Inflation remains high, especially in the service sector for things like travel, despite the Federal Reserve’s best efforts to raise interest rates and slow the economy. In fact, Fed Chair Jerome Powell has been speaking out about his fears that inflation is here to stay.
With inflation on the rise, airline ticket prices for many popular destinations have jumped again this year as well. Price spikes are particularly obvious for international travel, where it’s common to find $2,000 economy fares to travel hot spots like Rome. That’s right: You could end up paying thousands of dollars for a standard economy ticket to Europe.
Still, consumers are determined to keep traveling this summer, and the appetite for travel is stronger than ever. A May survey on summer travel trends from consulting firm Deloitte says that some 50% of Americans are going on vacation this summer, up from 46% last year.
Despite high costs and tight budgets, no one wants to cancel their summer trips — even if unwelcome surprises like costly repairs or reduced income come calling. Luckily, there are several ways to leave your big summer trip on the calendar without spending more than necessary.
Here are our top tips to keep the trip you want while chipping away at its price tag.
Keep an eye on airfare prices, even after you book
Many airlines allow you to rebook your airfare if the price drops after you make your flight reservation. Your fare type determines whether you are responsible for change fees when you rebook and whether you receive a cash refund or a credit to use on future flights.
For example, if the price of your Southwest flight drops after your initial booking, you will receive a credit to use toward a future flight for Wanna Get Away or Wanna Get Away Plus fares. If you purchase an Anytime or Business Select fare, you will receive a full refund for the price difference if the price drops.
Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines also have a no-change-fee policy for most flights and fare types. Once you book, check for fare drops regularly and snag that credit to use on a future flight if the price drops.
Rebook your hotel if prices drop
Just as flight prices can sometimes decrease after booking, the same can happen with nightly hotel rates. The process to pocket the difference is often easier with hotels than it is with airlines.
Similar to flight bookings, you’ll want to monitor the price of any hotel reservations you have to see if the price drops. If a hotel’s nightly rate does decrease, rebook the property at the lower rate.
Some programs let you change an existing booking when you see a price drop, but some don’t. Double-check the terms of your booking before making any changes.
Remember, too, that booking with cash versus points may affect your ability to rebook after a price drop. For example, you can cancel most hotel award nights up until shortly before your stay is scheduled to begin.
If a loyalty program allows you to make duplicate award reservations, you might want to make a new reservation before canceling your existing reservation. Otherwise, you’ll need to decide whether the risk of a price jump or change in availability between canceling and rebooking is worth the potential savings.
Alternatively, you might find reasonable cash rates that allow you to cancel up until a few days before arrival. Consider booking the first or last night of your trip at an airport hotel, as these hotels are likely less expensive than those closer to a city center or main attractions.
Change your booking to a hotel that includes free meals
Sampling different cuisines and eating out can often be a highlight of any trip, but it can also seriously drain your budget if you’re doing it for every single meal.
In Europe, you can easily spend 10 euros ($11) on just a sandwich and a coffee, and it’s not unusual to spend 20 to 30 euros ($22 to $33) on lunch per person. Dinner with wine or cocktails will often come in around 35 euros ($38) per person, even at reasonably priced restaurants where you’re limiting yourself to one drink. If you’re dining somewhere more upscale, it can soar way beyond those prices.
You can easily save money on your trip by staying at a hotel that includes breakfast with your rate, whether it’s a traditional property that offers this perk or an all-inclusive resort where all meals, drinks and snacks are factored into the price you pay. Sure, it might cost a little more than you expected to pay for accommodations, but this one-off extra cost could free up the funds for booking a special activity or show.
For example, if you’re heading to Disney World and need to keep costs under control, consider the new Drury Plaza Hotel Orlando — Disney Springs Area. Not only is breakfast free for all guests here, but you can also enjoy complimentary afternoon soda, popcorn and even evening entrees with adult beverages. That can easily save a family $100 a day over theme park prices.
Track the price of your cruise
Taking a cruise soon? If so, be sure to use a fare tracker, like the ones from Cruiseline.com and CruisePlum, to monitor price drops.
Should the cost of your sailing decrease and you haven’t hit the final payment date yet, you may be able to request an adjustment from your cruise line.
If you have buyer’s remorse and don’t want to gamble on fare drops, you can also change to a more affordable cabin type as long as your booking allows it and you’re not beyond the final payment deadline. It will put you on the same ship and itinerary but for less money.
Get groceries delivered
If you’re worried about saving money on an upcoming trip, consider limiting yourself to one restaurant meal a day and supplementing the rest of your meals with groceries. You can easily place a grocery delivery order instead of wasting valuable vacation time at the grocery store.
Even if your accommodation doesn’t have a kitchen area, you can stock up on protein bars, fruit, raw vegetables, ingredients for peanut butter sandwiches, microwavable meals and other easy-to-prepare foods. Order ground coffee or even a jug of iced coffee so you don’t have to spend extra money on your caffeine fix. (In expensive cities such as New York City and Los Angeles, this simple switch could save you at least $6 per person, per day.)
If you want to place a grocery delivery order through DoorDash, use your Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve card. Both cards include at least one year of complimentary DashPass membership, which gives you free delivery and reduced service fees on eligible DoorDash purchases (activate by Dec. 31, 2024).
Chase also launched the Instacart Mastercard, making it easier to save money using the grocery delivery app. The card offers one year of free Instacart+ membership, which comes with unlimited free delivery (on orders more than $35), lower service fees and 5% credit back on eligible orders. Cardholders will also receive a $100 Instacart credit automatically upon approval. Best of all, the card has no annual fee.
If you don’t want to apply for the Instacart Mastercard but hold a different Chase card, you may be eligible for a few months to a year of Instacart+ membership.
Related: Best grocery credit cards
Use some points, save some cash
While it’s not quite as problematic as monetary inflation, airline devaluations do regularly occur. Not to mention, the addition of fees like fuel surcharges can chip away at how valuable points are over time.
That’s why it’s always a good idea to check the value of your cash versus the value of your points. One easy way to check is by using TPG’s valuations. It can also make sense to ask yourself if you are better off with any redemption in order to keep cash in your pocket.
For example, you may find that using points currencies like Delta SkyMiles to book domestic trips that would otherwise be prohibitively expensive is the way to go. It may not net you the greatest redemption value, but sometimes, using up some extra points is a better option than spending your hard-earned money.
Take advantage of car rental discounts and pricing tools
There are several ways to save cash on car rental reservations, most of which you can cancel up until the last minute.
To start, you may have access to a corporate code from your job or university. Visit your company’s corporate travel site or your university’s alumni deals page or student benefits page to see if there’s a discount available for car rentals.
If you are a member of AAA, know that your membership typically includes access to various car rental discounts. The same applies for AARP, which you can join, even if you are not retired.
You can also rent through AutoSlash, a website that helps you find and book affordable rental cars. One of AutoSlash’s most useful features is its tracker for rental car prices. Once you’ve made a reservation with free cancellation, you can go back to the AutoSlash website and fill out the form with your current reservation information to track price drops for your rental. If the rate dips below what you paid, you can then rebook at the lower rate.
When personal budgets tighten, you may be tempted to rein in discretionary spending on certain expenses like vacations. Before you accept defeat and hit that cancel button, though, consider trying a few of these methods to save on trips you’ve already booked.
Following these tips may help you salvage your vacation and enable you to afford some extras you hadn’t expected to have the funds to enjoy. You may even find that the money you save can help you reduce costs for a future trip.
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Additional reporting by Becky Blaine, Katie Genter, Clint Henderson, Ashley Kosciolek, Caroline Tanner and Jordan Waller.