With 2024 approaching and the possibility of the pandemic becoming endemic, now is the time to arrange trips. While we all fantasize of going to far-flung locations, flying in business (or first) class, and staying at ultraluxe hotels, nobody wants to break the bank on a trip. Here are the top ten travel tips and tactics that I employ to save on personal travel costs.
1. Find the cheapest hotel rate on Trivago or Hotels Combined.
When I wish to stay at a luxury hotel, I always start by searching online for the lowest room rate available at that hotel. Given the number of search engines accessible on the internet nowadays, this may seem like an insurmountable task, but it is not, as two aggregator websites will do the work for you in only a few clicks! Trivago and Hotelscombined are handy websites that compare hotel prices across many sites (e.g., Ebookers, Booking.com, Otel.com, Hotels.com, Expedia, Hotelopia, etc.) and recommend the best cost. Try it for yourself here (and see how simple it is):
Once I've identified the lowest cost for a hotel stay on Trivago or Hotels Combined, my technique for booking that fare varies depending on the hotel type:
If the hotel is not part of a large chain, I book it through Hotels.com with a Best Rate Guarantee. This not only gets me the lowest rate (found on Trivago or Hotelscombined), but also allows me to earn free hotel nights through Hotels.com's Rewards program (read more about why I love Hotels.com).
When booking a large hotel chain (e.g., Hilton, Marriott, InterContinental, or Hyatt), I use the Best Rate Guarantee program to receive an additional 10–25% discount and collect loyalty points for free hotel nights.
If the hotel has free Virtuoso advantages (see below), I calculate how much I would save by booking via Virtuoso (which seldom delivers the lowest rate) rather than Hotels.com or the official hotel website (which rarely includes additional perks). If the difference is significant, Virtuoso is always my first pick for hotel reservations. Booking with Virtuoso will also earn you hotel points in your selected hotel reward program.
2. GET UPGRADES AND OTHER VIP PERKS WHEN YOU BOOK VIA VIRTUOSO.
Booking premium hotels via Virtuoso offers complimentary incentives like upgrades, meals, spa treatments, and more, making it a very lucrative travel tip. Virtuoso is the industry's largest network of luxury travel consultants, encompassing 26 countries and 9,000 advisors. So, when you book a trip with Virtuoso, you will usually speak with a Virtuoso travel agent rather than making the booking online. Virtuoso travel consultants have access to the world's most opulent hotels and resorts, often from exclusive hotel brands. The single greatest reason to book a stay via a Virtuoso travel agency is that it provides value for money by granting access to the aforementioned exclusive VIP privileges.
Booking with Virtuoso offers a significant benefit while staying at an Aman resort, the world's leading hotel group. Aman's reputation for exclusivity and luxury means that rates are never lower than those shown on their official website. However, booking via a Virtuoso travel agency rather than the Aman website will provide you with complimentary additional advantages (sometimes worth hundreds of dollars). So, if you're an Aman fan like me, Virtuoso is the way to go (otherwise, you're missing out).
3. Find the cheapest flights via Google.
mostly use the airline search engine Kayak for air trip planning. Kayak compares airfare prices across many sites, including Orbitz and CheapTickets, and offers flexible trip dates. Kayak does not offer all costs, so I also check other online ticket sellers like Travelocity, Hipmunk, Momondo, Hotwire, Skyscanner, and Expedia. Google Flights has been a great resource for locating the lowest tickets. It's a pretty easy tool: just input your trip dates and destination (city or country), then click 'explore destinations', and Google will show you a map of where you may go for the lowest price.
4. Follow famous travel bloggers.
Many airlines and hotels provide loyalty programs that enable you to earn points or miles that may be redeemed for free flights, upgrades, hotel stays, car rentals, or shopping. Everyone should enroll in these programs since they may save you a lot of money by allowing you to travel (nearly) for free while also providing you with several additional benefits. However, it takes some work to get a basic understanding of how to accumulate miles and points in the most effective way. One of the finest travel ideas is to subscribe to expert blogger newsletters, which will keep you up to speed on specials and strategies for earning or spending miles or hotel points. I now mention my six favorite travel blogs, which have helped me save significantly on my personal vacation budget.
- One mile at a time is my favorite blog.
- The Points Guy, Million Mile Secret, Loyalty Lobby, View from the Wing, and Head for Points
That being said, my personal travel blog (now seven years old) attempts to be a beneficial resource with ideas and methods for saving money while traveling in style. In my hotel evaluations, I usually include a section on 'how to save money', outlining the best approach to booking that hotel. In addition, every Friday, I produce a newsletter with current travel suggestions.
5. KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR AIRLINE SALES (SPECIALLY QATAR AIRWAYS.
Most airlines have periodic discounts when they offer cheaper flight tickets. If you subscribe to their email lists, you will be among the first to know about any sales that take place. For example, British Airways often offers promotions in which you may book a Business Class return ticket and travel one leg in First Class. Swiss often runs promotions with first-class rates that are less expensive than flying business class. Qatar Airways often offers 2-for-1 deals, allowing you to travel with a friend for free when purchasing a Business Class ticket. For example, a few weeks ago, Qatar Airways offered a sale with Business Class flights from Europe and the United States to the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Oceania, starting at an astonishing 1000 euros (850 USD) per person. Although the sale has ended, they plan to offer fresh ones in the future.
6. EARN MILES WITH A CREDIT CARD
Frequent-flyer programs, often known as airline miles, reward customers with points that may be redeemed for free trips. Around half of my miles are earned not by flying but by using my credit card, which gets 1.5 miles for every dollar spent. I've learned to utilize my credit card for everyday needs like groceries, gasoline, and shopping rather than paying in cash. Credit cards are excellent for earning miles in the United States and, to a lesser degree, in the United Kingdom. If you are not a resident of the United States or the United Kingdom, a decent method could be to get an American Express credit card, which is accessible in most countries (albeit typically at a high price) and enables you to convert Amex points into airline miles.
7. UPGRADE WITH YOUR MILES.
You may not have enough miles to fly Business Class, but if you book in the class below your favorite seat, you may be able to upgrade your ticket using air miles or points. British Airways has a great frequent flyer program that allows you to use your points for upgrades. I've examined their business and first-class trips before. One of the most effective methods to spend British Airways points, known as Avios, is to upgrade one class (from Economy to Premium Economy, Premium Economy to Business, or Business to First). On a long-haul trip, upgrading a cash ticket to the next cabin typically costs roughly 25,000 Avios (where available). Avios may be used for upgrades on British Airways, Iberia, and American Airlines flights.
To travel Business Class with British Airways from London to New York, buy a Premium Economy ticket, then login to "Manage My Booking" on BA.com, choose your trip, and then "Upgrade this flight with Avios." If there is a reward available, British Airways will inform you of the cost. In this scenario, an off-peak reward ticket in World Traveller Plus costs 26,000 Avios, whereas an off-peak reward flight in Club World costs 50,000 Avios. Therefore, the cost of upgrading this flight using Avios is 50,000-26,000 = 24,000 Avios. Whether you bought your trip via a travel agency or not, you must contact them to see whether your reservation may be upgraded using Avios.
Even if you don't have enough miles for an upgrade, don't give up. If you are running short on hotel points, try changing them to airline miles to increase your balance. Many airlines now have a part-buy miles-flight option, in which you may pay to purchase the miles you need when you book your redemption ticket.
8. Travel to emerging destinations.
For good reason, the most popular vacation locations are often the most costly. During peak season, the breathtaking beauty of the Maldives and Seychelles may cost up to $1000 USD per night, not including luxury hotel accommodations. However, some of us want more meaningful and genuine experiences that these off-the-shelf tourist attractions just cannot provide—experiences that also enable us to save money on our travels. Only a few countries fit that profile, and they are on my radar to visit soon, before the crowds—and thus the rise in room rates—arrive. Mongolia, Georgia, Montenegro, the Cook Islands, Uzbekistan, and Paraguay all appear to be excellent travel destinations for 2022, where one can still travel cheaply without sacrificing too much luxury. For more travel inspiration and suggestions, check out Lonely Planet's list of 2022's must-see sites and activities.
9. Book newly opened hotels.
Booking recently opened hotels is one of the money-saving travel tips I've been utilizing for years with great success. I usually aim to stay in luxury hotels that have just opened to take advantage of the frequently ridiculous opening deals designed to entice guests. For example, Soneva Jani in the Maldives (opened in 2016) and Six Senses Bhutan (opened in 2019) provided visitors with over 50% savings, including several extras, in their initial weeks of operation. Some hotels, such as Como Maalifushi in the Maldives and Raflles Seychelles, enable guests to negotiate their own rates. As a result, you may wish to read my lists of the trendiest new hotels in 2021 and 2022 and see if any of the featured hotels are on your future vacation itinerary. Luxury hotels seem to be in high demand, particularly in Asia (e.g., Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand).
10. DO NOT BE OBSESSED WITH TRAVEL AND LOYALTY.
I confess that I was formerly enamored with loyalty schemes. I would book rooms and perform mileage runs with the sole purpose of earning as many hotel points and airline miles as possible. Granted, this technique has provided me with a plethora of incredible experiences, including flying First Class with several of the world's top airlines. However, with time, I realized that loyalty had become less lucrative (with many hotel and airline programs implementing large devaluations) and that loyalty was driving my travel choices rather than the other way around. That is why I gave up my fixation with loyalty programs. By doing so, I found that I lowered my levels of travel-related stress (yes, loyalty can induce tension by making you want to keep your elite status) and added diversity to my trips by visiting various places, airlines, and hotels. In fact, I'm thinking about leaving all of my loyalty programs and simply taking a more casual attitude toward travel, particularly now that there are so many amazing travel discounts available that loyalty doesn't seem to make much sense.