals, start checking out the flights early. Keep checking often until you hit the sweet spot.
You’re looking at a timeline of about 1-4 months ahead of time for domestic flights and 4-5 months for international flights.
Hip Tip: Websites like The Flight Deal along with apps like Hopper are your new BFFs when it comes to travel planning on a budget. You can also set custom itinerary alerts on Kayak and Google Flights if you have something specific in mind.
Next, it will become clear, early weekdays are the cheapest time to buy flights.
Once you’ve been eyeing those travel alerts for a while, it will be no surprise that flying at a time when most people don’t want to –– like super early mornings or after lunch & dinner is going to net the biggest flight savings. Luckily, there is a way to make your early morning flight less stressful. Find out why we love TSA PreCheck!
⭐️ When is the BEST day to book flights? – Tuesdays & Wednesdays!
According to Fare Compare, your best bet is flying on Tuesdays & Wednesdays. If those don’t work, Thursday is your next best option. And even if you can’t swing that schedule your entire trip, booking even one flight on these thriftier days is worth the savings!
Hip Tip: Keep in mind that the CDC is not requiring folks who have received the Covid-19 vaccine to quarantine for domestic travel, but international flights may be a different story. Double-check the rules in your destination country to stay up to date with Covid-19 regulations & make sure you don’t have a hard time returning to the US.
Then, plan your booking date.
According to US News, you should aim to book your trip for domestic flights around seven weeks in advance. On average, passengers will pay nearly 10% below average fare if they buy tickets 50 days before their flight, according to data from the Airlines Reporting Corporation.
A study by Fare Compare says the best time to buy airline tickets and shop for domestic travel deals is on Tuesdays at 3 PM EST. While that may be the case most of the time, again, your best bet is to just check those prices early + often.
Keep in mind exceptions to the rule, like holidays.
Of course, some of these rules go out the window when holidays are involved. For example, while Wednesdays are normally cheap flight days, the day before Thanksgiving is a no-go if you’re looking to save money.
Another busy travel week falls around Christmas and New Year, which means high demand and high prices. However, once you set those Google Flights price alerts, you might get lucky and book a flight in September or earlier.
Hip Tip: Check out the cheapest flight days on FareCompare.com for the full breakdown of when to expect the lowest fares and highest price hikes in 2023!
Get travel insurance for riskier flights!
When traveling in seasons with more unpredictable weather, it may be best to spend a little extra on travel insurance just in case.
Each airline will have a different refund policy, and some of them are way better than others. And if you scored a pricey or hard-to-get ticket, I can say from personal experience that travel insurance comes in handy and has quite frankly saved my vacation on more than one occasion. 🙌
Hopefully, you didn’t wait until your flight landed to book your hotel stay too. 😉
When it comes to your hotel booking, the same rules apply: book in advance (at least 50+ days ahead), on weekdays, and… in multiple reservations?!
Here’s a tip you may not have already known…
It could be more cost-effective to split your hotel reservation into multiple nights. Before checking out, play around with your booking. You can take your one three-night stay and turn it into three one-night stays, and it could save you like it did for Carly from 52 Cities!
(Note that there may be a small fee for switching rooms and/or keys, or you can call ahead and possibly request staying in the same room).
On the other hand, if you don’t mind taking the risk, some travel experts say that booking hotel rooms one to three days prior to your stay can save you big time (but of course runs the risk of not having any vacancies and leaving you stranded when you arrive). If you do choose the last-minute route, consider resources like Hotel Tonight, an app that operates specifically to find last-minute hotel deals.
But the BEST tip for saving when you book a hotel under any circumstance is, of course, to find one with free cancellation policies. This will allow you to book a hotel room for the cheapest possible rate way ahead of time. You can then cancel it for free if you find a better deal. It’s a safer bet than relying on last-minute room availability.
Hip Tip: Prefer Airbnb? You can sometimes score HUGE savings if you book reservations for at least a week. The difference is sometimes so noticeable that it may be worth it to book a longer stay even if you don’t use all of the days.
Looking for a cruise or all-inclusive vacation? Try these tips:
Consider Costco for crazy travel deals.
You may think of Costco as a place to score great deals on all kinds of products (and you’re not wrong!), but did you know that Costco also has some incredible deals on travel without the hassle of having to book everything separately?
While some folks love booking everything themselves (read the next tip for info on that 😉), it can get a little overwhelming if you’re traveling with a large group. That’s where CostcoTravel.com comes in with travel packages including flights, hotels, transportation, activities, and more.
➡️ Don’t have a Costco membership yet? Now’s the perfect time to get one!
Get yourself signed up for a Costco membership so you can start taking advantage of all of the store perks, along with the travel savings! Plus, Executive Members can score an annual 2% reward on Costco Travel purchases.
My Hip teammate, Bryn, uses Costco travel services and loves them! Here’s what she has to say about her experience:
“I have used Costco Travel twice in the last year, and I’m obsessed with it! First, my hubby and I traveled to Maui in early 2021 and got an AMAZING deal to stay at the Ritz Carlton! We would normally never splurge on a hotel like this. However, the Costco package ended up costing us the SAME amount that we would pay if we stayed in a standard Maui hotel. Plus, the Costco package came with a rental car, daily $100 resort credit, daily breakfast for two, waived mandatory daily resort fee, AND complimentary daily valet parking. It was awesome!!
Then, in March 2021, we booked a Costco Package to go to Scottsdale, Arizona! This package included a car rental, a daily breakfast for two, and the waived mandatory daily resort fee. This all added up to huge savings for our family.
I cannot say enough good things about my experiences!” – Bryn
For cruise travel deals, it helps to have a little flexibility.
Most cruise lines start releasing their itineraries 18 months in advance and try to get those cabins filled ASAP. Once they hit 90 days before launch, they start slashing prices to fill up the remaining rooms. The options will be slim, and you’ll have to be flexible with your plans. However, it’s a great way to score a last-minute cruise deal!
Note: The majority of cruise ships are requiring passengers to be fully vaccinated. Be sure to check with your cruise line’s website to find their vaccination policy.
Now that you’ve gotten the best travel deals, have some fun on your vacation!
Read up on these clever and frugal ways to vacation on a budget:
Now that you’ve arrived! Save on everything from dining to tours, entertainment, & more with these helpful tips!