The holiday travel season is about to heat up, which means millions of Americans will be shelling out big bucks. After interviewing CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg several times over the past couple of years, I decided to compile his 8 best travel secrets, which will help you save on your next vacation:
- Know when to buy: Airlines often announce airfare sales on Friday night, so all the matching/cross-cutting happens over the weekend. But this is actually the worst time to buy tickets, because everybody else is looking then as well. Instead, try booking after midnight on Monday night/Tuesday morning, when all of the tickets that were booked but not purchased on Monday come flooding back into the airlines’ computer system at the discount fare. Find the best deal, and then…
- Book by phone, not online: I know–you hate the hold music, but not all of the available inventory is on the Internet. Surprisingly, phone agents have access to a larger inventory – some, at cheaper prices – than what’s available online. The same goes for hotels and cruise lines, too.
- Ask for positioning flights: While you’re on the phone, ask the agent if a so-called positioning flight is available. These flights are done for logistical purposes – to transport an airplane from Airport A to Airport B – and often come with better airfares.
- Try indirect routing: Time to get creative: if you want to fly direct from Los Angeles to Hawaii, consider booking Los Angeles to Phoenix to Hawaii; or L.A. to Las Vegas to Hawaii. In many cases, there are cheaper seats on indirect flights.
- Fly into alternate airports: The crowds flock to JFK, which is why you should head straight to Islip, Long Island (ISP). If it’s Chicago, skip O’Hare (ORD) and try General Mitchell International in Milwaukee (MKE); and for Boston (LOG), check out T.F. Green in Providence (PVD).
- Consider hot spots: Don’t dismiss a location just because it’s in the news. It may seem politically incorrect, but when countries go through political insurrections, economic meltdowns, or natural disasters, tourist dollars help. Of course, you need to be careful, but consider a place like Greece, where there are lots of deals far from the protests.
- Go Amtrak: The train company is trying to divert travel dollars from the airlines with great promotions. Bonus: no long security lines!
- Travel after Thanksgiving: The absolute best time to travel is the week after Thanksgiving. Because most Americans are recovering from the holiday hangover and not traveling that week, opportunities abound.
Jill Schlesinger is the Editor-at-Large for CBS MoneyWatch.com. Prior to the launch of MoneyWatch, she was the Chief Investment Officer for an independent investment advisory firm. In her infancy, she was an options trader on the Commodities Exchange of New York.