As the snow banks shrink and the chilly arctic winds change into warm spring breezes, it’s undeniable that change is in the air. Often, that means the travel bug is biting and the itch needs to be scratched.
Not only are vacations can be a something to anticipate when you are stressed at home or work, but they can also be psychologically healthy. According to Scott McCabe, a British researcher, “personal benefits have been found to include: rest and recuperation from work; provision of new experiences leading to a broadening of horizons and the opportunity for learning and intercultural communication,” among other benefits.
This is all great, but the reality is that vacations can easily become very expensive. Airlines, resorts and tours may have hidden fees and airline ticket prices can seem to fluctuate quicker than temperatures drop during a Wisconsin winter.
But don’t let the prices rear their ugly heads and make you cancel all thought of a vacation. With careful planning and simple research, you can reduce the cost of your vacation and still have fun in the sun (or the snow, or the mountains.)
Once you’ve chosen your destination, consider these time and money-saving tricks.
According to a CheapAir.com study published in January, the best time to buy airline tickets is, on average, seven weeks in advance. The study says the worst day to buy a ticket was the day before the flight, and two days in advance was the second worst, three days in advance the third worst, etc. until you get to 11 days out. After that, the next worst day to buy was about seven months in advance. Their study said the most expensive tickets are purchased really late or really early.
Also, avoid flying on weekends or near or around holidays. For example, a quick search on Expedia.com showed that prices on a trip from the Central Wisconsin Airport (CWA) to Chicago O’Hare (ORD) were $20 more per person if flying on the Fourth of July, than if you flew just a week earlier. This might not seem like much, but if you’re traveling with a family, it can add up quickly.
However, if it seems like you need more than 24 hours in a day to accomplish everything, or if you are going to an exotic location where most people do not speak English, booking your trip with a travel agency or tour might be your best bet.
Meribeth Bower, a travel agent with Global Travel in Stevens Point, said one of the best things you can do to save both time and money is to work with an agency.
“You really have to find a good travel agent who will search out those deals for you,” she said. “Every destination or trip has different criteria we look at. There’s not one simple answer, really.”
According to an article in Travel Pulse, an online resource for travel agencies and providers, agents can save travelers time, money and provide them with knowledge and resources that may be hard to find if you book a vacation yourself.
Agents can sift through countless flights and itineraries to find the one that matches your needs the best, and is the most cost-effective. The article says travelers shouldn’t worry about agents charging extra service fees because agents make commission mostly through travel suppliers.
Once you’ve planned your trip, there are a plethora of ideas to help you save money.
Airport terminal refreshments can cost an arm and a leg. My mother-in-law, a veteran traveler and cruise expert, recommends taking an empty water bottle to the airport and fill it up with water in the terminal to take on the plane. She always packs a small snack for the plane, instead of purchasing food in the terminals.
If you can plan ahead to give yourself time to be flexible, you can listen to hear if the plane is full and if the airline is offering to bump people to another flight. You can also go to the ticket desk and offer your seat in case the plane is full and there is the need to bump anyone. Airlines often offer vouchers worth several hundred dollars if you volunteer your seat.
My mother-in-law also recommends that travelers make sure they receive mileage points, even with smaller airlines, as they may partner with bigger airlines. E-books are a great way to help the time go by, and finding and downloading free books is simple.
Easy and less-expensive vacations can be in reach by planning ahead and traveling smartly. If you go the extra mile and research well, you can afford to scratch that vacation itch.