How to Beat Rising Summer Travel Costs
Timing and destination matter if you're looking to save money.
Finding travel bargains this summer may be a littler harder. Airfares are expected to rise 15% to $561, on average, from $485 last summer, according to Bing Travel, a Web site that predicts fares. And hotel costs are expected to rise 7% to $242 a night, on average, from $227 in 2010.
However, you still can find deals if you travel at the right time and to the right spots, and book flights as soon as possible, according to the Bing Travel summer forecast.
When to travel. The cheapest week to travel this summer will be May 30 to June 5, when airfares will average $518 for a round trip, according to the Bing forecast. The priciest week will be June 27 to July 3, when airfares will average about $595.
Where to travel. Orlando, Fla., will be among the cheapest destinations, with roundtrip airfare averaging $300 and hotel prices averaging $107 per night. You'll also find deals on flights to Boston and Denver. Las Vegas has some of the lowest rates on three-star accommodations, and you also can find deals in Miami and San Diego. Hotel prices in Cancun actually are cheaper this year ($145, on average, at three-star hotels), and flights from certain aiports (Boston, Dallas and Chicago) to the Mexican city are cheaper. Traveling overseas this summer will be more expensive, with the airfare averaging $1,250, up from $1,100 last summer.
When to book your travel. Book flights as soon as possible. “Travelers who are planning to wait out the rising fares in hopes of finding a deal will likely be disappointed," says Krista Pappas, global travel industry director at Bing.
More ways to save
Be flexible. If you don't need to travel on a specific date, Bing Travel will show you when fares are cheapest to a destination of your choice. The Buzz tool at Kayak.com lets you search for flights that leave within a calendar month so you can find the lowest fare. If you're looking to get away but don't have a particular destination in mind, Airfarewatchdog.com will show you the cheapest flights out of the airport nearest to you. You also can save money if you're flexbile about which airport you fly out of or into (see How to Save on Last-Minute Flights).
Avoid baggage fees. If saving money by being flexible isn't an option, at least don't pay more than you have to when you fly. Only Southwest Airlines lets you check two bags for free. Most of the other airlines charge about $25 for your first checked bag and $35 for a second checked bag. So pack lightly in a carry-on or consider shipping your luggage, especially if you have overweight or oversize bags that will cost significantly less to ship.
Consider Priceline. I save big on hotel rooms whenever I use Priceline's Name Your Own Price feature. You won't know which hotel you're booking until you pay, but you can increase your odds of getting the hotel you want by following these tips.
Consider a vacation rental home, especially for longer stays. Renting an apartment, condo or house can often be cheaper than a hotel room. Plus, you'll have access to a kitchen, so you won't have to pay for pricey restaurant meals. Check HomeAway.com or VRBO.com.
For more ways to cut costs, see 20 Secrets to Save on Travel.