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How to Travel on a Budget

You deserve a vacation now and then for some much-needed rest, relaxation and fun.
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Not surprisingly, domestic travel has increased over 200% since 2020. But if you’re not careful, your travel budget can quickly get out of hand. Andrews Federal Credit Union in Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, and New Jersey is here to help with tips and tricks to help you save money and travel better.

Pack your bags for better days ahead

As you may know, the cost of plane tickets changes every day, sometimes several times a day. Airfare websites may raise and lower prices depending on demand, but, according to U.S. Money News, domestic travelers should start searching for flight tickets one to three months in advance and two to eight months in advance for international travelers.

When it comes to saving on plane tickets, timing is truly everything. Airlines tend to release sales on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, as they are also the least popular days of the week to book. Some brands, such as Southwest, even offer a calendar of pricing patterns. Some experts recommend avoiding booking trips on Thursdays and Fridays as those tend to have the most expensive average ticket price.

Choose your dates to travel

Use alert services such as Google Flights to do your research and monitor prices for a desired route. Don’t assume that connecting flights are automatically cheaper, either. You can save a few bucks by dealing with a layover in most cases, but that’s not always the case. Make sure to keep your search filters for airfare booking sites open to both connecting and non-stop flights.

Find the best price for airfare

Compare, compare, compare. Airfare is a competitive industry, so you must be willing to do some digging online to find the perfect price. Different websites offer varying deals for airline tickets. So, take the time to compare pricing on the travel website of your choice like Expedia, Kayak, Orbitz, and more.

And if you’re feeling confident in your planning skills, skip the travel agency and book directly with airlines and hotels. You may save money by avoiding service fees and even signing up for loyalty rewards programs. Plus, this is a great opportunity to purchase a big-ticket expense with your rewards credit card. And, if you don't already have a credit card that earns triple rewards on everyday expenses or a card with free travel protection benefits, consider applying for an Andrews Federal credit card.

If both airfare and lodging are all you need, try to bundle! Certain websites allow you to book a flight, hotel, and often a rental car, all with one click at a discounted price. Shop around and see if bundling or booking separately has the lowest cost.

The right time for a spur of the moment trip

There’s nothing like planning a getaway on a whim. However, if you’re headed overseas, your wallet may not be as excited as you are. To save some money, explore red-eye flights with stops. While it isn’t the ideal way to travel, but you may end up saving hundreds of dollars this way.

Also, avoid airlines with close-in booking fees. Airlines such as Southwest Airlines, JetBlue, and Delta do not charge booking fees for last-minute trips. Plus, traveling mid-week can be cheaper, especially when booking at least 48-hours in advance.

It wouldn’t hurt to compare ticket prices of flights at smaller airports either. Typically, larger airports offer lower prices. However, smaller airports may provide lower prices for last-minute bookings with connecting flights, so checking is always wise.

Flexibility is key: if you don’t have to fly to get to where you want to go, or your destination could pretty much be anywhere, you may have a better chance of booking a cheaper vacation. Why not book a cruise for a fun best getaway? On a cruise, you could travel in luxury to an exotic destination. Plus, cruise itineraries cover all of the details for you so, there's no research to be done. The best time to find last-minute travel deals is in the off-season. Save the impulsive travel-bug decisions for getaways accessible by car or train. Your savings account will thank you.

Reserve one-of-a-kind experiences

Now that your flights and hotel are booked, it’s time to plan your activities.

Excursions and tours can be expensive and sometimes not necessary, depending on your destination. Take the time to explore the web for free attractions to fill your time, and don’t be afraid to talk to the locals for recommended non-tourist spots to avoid high prices. Ask bartenders, servers, and Uber drivers who are used to chatting with tourists so you can pick their brains and spark a few ideas.

Opt-in for some outdoor activities, too. Public parks and self-guided walking tours are the perfect way to save some cash. Plus, some cities even offer free or discounted admission to museums on certain days of the week.

Still, thinking about booking a tour? Be sure to research and compare your options thoroughly. Some websites, such as Expedia, offer discounted tours for larger groups. Booking a tour through a travel website can ensure that you may not only make the most of your money but feel confident that your itinerary is scheduled precisely how you want it to be. Notably, some hotels offer excursions that can be booked at the reception desk and could be easily discounted when jumping on last-minute tour busses that aren’t full.

Start saving for your next adventure

Whether you’re an early-bird planner or living in the moment, there’s always a chance to save a few pennies along the way. Whether you want to discuss the best vacation club account to begin your vacation savings planning, or you want to share your vacation photos with one of Andrews Federal employees, we’re here to help every step of the way.