Money expert Clark Howard is a wellspring of knowledge when it comes to financial topics.
But the former travel agency owner will always hold a special place in his heart for saving money on travel.
Clark’s No. 1 travel rule: look for a great deal on flights and choose your destination based on that deal.
Saving money on airfare through discounts and sales can help you stretch your vacation dollars in a major way. But what happens if you lock in plane tickets at a good price, only to find that everything else at your destination is expensive?
That’s what a listener of the Clark Howard Podcast recently asked.
What If I Book My Flight Before I Realize Hotel Rooms Are Too Expensive?
What do I do if I book my plane tickets before realizing the hotel, rental car and other prices are sky-high?
That’s what a listener wondered on the Jan. 24 podcast episode.
Joe in New Jersey: “Clark has talked about his #1 travel rule to save money: Don’t pick a destination. Find a great airfare deal to anywhere within your budget. My concern with this approach is that you pay for the flight, then find out that the hotel and rental car costs are exorbitant, eliminating any savings you may have received by getting a discounted flight. Hotels and car rentals can easily exceed flight costs. Maybe you should start with getting a discounted hotel.”
Joe brings up a good point. If you find plane tickets to Australia for a 30% discount vs. normal prices, but the hotel and car rental prices are overpriced, you may not be traveling cheap at all.
Right now, that’s actually the case in Hawaii, as Clark pointed out to another listener.
“Airfares from the West Coast to Hawaii have been the lowest I can ever recall. Just a few weeks ago, fares to Hawaii from certain West Coast cities were $178 round trip,” Clark says. “The hard part is when you get to Hawaii it’s really expensive right now.”
Does Clark Stand By His No. 1 Travel Rule?
So has Clark decided to modify his top travel rule? Not a chance.
Great airfare is here today, gone tomorrow, Clark says. So when you see a deal on plane tickets, grab it. But that doesn’t mean you’re stuck paying top dollar for accommodations at that destination.
“You have 24 hours after you book an airline flight to decide, ‘Oops, bad idea, cancel’ So what I like for you to do is book and pay for the flight, but make sure you have 24 hours to cancel fee- and penalty-free,” Clark says.
“That 24 hours is your shopping time. To see what accomodations will cost you. To see what a rental car will cost you. Use that window like an option period.
“If it turns out you’re right, the hotels are crazy expensive, the car rentals are insane, well, you’re fine. You just cancel the flight and you say, ‘Well that would’ve been nice.’ And it cost you nothing but your time.”
Tips To Find Cheap Rental Cars
If you’re worried about expensive rental car prices, you now have more options than the behemoths of Hertz, Avis and Enterprise.
Clark’s middle brother has been saving all kinds of money with Turo, a peer-to-peer car lending option.
“My brother was just at the college national championship game in Los Angeles. And the car rentals spiked [prices to] nearly $1,000 a day,” Clark says. “He rented a Turo and saved a fortune.”
You can do further research on the cheapest way to rent a car as well.
Cheap airfare is fleeting. So focus on securing well-priced flights if you want a wallet-friendly vacation.
But it’s a good idea to shop for hotels and rental cars within 24 hours of booking your flight, just in case they’re overpriced.
If the only thing cheap about a destination is the flight, you can usually cancel your airfare within 24 hours.