It’s only been a couple of weeks since that long, long winter finally gave way to spring. And while you may still be thinking about spring planting, you may also want to look ahead to booking your summer travel.
To get the best summer travel tips, Straight Talk spoke to travel journalist and Airfarewatchdog founder George Hobica. Here’s what Hobica recommends when it comes to getting the most of your travel dollar.
When should you book your summer flight?
“I don’t think there’s a best time, honestly,” Hobica says. “We have seen some fairly last-minute deals when the airlines haven’t filled up their planes, and they get a little panicky. I just tell people to shop a lot and look every day. The number of seats available at the lowest fare does fluctuate, and also the fares themselves do go down.”
“They don’t share all their fares with third party sites,” Hobica says. “So it’s a real hunting game. You really have to look at a lot of different sources.” He adds, “I always tell people to sign up for airline frequent flyer programs, newsletters and alerts. Sometimes interesting sales just pop up, and they’re very short-lived.”
If you’re worried that you may have missed your window to book hotels at a discount, Hobica says he doubts it.
“In the past few years, with the economy not being very good, people will negotiate,” he says. “You can sometimes call the hotel and ask for a better rate. Plus, you can get something thrown in, like free parking. And always ask for an upgrade — they might give you a better room at the same price. Also, go to the hotel’s website. Sign up for their newsletter. I just stayed in Pismo Beach at a special rate that they have on their website, which I didn’t see on Kayak.”
Hobica notes that Tingo — a sister site to Airfarewatchdog — offers a service where, if you pay for lodging in advance through Tingo, you’ll get refunded the difference, should the hotel lower its rate before you arrive.
If you’re interested in package deals — booking a flight and a hotel together — Hobica recommends checking with travel sites as well as airlines.
For some locations, says Hobica, trying to book a summerhouse now is last minute. Some homes, in fact, are even booked a year ahead.
“People who are picky about where they’re going to stay have already booked,” Hobica says. “But there’s always stuff left over. It might not be on the beach, it might not be the best, but there’s always stuff left over.”
As for how to find the house, Hobica says you can search via local brokers, local newspapers and magazines, Craigslist and even alumni magazines.
And speaking of rentals, you can get a lot more with your money if you rent an apartment rather than a hotel, according to Hobica. “You get to be in your own apartment,” Hobica points out. “A lot of people are doing that. And almost every major city in the world has an apartment rental agency.”
If you need your own vehicle during your vacation, you do have options beyond the major car rental agencies. Hobica recommends checking out discounts on Priceline, while the online service AutoSlash can help you find rental promo codes to help you lower your rental costs.
“If you’re staying in Europe for the whole summer, you’ll probably want to look into leasing a car,” Hobica says. “You can get a brand new car from, like, Renault or Peugeot. It would actually be cheaper for you and you’d get better insurance coverage.”
Finally, Hobica points out that “if you don’t want to do all the work yourself,” you can always enlist the help of a travel agent. “They sometimes have tricks up their sleeves.”
How do you book your summer travel? When do you start making plans?