by Alexa Guidone, Project Analyst
For many, Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of the summer season. Longer days and warmer weather means breaking out the grill, dusting off the beach chairs, and hitting the beach. For others it’s time to roll out the suitcases and pack up the bags for vacation. While the days are heating up, so is the price of travel. Proper planning and research are the keys to enjoying a stress free and low cost, summer vacation. Whether you’re looking to get away for just the weekend or escape on a cross-country adventure, Source One has tips that will help you save time, money and avoid the hassles associated with summer travel.
Airline travel is stressful even during the slowest times of the year. The rising cost of fuel, stifling heat and throngs of people all looking to get away can make airplane travel in the summer unbearable. However, following a few smart planning tips can help save you time and money.
- Book ahead. If you’ve ever wondered if there is a method to the madness that is ticket prices, there is. Travel site cheapair.com compiled and analyzed all of their flight data from 2012 in attempt to determine the best time to purchase airline tickets. Their analysis uncovered that, for domestic flights, historical averages show prices will steadily drop up until about the 7-week point. After the 49 day mark prices will increase again then decline steadily until 11 days before departure when ticket fares on average will skyrocket and continue to climb right up until the day of departure.
- Become a rewards member. If you travel often you can usually find great deals through joining your preferred airline’s frequent flyer program. In addition, signing up for a credit card with travel rewards is also a great way to save money. Research for this article uncovered several major airlines with credit cards that allow members, and sometimes travel companions, to check bags for free, among other perks.
- Look at nearby airports. Saving money on airline travel can often be achieved by flying from an airline’s hub airport or flying from smaller, regional airports. For example, a major airline recently moved its operations from Philadelphia International to the much-smaller Trenton-Mercer Airport in New Jersey. The cities are less than an hour’s drive apart, but the airline’s operational costs – and therefore ticket costs – are much lower. On top of that, in order to promote the move, the airline was offering fares as low as $118 for round trip tickets throughout the summer!
- Pack smart. Let’s face it. The likelihood that you’re going to be able to pack your belongings for a week-long vacation in a carry-on suitcase is slim. Split baggage fees, and the space, with your travel companion and use your carry-on for leftover items or bulky items like shoes. If you don’t need the bag during your flight, airlines will often ask for volunteers to check carry-ons to conserve over head space. (If you absolutely refuse to check a bag, see below for tips on packing light.)
- Sign up for travel alerts. Airlines are always running specials on travel and often will only release a limited number of tickets at the intended sale price. Signing up for airline mailing lists will give you access to this information as soon as it becomes available. You can also sign up for email alerts through booking websites that will notify you of price decreases or special deals on your specified travel routes.
Packing light can also be a great way to save some money when traveling. In addition, it can also drastically reduce the time you spend preparing for your trip as well as travelling itself. In an article on Lifehacker , author Adam Dachis offers tips for fitting two weeks’ worth of luggage into your carry-on.
- Choose the right bag. Since clothing can act as barrier for more fragile items, you can forgo a large boxy suitcase in lieu of something more flexible like a duffel bag. As per airline regulations, all carry-on bags are required not to exceed measurements of more than 8”x17”x12” however, choosing a bag without rigid sides will allow you to easily compress your carry on and even exceed those measurements giving you a little extra packing space.
- Make the most of your space. Utilizing efficient packing and organization techniques can help you make the most of your carry on space. Rolling clothes, instead of folding them flat, will not only help to preserve more space but will also help prevent wrinkles. Pack heavier items like jeans and pants, at the bottom and lighter items at the top thus creating a foundation which will help reduce shifting during travel. Wear your bulkiest shoes on the plane and pack the ones that take up the least amount of space in the side pockets. Important travel documents, and books and magazines can be placed in your “personal item” carry-on, such as a purse or messenger bag.
- Bring only the necessities. Probably the most important tip in learning to pack efficiently is choosing which items to leave behind. The anxiety associated with travel and being away from home can often lead to over-packing. Plan out your outfits ahead of time so you’ll know exactly what to bring. Try to avoid packing too many single-use items. If you need a jacket, wear it on the plane; you can always put in the overhead or use it as pillow. Purchase travel size toiletries or even wait until reaching your destination to purchase these items. Most importantly ask yourself if you really need it, chances are you probably don’t.
- Leave your laptop at home! You’re on vacation, this is your time to relax and enjoy some time away from the stresses of day to day life. Leave the work behind, it will still be there when you get back.
As with most things in life, proper preparation will pay off in the long run especially when it comes to travel. While we can’t do anything about the traffic or the crowds, following these easy tips can certainly help save you time, money, and perhaps even a bit of sanity.