A Travel Pro's Tips to Scoring Affordable Summer Flights
Three things we hope you're going to do this summer: become best friends with your AC unit, pop open one too many bottles of rosé and scratch a few places off your travel bucket list.
Haven't started planning for that last item? We're here with Brian Kelly, full-time travel guru and founder of wildly popular travel site The Points Guy, to share his tips for scoring an affordable flight this season, whether you're headed to Cape Cod or Cape Town.
For all the late planners out there (*raises hand*), what's the best way to book a last-minute summer vacation on the cheap?
"Last-minute travel is often when you can get the most value out of your points and miles. Because airlines tend to jack up prices for close-in bookings (if a businessperson has to go somewhere with little notice, they have to go—price is generally not a factor), you can often get great saver-level redemptions with your points or miles. But if you are looking to use cash, check out Google Flights' Map function. With it, you can enter your departure airport and date, and then scroll around the map. At each destination, you'll see the price of the cheapest flight. You might be surprised—often, we see long-haul international flights priced well below those that are domestic."
But there's a lot of people who don't want to deal with the hassle of keeping up with rewards programs. What exactly are they missing out on?
"Points and miles are essentially an unregulated currency. . . . Where you'll get the best value with points and miles is with travel—and, more specifically, premium travel. Although a lot has changed in the points and miles game, there are still some sweet spots in airline award charts, allowing travelers to book business and first-class seats that would typically cost thousands of dollars for several thousand points."
So for the traveler who's been missing out on points and miles all this time, what's the best way to get started?
"First of all, you never want to pass up on earning points and miles. If you're traveling—even if it's just once or twice a year—make sure you're signed up for airline frequent flyer programs, so you can begin earning those valuable points and miles. Everyone has to start somewhere! The same goes for hotel stays. Then, if you're looking to get deeper into the hobby and are in the right place financially, look at signing up for a lucrative credit card—the quickest way to rack up points and miles. In order to get the most out of your points and miles, it takes time. So do your research, and you'll be able to maximize them."
Is there anything different travelers should know about booking summer travel versus the rest of the year?
"Summer travel tends to be both good and bad for the consumers. On one hand, there's a decrease in business travel, so you could potentially find better deals—such as at hotels. But at the same time, there's an increase in leisure travel, which could offset the decreased business demand. If you have flexible travel plans, you'll often get the best deal. For example, try leaving on Tuesday or Wednesday and get cheaper flights than if you were to leave on Friday."
So if there was a single The Points Guy golden commandment everyone should follow, what would it be?
"Treat your points and miles like you would cash. This is a currency with incredible value, so don't treat them—or the security of them—lightly."
And finally, what are some of your favorite affordable destinations to visit this summer?
"For East Coast travelers, one of my favorite destinations is Cape Cod. My favorite is Provincetown, but the Cape has something for everyone. Europe is also an especially popular destination in the summer with great weather and reasonably priced flights. With the expansion of low-cost carriers, such as Primera Air and Norwegian and their market effect in bringing down the fares for full-cost carriers, you could take advantage of a great deal. Norwegian even offers a discount on some flights if you book through the foreign version of its website—sometimes as much as 30 percent."
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