About to book a trip? Here’s a Q & A on saving money on airfares and hotels.
Q:When is the best time to buy an airline ticket?
A: There is no overarching rule, but generally the sweet spot is four to six weeks before you travel. Prices are highest eight to 10 weeks and two to three weeks in advance.
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However, start your search earlier, if possible. Learn what fares tend to be on a route so you can jump on a deal when one appears. Timing it right can save a family hundreds of dollars. And remember, with most fares you now have 24 hours to cancel for any reason. Use that to your advantage.
Q: Is it worth paying for extras such as more legroom, access to shorter security lines and early boarding?
A: There are a number of things to consider, including the length of your flight — and your legs. The airline and time of day can also matter. You can buy your way to the front of a security line. United, for examples, charges $9 for the privilege.
But first consider the time you’re flying. At lunchtime on a Tuesday, the airport is probably empty anyway. However, if you’re leaving Las Vegas on a Sunday, the fee could be money well spent.
Boarding early improves your chances of finding overhead space. But that’s about it. If you don’t have a carry-on bag, then save the money — typically $10 each way.
Only on Southwest — which doesn’t assign seats — is there an additional advantage: being first to pick where to sit.
Then there’s legroom. JetBlue charges extra for seats in the front of the plane with more legroom. But its standard seats already have 3 inches more legroom than a similar seat on United.
“Preferred seats” on American Airlines start at $4 and climb to $99, depending on the length of a flight. But there isn’t extra space — you’re just nearer the front.
Q: How can I save a few bucks on my hotel stay?
A: Ask about extra charges. Parking at some hotels might be $10 a night, while big-city hotels can charge in excess of $50. Internet access might cost $10 a day or more.
Many big hotels also have a mandatory resort fee — that includes Internet, phone calls and use of the pool — that can run $25 a night or more.
Look for savings on food and drink. Hotel chains such as Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express offer free breakfasts, which can save a lot.
Join the frequent-guest program. Omni, Fairmont and Kimpton all give program members free Wi-Fi. Fairmont gives its members free access to health clubs. Kimpton gives a $10 credit toward snacks in its minibars.
Big chains typically run summer promotions. They offer loyalty-club members rewards like a $25 gas card or a free future night after just two stays.
For smaller hotels and bed-and-breakfasts, pick up the phone and negotiate.
Q: Are nonrefundable rooms a good deal?
A: Sites like Priceline and Hotwire offer deep discounts in exchange for taking a chance. Vacationers only learn the name of a hotel after they pay upfront. They also aren’t guaranteed a bed type. And some hotels give such guests less desirable rooms.
Many hotels now offer nonrefundable rates on their own websites. The savings might be less, but you still get to pick your room type and know where you will be staying. If your plans change and you rebook, however, you lose your money.
Keep in mind that room prices can drop after you book. That discounted, nonrefundable rate could still be higher than if you booked the room a month later.
A relatively new travel site,
Tingo.com, tries to balance the best of both worlds. Guests prepay for a fully refundable hotel room. But if the rate falls, Tingo automatically cancels the reservation and rebooks travelers at the new, lower rate and refunds the difference. The typical rebate is $50, according to the site, which is owned by TripAdvisor.