Before you lock in those summer travel plans, make sure you’re getting the most bang out of your travel buck. Here are are 13 favorite tips from Pauline Frommer of travel-guide company Frommer’s on where to scrimp and splurge when planning a vacation and how to get the best rates on airfare, car rentals and lodging.
1. For airline tickets, check Momondo first. Frommer’s compared prices quoted by airfare search engines, aggregators and booking websites on 25 popular routes, both for last-minute flights and those booked six weeks ahead. The results? Momondo is the best place to find the cheapest airfare. Skyscanner came in second. Frommer’s ran a similar test for hotel booking sites and found that Booking.com came out on top, especially for travelers looking for city-center spots under $200 a night.
2. Accept a little discomfort in the air. “I think it is a huge waste of money to buy business class or first class unless you’re 6’4″ and will be in incredible agony,” says Frommer, co-president and editorial director of Frommer’s. “People concentrate too much on the flight. It is a couple of hours and then you’re in this wonderful destination. So if it is between getting a business class seat and eating a meal in a spectacular restaurant or seeing a show, the hell with business class.”
3. Always carry on. “You do not want to be a slave to your suitcase. I only own carry-on luggage and that forces me to pack less than I would have normally and you just wear things over and over,” says Frommer. Packing light delivers three big advantages: You avoid costly airline baggage fees, skip wasting time waiting at baggage claim, and can use public transit easily to get from the airport to your destination or from one city to another.
4. Buy your airfare on the weekends. A study by the Airline Reporting Corporation looked at 26 million fare transactions and found that the lowest ticket prices can be found on weekends, more than 21 days in advance. The study also noted that Fridays are when you’ll spend the most to purchase your flight.
5. Don’t skip a must-see solely because of cost. Sightseeing is “what you are there to do,” says Frommer, so don’t be too quick to rule out a sight simply because of the fee. “I remember when I was in college traveling with a friend, we decided not to go to the Prado in Madrid because we spent too much the day before. I so regret that. What a stupid thing to go all the way to Madrid and not go to the Prado,” she recalls.That said, you don’t have to see everything and you don’t have to book tours to feel as though you’re getting a full experience. “Too many of us fall into the trap of thinking I’m gonna miss something unless I let someone else plan this and then pay too much for a tour,” Frommer says. “Really, your vacation should be based around your own interests. We are all smart enough to do some advance research and create an itinerary that allows us to take in the best for us.”