Planning a getaway? Don’t pay full price on flights, hotels or rentals. There are lots of great ways to save.
• F ollow the Facebook pages and Twitter feeds of your favorite airlines and travel companies. You’ll often learn about deals, promotions and contests before everyone else.
If you have memberships to AAA or any corporate associations, check out what deals automatically come with your annual membership fee. You’ll be surprised how much you can save on rental cars and hotels.
• It’s an app, app world: If you have a smartphone or tablet and are planning a trip, download some apps. Just about every company in the travel business — airlines and travel sites, like Travelocity or Booking.com — have apps. Many offer similar functionality to their parent sites, so you can look for savings, plan your trip, confirm your flight and research your destination, all on the go. Gate Guru, for example, provides airport maps and airport restaurant reviews in case of a long layover, and TripIt syncs your itinerary with your calendar.
• Air travel: Unfortunately, airlines have very little wiggle room with ticket prices, but here are a few ways to save. Try booking your departure flight for a Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday, as these days tend to be less expensive (especially if you are booking 21 days in advance). Also, many deal sites tend to post their deals during business hours, so take a few minutes during your lunch hour to check instead of waiting until the evening.
If you are unable to find a great deal booking a la carte, consider package deals that include airfare, hotel and even a rental car. The hotel and rental car companies have a lot more flexibility on price, which can result in substantial savings.
Some airlines, like Southwest, offer price protection. If the price goes down after you’ve booked, you can rebook without a fee.
Make sure you’re aware of the airline’s baggage policy. While JetBlue and Southwest Airlines allow you to check one bag free, American Airlines, United, Delta and US Airways charge $25 for the first bag on domestic coach flights (international can vary). Thankfully, most airlines still allow one free carry-on, so pack light!
And don’t forget about food. Nowadays, most domestic airlines no longer offer free in-flight meals. Food at the airport or on the plane can cost you a bundle, so bring your own snacks.
• Driving: If you’re renting a car, get one only as big as you need. That giant SUV may seem better, but it will guzzle way more gas than an economy-size vehicle. Also, while you’re on the road, keep a check on things like the air conditioning and speeding, which can waste gas.
When it’s time to fuel up, use an app like GasBuddy, which is available for BlackBerry, Android and iPhone and iPad, to find the cheapest gas. A good rule of thumb to remember is that inexpensive gas is usually in areas where there are clusters of stations and not just one standing alone.
Don’t waste your vacation — and the hard-earned pennies you just paid for gas — sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Arm yourself with an app like Waze, which is a free navigation and traffic app available for BlackBerry, Android and the iPhone and iPad. It’s community-run, so if you’re the passenger, you can participate in reporting traffic jams, accidents and more.
• Hotels: When you’re researching hotels, check what amenities are offered. Otherwise, you could end up spending upward of $50 a day for Wi-Fi or parking when another hotel provides both free. Also, look for places that serve free breakfast. It’s not going to be a five-star meal, but a muffin, some fruit and a coffee could tide you over till lunchtime.
If you don’t need to be waited on hand and foot, you may want to consider renting a private home. HomeAway and VRBO are excellent vacation rental resources, as they offer a broad range of homes searchable by amenities, house size, location and price range.
And if you are able to book at the last minute, try the Hotel Tonight app or Priceline’s Negotiator.