Let’s face it: Vacations can be expensive.
From costly flights to overpriced hotel rooms, those travel memories can often be far from priceless. But just how expensive are we talking?
A survey conducted by American Express found that the average person planned to spend $1,180 on a summer vacation … that’s $1,180 per person. By that estimate, a family of four budgeted a staggering $4,720 for a getaway.
But you certainly don’t have to do the same. As the founder of travel site Trekity.com (and the wife of a former travel agent), I’ve learned about budget-friendly airline booking tricks that can shave hundreds of dollars off your next flight.
1. Use Airline Consolidators
These airline ticket resellers work with major travel companies to sell tickets at reduced prices. Think of it this way: Consolidators are wholesalers (much like Costco) who buy in bulk. Due to existing relationships, travel agents can purchase tickets from consolidators and then sell them to consumers. It’s a win/win: Consolidators offload their tickets without dealing directly with clients, and travel agents gain access to rock-bottom fares.
But there’s a catch. Just because a travel agent could pass on these discounts to clients doesn’t mean that they will. When my husband was a travel agent, he couldn’t believe some of the markups on fares by the time they reached an actual traveler—in many cases, it was over $200!
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Fortunately, you can bypass the travel agent and book directly with a consolidator to get the reduced rate. Just be aware that the best rates are usually found for international travel, as well as U.S. domestic business and first class flights.
Here are some of my favorite consolidators:
2. Book in Advance
When it comes to finding inexpensive flights, the general rule is the more available seats, the cheaper the airline ticket. So booking well in advance is usually your best bet—it’s a good idea to make your arrangements a minimum of 21 weeks prior to your departure date. After that, airlines increase fares incrementally up until the departure date. So the closer your departure date, the higher the price.
However, if your 21 weeks have come and gone, some airlines (full list here) do offer discounts at 14 days, seven days and even three days before a departure date. These discounts are “last-minute” rates that can be an excellent bargain, but also keep in mind that it’s risky to wait until just a few days before your departure to book tickets, especially if you’re flying during peak season.
3. Clear Your Web Browsing History
It happens all of the time. You find a cheap flight online, search for it again later that day … and the price has skyrocketed. Why? All booking sites record your web browsing data and some (e.g. Travelocity) use this information to raise prices when you’re interested in a flight. If you clear your web browsing data (known as a cache), there’s a chance that you’ll find the original price.