It was the summer when everyone decided to travel again. Sixty percent of Americans had plans for a summer vacation, according to Deloitte’s 2022 Summer Travel Survey. And good for them. After being imprisoned for over two years due to the pandemic, we all deserved a much needed break.
But this year, that vacation was hard-earned. With gas prices skyrocketing, trips were expensive. With limited flights, expensive airfares, and frequent delays and cancellations, flights have been hectic. According to Hopper, the flight price tracking app, this summer saw the highest flight prices in five years. Once you got to your destination, limited staff and large crowds often meant more waiting in lines. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in the leisure and hospitality sector is still down 7.1 percent from February 2020 levels.
In short, high fuel prices, labor shortages and a post-pandemic thirst for travel have created a perfect storm. “Travel this summer has required a lot of flexibility and creativity, bringing a whole new meaning to the need for adventure,” says Molly Krengel, founder of Wild Bum, a travel guide curation platform.
However, summer is always the busiest and most expensive time to travel. But the fall? That’s when you can expect less crowds and more savings. “With such high demand and chaos in the travel industry this summer, the good news is that we’re seeing a drop in airfares in the fall, which is a relief for people who were shocked by the prices they saw this summer,” says Melanie Lieberman . , global features editor at The Points Guy, a travel information site. “We encourage travelers to think about places they normally don’t in the fall. If you travel well in the off-season, you can get a better deal.”
Here are some tips for saving money when traveling this fall and early winter, as well as some ideas on where to go.
1. Order in advance
The old travel adage still holds true: don’t wait until the last minute to book because you’ll likely be subject to the highest prices and lowest inventory. So, plan ahead. “Be proactive. Track flights and set alerts to know if the price has dropped,” says Lieberman. Flight search engine sites such as Skyscanner, Scott’s Cheap Flights and SkiPlagged can help you fine-tune the best prices for flights to your destination or choose the destination with the best deals.
Same with accommodation: book in advance to get the best prices. “We recommend planning your accommodations in advance, as last-minute reservations tend to be more expensive and harder to find,” says Kristen Bohr, founder of Bearfoot Theory, a travel and outdoor blog. At the Zags Hotel in downtown Portland, Oregon, get the “Book Early, Stay Late” package, and if you book at least five days in advance, you’ll get 15 percent off the nightly rate and a late check-out of 2 p.m. (You can also borrow a bike, fishing pole, or yoga mat from the hotel’s equipment shed in the lobby.)
2. Be flexible in choosing dates
“Play around with your arrival and departure dates if you can, because that’s where you can unlock the biggest deals,” Lieberman says. For example, if you search for flights on Kayak, the site will show price ranges for different dates so you can choose the cheapest days to travel.
Sometimes the longer you stay, the better the rate. In Austin, Texas, rates are automatically discounted when you book three or more nights at the Heywood Hotel; the same at the Carpenter Hotel, where you get a 15 percent discount if you book a room for three nights or more. Sonder, a room rental site with well-designed hotel-style rooms for rent everywhere from New Orleans to Barcelona, encourages extended visits by offering discounts of 25 percent if you stay for a week and up to 40 percent if you stay longer.
Boutique Homes, which offers unique vacation rental properties around the world, offers special long-term pricing and last-minute discounts. For example, stay at this eclectic house in Granada, Nicaragua through Boutique Homes, and you’ll get 10 percent off the nightly rate of $270 per night if you stay for a week.
3. Go on a trip
The best way to save on airfare? drive Yes, gas is also expensive, but try to rent an electric car or not drive too far from home. “Consider renting a camper van for your trip. This will give you a taste of the van life, and depending on the region and length of your trip, renting an RV can still be cheaper than booking a hotel every night,” Bohr says. “Camping sites are much cheaper than hotels or Airbnbs.”
Outdoorsy, the peer-to-peer RV and camper rental site, now offers Roamly travel insurance and a new option to pay for your rental in four interest-free payments. If you drive a camper or RV, consider joining an RV club like Boondockers Welcome or Harvest Hosts, where you pay an annual fee and get unlimited access to free accommodation at host properties across the country.
Don’t want to go to camp? Everything is good. The new Hotel evo, which opened in Salt Lake City, Utah in February, is currently offering a travel package where if you book a hotel room and go there, you’ll get a $50 gas credit with your room. “To help find the cheapest gas while traveling, the Gas Buddy app is a must,” adds Bohr. “Pro tip: Gas prices tend to go up on weekends and holidays, so filling up on a Monday instead of a Sunday can save you a few pennies.”
4. Go further
Be prepared to explore alternate paths for a better deal and better experience. “When you find obscure places, you can find better deals and cooler places with fewer people,” Krengel says. “Any change of scenery does wonders for our mental health, for disconnection from everyday life. Try renting a tiny house on a small lake a few hours from your home. You don’t have to go far or spend much to have this escapist experience.”
Instead of going to Vermont for fall foliage in October, where the prices and crowds will be at their peak, consider, say, West Virginia, which has great fall hiking, some of the best fall rafting in the country, and the best deals. After Labor Day through the end of October, the Summersville Dam releases from Summersville Lake into the Goly River, creating what is known as the Goly Season. Adventures on the Gorge offers one-day tours of Upper and Lower Gorge.
5. Consider alternative housing
Like the prices of air tickets, the prices of accommodation have also increased. You can get hotel deals on the same booking sites that allow you to buy flights, such as Kayak, Expedia or Monondo. Airbnb bookings can also save you money. “Booking a rental can be a great way to save not only on the nightly price, but if you have a kitchen, you’re not paying for every meal,” Lieberman says. “But be careful with vacation rental sites and make sure you click and see the total, as there are cleaning fees and other fees that you may not see in the original room price.”
If you’re ready to consider more rustic or unique accommodations, check out sites like Hipcamp, GlampingHub, or use Airbnb’s camping filter. You can stay in a cabin in the middle of an organic farm in Ohio for $99 a night through Hipcamp or a tiny house in the mountains of Colorado for $175 a night through Airbnb. Either stay for free by becoming a trusted house sitter with TrustedHousesitters, or sleep in an old fire tower in the desert for next to nothing.
6. Combine your booking
Remember that your time is valuable, so spending hours searching for a good deal is not always in your best interest. “Sign up for emails from your favorite airlines or travel sites and you’ll hear about travel packages they’re offering to certain destinations, which may include airfare and hotel,” Krengel says. “Think how much time you save if you don’t have to spend hours researching and booking.”
When you book a flight with Aha Airlines, a budget airline and adventure company, you can also book tours and activities like sailing cruises, guided hikes or brewery tours at your destination and get a 15 percent discount. Aha has great deals on flights to Reno-Tahoe, Nevada, currently starting at $39 one-way from select cities. While you’re there, book a room at the posh Coachman Hotel in South Lake Tahoe, California, where rooms start at $139 a night if you go midweek in the fall, compared to weekend rates that cost double that.
7. Insure your trip
“Get a good deal, but don’t forget to protect the money you invest in travel,” Lieberman says. “You’ll be glad if you need to change your reservation.” Lieberman recommends purchasing travel insurance, whether you’re going on a big international trip or just a weekend getaway. You may want to consider “trip cancellation for any reason” insurance, which typically provides a non-refundable 75 percent refund if you need to cancel your trip within a set number of days. Seven Corners has travel insurance available, or check out Insure My Trip to find the best travel insurance deal.