We know that spring just started, but your summer travel plans should really be locked down by now to save the most money. The earlier you book, the greater the discounts and availability you'll find on flights and at hotels. But, in case you’re still in the planning stages, here are LearnVest's rules for the right ways to travel, plus our final guide to the best (and worst) places to go this summer:
Here's how a LearnVester makes the best last-minute reservations:
1. Compare the Comparisons, Too.
Kayak’s calendar feature is great for travelers with flexibility, and Priceline is good bet for last-minute trips. But, lots of different travel sites aggregate different information, and that can be exhausting. To, ahem, aggregate the aggregators, we love IgoUgo, which allows you to compare rates across multiple travel websites like Kayak, Priceline, Expedia, Virgin America, and more. One important tip, however: Few of these sites include monthly specials directly from airlines, so stop by your favorite carrier's site to see if you can't nab a special deal.
2. Use Your Vacation Days. Seriously!
We know that it can often feel like there’s never a good time for you to take off from work, but it's important to pay yourself, too. Vacation days are your right. So, if you have them, use them.
Check to see if you have enough frequent flier miles for a rewards ticket. Using miles can be especially worth it for spontaneous travel, when last-minute fares can be outrageous. Even if you’re purchasing your ticket the regular way, make sure that you're signed up for that airline’s frequent flier program. Did you forget to enter your flier number when you first booked? Most airlines will let you apply flights to your rewards account after the fact; check with your specific program for details. If you’re flying internationally, figure out if the carrier is part of an alliance; if you're traveling on Iberia Airlines this summer, you could earn points for American Airlines, since they're both in the Oneworld airline alliance. (Note: LV recommends you sign up for the programs with American Airlines, Delta, and either United, Continental, or US Airways. Because of airline alliances, this will cover you almost anywhere you travel, throughout the world. Check out our best airline tips and secrets.)
4. Don't Waste Money on Travel Insurance...Probably.
Purchasing separate travel insurance is probably not necessary, as you may already be covered by your existing homeowner’s, renter’s, or health insurance policy (or even by your credit card). An exception to that rule is if you plan to travel to a hurricane-prone area like the Caribbean or Mexico. If so, weigh the risk of your trip being cancelled because of a storm. Many resorts offer hurricane guarantee policies, but you'll need to read the fine print to determine if it would be worthwhile to purchase supplementary insurance. If so, compare plans to find the best price.
5. Make a Summer Reading List of a Different Sort.
No matter were you go, read up on your destination to find out if any must-sees require advance reservations (for example, tickets to see The Last Supper in Milan must be ordered three months in advance). You don’t want your vacation to go to waste when you can’t experience what you came to do (even if you booked those plane tickets at a great price).
And, finally, here are the very best and worst places to travel this summer:
This summer, skip Europe and travel instead to countries with a favorable currency conversion rate. Brazil, Thailand, Morocco, and Mexico are all good spots to stretch your dollar further. We love this handy map tool from The Economist, which compares how the dollar fares against foreign currencies tracks trends over time.
… Not There.
Big events draw lots of extra visitors and raise flight and hotel prices considerably at host cities. If you're a casual tourist, you'll want to avoid the crowds and the complications. This summer, steer clear of South Africa from mid-June to mid-July, as it will host the World Cup. Avoid Switzerland in mid-June because of Art Basel, and Venice in early July because of the Heineken Jammin’ Festival. Also, avoid Europe entirely in August, as it's oppressively hot; you don’t want to spend big money on your trip and then wind up spending the whole time indoors. Plus, many Europeans leave town this month, so museums and stores may be closed or operating on summer hours.