Hotel prices and airfare decline ahead of summer travel season but remain high — here’s how to cut costs

Couple smiling at each other as they sit together at a rooftop restaurant while on vacationImage: Couple smiling at each other as they sit together at a rooftop restaurant while on vacation
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Summer vacations can burn through your budget, but there are plenty of ways to cut costs on your next trip. Read on for tips and strategies that can help you get the most bang for your buck.

Tips for saving money on air travel and hotels

1. Book your flights in advance

Most airlines only offer a limited number of seats on popular flights at lower fares. These deals often sell out quickly, so it’s important to book your flight as soon as possible. Don’t fret if you waited — sometimes those flights don’t book up and you can find last-minute deals.

2. Be flexible with your travel dates

Avoid flying on peak travel days, such as holidays. The best deals for traveling might be found on Tuesday through Thursday or Friday night through Sunday morning. You might also be able to cut costs by flying out late at night. Seasonality, holidays, major events and weather can also cause hotel room rates to fluctuate.

3. Use a travel search engine

A travel search engine like Google Flights or Kayak can help you compare prices from different airlines. And Google Flights has a price alert feature that allows you to track the price of a flight and be notified when the price changes.

4. Use a travel agent

While it might seem outdated, a travel agent can still help you find the best deals on flights, hotels and other travel. There’s typically no fee for you because a travel agent receives a commission from the airline. They can also find discounted flights by working with consolidators (companies that buy blocks of seats at a discounted rate).

5. Pay with points

Regular purchases on a travel credit card can accrue points and miles every time you swipe. You can turn around and redeem your rewards for airfare, hotels and other travel expenses. Just keep in mind that it may take a while to save up enough rewards for a trip. You can also earn a lot of points upfront by using a card with a one-time sign-up bonus.

6. Enroll in a frequent-flier program

Frequent-flier programs reward you for flying with a particular airline or group of airlines. The best airline rewards programs let you earn miles for your travel and redeem those rewards for flights. You can also redeem miles for food and beverage perks or an upgrade.  

7. Take advantage of special discounts

Several airlines offer reduced fares to older adults. The age requirement for these discount fares varies by airline but is typically 65 or older. British Airways offers flight savings for AARP members. A number of carriers — including Alaska Airlines, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines — offer military travel benefits to active-duty service members in some markets. If you’re a student, you may qualify for discounts offered by airlines such as Lufthansa and Qatar Airways. And United Airlines offers 5% discounts for travelers between 18 and 23 years old who book on the United app.

8. Fly with a budget airline

Budget airlines offer lower fares than traditional carriers, but they may charge extra for things baggage fees, meals and seat assignments.

9. Sign up for email alerts from airlines, hotels and travel websites

Airlines, hotel and travel websites often send out email alerts with info about special deals and promotions.

10. Consider flying into an alternate airport

When flying to a large metro area with multiple airports, the fare could be cheaper at one airport versus another. Check on alternate airports and routings when pricing a ticket.

11. Travel during the off-season

You may be able to find cheaper flights, cheaper hotels and fewer crowds by traveling during the off-season.

12. Pack light

The less luggage you bring, the less you may have to pay in baggage fees — especially for international flights.

What’s next?

Air travel can be expensive, but there are plenty of ways to cut costs. Saving money in other areas could also help put a little more cash in your pocket for upcoming travel.

Working a travel fund into your budget can also help you set aside a little at a time so that you don’t have to come up with a lot of cash all at once.

About the author: Brad Hanson is a senior editor at Credit Karma. His 30 years of experience in print and digital media includes work for the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service, and Polyvore. Most recently before… Read more.