Ready to travel in 2016? So are we. And we’re always looking for a good deal.
To help us figure out some sharp tactics for saving money and extending our travel funds, we checked in with Sarah Gavin, Expedia’s travel expert, to get her best tips for travel in the new year. As head of communications for the Texas-based company, she is able to access the company’s insider data. Every year they perform nearly 8 billion flight searches, and when they crunch that data, they can spot some pretty good tactics for saving money.
Fortunately, she shared some of the best with us. And fortunately for you, we’re not keeping those tactics to ourselves. You’re in on the secrets now, too. Whether you decide to tell your friends is up to you. (But it is the season for sharing.)
Tip #1: Look to Asia for good deals
“It’s a really good time to go to Asia,” Gavin says. “Flights from North America to Asia are 13 percent less expensive year over year.” She says the discounts can be attributed to a “capacity issue.” There simply are more airlines going there than ever before, which means more seats and more fare sales.
Tip #2: Travel within Asia once you’re there.
“Once you get there [Asia], travelers can find a lot of good deals on affordable flights between some of the top cities,” says Gavin. Within the continent, there are a number of local and regional airlines that provide affordable connections between urban destinations. “You can get pretty good deals on the regional jumps at the last minute,” Gavin says, “for example, if you have to go from Singapore to Malaysia at the last minute.”
Tip #3: Look to Europe for savings.
It’s still great time to go to Europe because of the strong U.S. dollar (which is expected to stay strong in 2016). That strong dollar helps travelers “stretch” their money, and flights from North America to Europe are down 8 percent because of fuel-related costs.
Tip #4: Expect to find good flight deals in general.
Gavin said Expedia’s data show a 5-8 percent decrease in flight ticket prices, which is a substantial drop. Most of that savings comes from fuel costs, so as long as fuel prices stay low, 2016 could be a really good year for flights almost anywhere.
Tip #5: Bundle up for savings.
We’re not recommending a trip to Antarctica. Instead, we’re talking about the kind of bundling you do when you book flights and hotels together.
“For a really long time, it’s been true that if you book flight and hotel at same time, you can save a lot money.” Gavin says she expects that it’s from bundled TV-phone and internet offerings from cable companies, but whatever it is, “People are starting to understand travel bundling for the first time.” By booking a flight and a hotel together, “you can potentially save $800-900 on a weeklong vacation,” especially at resort-type hotels like in the Caribbean, where travelers tend to spend most of their time on the hotel property.
The savings typically come off the price of airfare and hotel combined. The savings come from the fact that airlines want to sell the ticket far in advance, and Gavin explains that when people book a hotel with a flight, they are 75 percent less likely to cancel. And hotels, she says, “are highly incented to get you to book farther in advance so they can manage their capacity.”
Tip #6: You can still unbundle.
While booking flights and hotels together can save you a “bundle” of money, you still have the ability to cancel each part of the trip separately, although you still have to follow the specific cancelation rules you agreed to when you booked with the airline and the hotel company. So don’t be afraid that the bundle is a trap.
Tip #7: Trip insurance is getting better.
The reality is that most travelers don’t buy travel insurance. Some travel insurance industry executives will say that travelers buy travel insurance no more than 15-20 percent of the time, but other estimates put the number much lower.
But that could be changing because travel insurance is getting better. “Travel insurance really used to be expensive, and coverage wasn’t very good,” Gavin said. But as more businesses have entered the travel insurance space recently, Gavin said she has seen prices come down, offers become less complicated and offerings have been better.
Tip #8: Snag a last-minute hotel deal.
Empty hotel rooms are rotting inventory. If they don’t fill the room, the hotel’s opportunity to make money that night is gone, never to return. That’s why most hotels are now offering their inventory via last-minute deals through apps such as Hotel Tonight, Expedia, Priceine and Lastminute.com. According to Gavin, the hotels often don’t release those last-minute deals until the last 72 hours before the night of stay, and sometimes they only advertise the deals to people who are in the area, as identified by GPS location information in your phone which tips off the app.
Though these deals can be great for a last-minute getaway, it can also be useful if you’re in a city and need to extend your stay for business, for an emergency or because you’re having a great time, even too good of time.
Tip #9: Book early for domestic flights.
“If you can book 21 days out, you’ll save about 36 percent,” says Gavin. And if you can book your flight even earlier, you’ll find that you can save even more. Some time around 57 days out is the sweet spot for the most savings, but keep in mind these recommendations are based on aggregate data, and savings may vary for specific routes and flights you are researching.
Tip #10: Book even earlier for international flights.
Gavin found that you need to book approximately 150-170 days out to get the best deals on international flights. After that time, prices often steadily climb. And considering how pricey international flights are, this is one tactic you never want to ignore.