If you’re thinking about booking travel for this summer, know that this year is a little different because people have been waiting out the COVID-19 pandemic to take back to the skies.
Money expert Clark Howard has some advice that could help you save money on your next trip.
Thinking of Traveling This Summer? Read This
Travel demand has skyrocketed, as airline bookings and hotel occupancy in February surpassed any point in the last two years, according to S&P Global, a New York-based financial analytics company.
“Everybody’s been caught flat-footed by the instant increase in demand in air travel,” Clark says. “As soon as Omicron went into the rearview mirror, everybody who loves travel all at once decided ‘Hey, I’m going!’ And so the planes are full beyond measure, and the price of tickets has gone bonkers.”
In January, the average fare sold by U.S. travel agencies was $409, according to CNBC. In February, that number jumped to $464 and may continue to rise.
Clark says because of the surge in demand, you’re going to want to take advantage of any deal that catches your eye.
“If there’s ever been a time to follow my prime rule about travel, this spring, summer and fall, do not pick your destination first, unless you’re having to go to a wedding or something like that,” he says.
How To Save on Travel This Summer
Let’s get into five things you’ll want to do to save on summer travel.
1. Follow Clark’s #1 Travel Rule
What is Clark’s prime rule about travel? It’s that you let the destination pick you, not the other way around: Base your trip on the best deal you can find. That way, you’ll enjoy both your trip and the money you save.
2. Explore Discount Airlines
Clarks says complaints about the three major discount air carriers – Allegiant Air, Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines – are well known. But now budget-conscious travelers have two more relatively new discount airlines to choose from: Avelo Airlines and Breeze Airways.
Clark says of the newcomers: “I don’t get complaints about them yet.”
Avelo, based out of Houston, launched in April 2021; it focuses on “close-to-home airports,” according to its website.
Breeze Airways, which is headquartered in Salt Lake City, flew its first flight in May 2021 and has been aggressively adding routes since then.
3. Check Route Maps
The reason those five discount carriers mentioned above should be of particular interest right now is because where they fly holds the key to you saving on airfare, Clark says.
He says you can figure out where the competitive fares are likely to be on the major airlines by looking at the route maps of the low-cost carriers.
“You look at their route maps and that helps you know figure out – even if you don’t want to fly one of those five – where you’re going to find better deals on American, United, Delta, Southwest, Hawaiian Air, and JetBlue,” Clark says. “That’s where they compete with the five deep discounters.”
“It takes just a minute,” Clark adds. “Go to any of their airline websites: They’re happy to show you their route maps.”
Here are the route maps to the five discount airlines:
4. Consider Both Domestic and International Locations
When looking for fares, don’t restrict your search to domestic destinations. Looking for the deals? Look abroad!
“International travel has not come back like domestic,” Clark says, “and one of the weirdest things right now is that you possibly could find a much cheaper fare outside of the United States — from the United States to somewhere else — than you can within the United States.”
“The more flexible you are about where you go and when you go is going to help you save money,” Clark says.
5. Travel in August
When it comes to the best time to travel this year, Clark likes somewhere within the last two weeks of August.
“August used to be the most expensive month of summer to travel, for accommodations and for flights,” he says. “Now, because so many schoolkids go back as early as August 1, depending on where in the country, it has sapped a lot of demand for family-oriented summer vacations, making especially the second half of August and beyond a cheaper time to travel than you would see otherwise.”
Because travel has rebounded in such a big way and prices have increased, Clark wants you to have some maneuverability that will help you save money on your trip.
“With travel this year, flexibility s going to be absolutely essential,” he says.
Follow his five steps for summer travel. You and your wallet will be happy you did.