Economize Your Trip: Booking Strategies for Affordable Travel

Are you feeling discouraged about the rising costs of travel? You’re not alone. Many people are eagerly planning their next adventure but finding it difficult to do so without breaking the bank.

As demand picks up, travelers who stockpiled miles and points may have difficulty redeeming them due to limited availability. And to complicate matters, airlines and hotels are revamping their rewards programs, making it more difficult to reach elite status.

While inflation has fallen for the last six months, domestic airfare (60%) and hotel rates (52%) continue to increase. According to Hopper’s 2023 Travel Outlook, airfare for domestic flights in February, March, and April is expected to cost 13% more than last year. U.S. hotel prices are currently 60% higher than last year’s, averaging $220 per night. 

However, despite these record-high rates, a recent survey revealed that 53% of Americans are still planning to include travel expenses in their budget for at least the next three months. 

Moreover, according to Google Trends, the phrase “cheap alternative to” revealed a 30% YOY search increase, with breakout searches for “alternative airlines” and “cheap flights” solidifying a high degree of price consciousness among those hoping to travel in 2023.

Travelers Looking To Use Miles and Points Saved up During the Pandemic May Face Challenges

Despite economic headwinds such as fuel costs, labor shortages, and high prices, U.S. air travel demand remains strong. Given these unusual circumstances, it is expected that travelers will begin to utilize the miles and points they accumulated during the pandemic to book upcoming travel. 

However, because rewards programs tend to have limited availability, travelers may find booking travel for high-demand destinations challenging. In addition to these constraints, several airlines and hotels recently restructured their rewards programs, making it more challenging to attain and maintain elite status.

Former Priceline Data Scientist Shakes up Travel Booking Space With New Platform

Eddie Ibanez, a former Chief Scientist whose work was fundamental to the success of the travel booking website’s complex data models, says his new alternative to traditional hotel booking platforms, LIFE Rewards, is shaking things up. According to their calculations, hotel rates “were around 15% lower than sites like Expedia on average.”

“What we do is a little bit different. There’s a thing called a global distribution system where everybody loads rates; think of it as a stock market for travel. What people do is they blend an average rate,” Ibanez told us in an interview. Rate blending comes into play when a traveler chooses a multi-night stay. The system will “blend” the rate for each night, providing you with the most cost-effective rate per night.

Ibanez told us, “What LIFE does is we shop and search, and we cut those rates up in order to take the cheapest rates from each day and repackage them.” He explains, “We’re going to all the large places that are out there, shaking them for their cheapest rates and then bundling it up in a vacation stay for you.” 

In addition to purchasing hotel reservations, you can sell and trade unwanted reservations purchased through their site in an NFT-based marketplace. Rewards you earn through their loyalty program can also be sold or traded, potentially for a profit. LIFE Rewards plans to roll out the same type of option for flights in the future.

While NFT-based booking technologies have the potential to offer better rates, Ibanez believes the real value lies within the ability to get your money back for, or profit from, non-refundable hotel stays and flights.

Hack Your Way to Affordable Travel With These Flight and Hotel Booking Strategies

Research by Hopper, a travel booking website, suggests domestic airfare is typically lower within one to three months before the departure date. However, prices tend to increase significantly in the last three to four weeks leading up to the trip. To maximize savings, start tracking flight prices about three to four months in advance, as airlines are more likely to offer lower prices or discounts during this time. 

As for international flights, Hopper suggests monitoring prices six to seven months before your departure date. And while airfare can depend on your destination and the time of year, booking international flights three to five months before your trip tends to get you the most savings. 

Additionally, flying mid-week can potentially save you 17% per ticket for domestic flights and around 9% for international flights, while flying early morning (5 am – 8 am) will decrease the chances of a delayed or canceled flight. 

According to Hopper, when it comes to finding hotel deals, things get a little more complicated. If you’re traveling to a year-round destination, such as Miami or Las Vegas, it’s essential to book ahead of peak travel months. 

For these destinations, prices are known to double three months before check-in. But, if you’re flexible and feeling lucky, you may find last-minute deals no more than four to five weeks before check-in. 

In general, if you’re looking for a weekend stay (Thursday – Saturday), you can expect to pay 25% more than those staying on a Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday night. 

Saving Money on Hotel Stays and Flights in a Challenging Economy

Saving money on hotel stays and flights during a challenging economy can be done by being proactive and resourceful. By using data-driven travel tips and hacks like booking in advance, tracking prices, using alternative booking methods, and using travel rewards, you can find ways to save money on your next trip.

Remember that a little bit of research and planning can go a long way in helping you stretch your budget and make your dream vacation a reality in 2023. 

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Economize Your Trip: Booking Strategies for Affordable Travel

Alexandrea Sumuel Groves is a nationally syndicated travel writer and founder of the Wander With Alex travel blog. Her work has appeared on MSN, YAHOO!, Euronews, and FOX, ABC, and NBC affiliates across the United States. 

Alex travels to experience, eat, explore, and occasionally escape! She collaborates with destinations, vacation property management companies, and hospitality technology firms to provide her readers with exclusive insights and information.