Since you might not have traveled in a while, consider this a quick refresher course for how to stretch your travel dollars before, during and after a trip, whether you are going solo or with the entire family.
Plan Twice, Book Once
Even though some airlines have dropped change fees because of the Covid-19 pandemic, some airlines charge $150 or more if you change your ticket after it’s been booked, and many hotels now charge “no show” fees of $50 or more.
So, double-check the details before you book your flight or your room to avoid these potential added charges.
Minimize checked baggage fees of up to $35 for the first bag by packing and checking less.
For longer trips, the cost of dry cleaning may be cheaper than checking extra luggage with additional clean shirts and pants.
Also look into overnight delivery and luggage forwarding services — for samples to bring on a business trip, or your skis, snowboard or golf clubs for a leisure trip.
Make sure your passport is current and that you have any necessary visas. Expired or missing paperwork can delay your trip and add expensive charges for expedited applications.
Some countries will not admit you if your passport has less than six months left, so if you are planning a trip later in 2021, get your passport renewed now.
See our article with tips on how to apply for or renew your passport.
Check visa requirements also – iVisa has a comprehensive list.
Be Flexible To Find Savings
For travel to or from an area with multiple airports, search alternate airports or use this option in your online booking tool.
For example, in New York City, fares may be less expensive enough at JFK to offset the incremental taxi fare difference for a trip to LaGuardia.
Check alternative airports such as Idaho Falls instead of Jackson Hole, Burbank instead of LAX.
Rental cars also may be less expensive at the alternative airports.
Watch for Waste
Millions of tickets go unused, even though most non-refundable fares are valid for travel for up to a year.
While there may be change fees, you can still save money by not letting these unused tickets go to waste.
Also check your frequent flyer miles for expiration. If you aren’t flying, using them to make a purchase such as a magazine subscription can extend the miles by another 6-12 months, or longer.
Stay Together, Save Together
If you are arriving on different flights than your co-workers, friends or family, plan ahead to arrive around the same time and meet at an airport lounge.
Big Ticket Items Can Mean Big Savings
If you are planning a complex international or multi-city US itinerary, use a travel agent.
It will save you time better spent on your family and/or your business, a travel professional is better equipped to find the best airfare deals to ensure you get the lowest fare, with or without a land package.
Plan Ahead, Stay In Touch – The earlier you book air tickets and hotel rooms, the more likely you’ll find a lower rate.
Ask for price guarantees
many airlines and hotels offer you a lower rate if the price for your trip drops after you’ve booked it.
Stretch Your Stay to Stretch Your Dollar
Some airlines are bringing back “minimum stay requirements,” so you can safe money by postponing your return trip from a Friday until a Sunday or Monday.
Or, take the overnight red-eye flight home — that’s usually the least expensive flight of the day for an airline.
Oldies But Goodies
If you are bumped, be sure to get a free voucher, and try to travel in the so-called “off-season” or “shoulder season” for lower travel costs.
And a final tip from me –buy travel insurance to protect you if you have to cancel a trip.