It’s not even Halloween, yet you can already find Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations on store shelves.
And while you might not be ready to think about the 2016 holiday season, you should if you’re planning to travel.
Whether you’re driving or flying, we’ve got tips to save you money and hassle this year…
1. Pay less at the pump. Over the summer, my family and I vacationed in Raleigh, North Carolina. On our way to the airport, I suggested taking a different route so that we could stop for gas at the cheapest station. We saved $0.30 a gallon by just avoiding the pricey stations closer to the airport.
That savings adds up fast. I use the website GasBuddy to find the best deals. The site shows you the cheapest nearby place to fill up. It even has gas-price history and heat maps for cheap gas by region.
My assistant recently downloaded the app onto her smartphone. The app is handy for road trips as well. Simply have your passenger look at the map feature to see where the closest and cheapest gas is.
Using data from the University of Michigan, we know the average driver fills up on gas about three times a month. Given a standard tank size of 15 gallons, a savings of $0.30 per gallon comes out to $13.50 a month… or $162 saved per year.
2. Find the perfect time to book your flight. If you’re planning an air flight… try saving a few dollars by using FareScout. You can use this app to help determine the best time to book a flight, based on whether fares could increase or decrease from the date you want to book.
Typically, the lowest fares are in the one- to three-and-a-half-month range, with the best travel deals falling about 54 days before a trip. The most expensive time to book, on average, is two days before a trip.
But now, finding out the best time to book is easier, and maybe even more accurate. FareScout looks at the previous 13 months of fare data to determine whether a ticket’s price will fall or rise within the next seven days. But you can only use this for domestic flights departing within 60 days (although the company plans to expand this in the future).
FareScout is simple to use. It’s a free app you download onto your iPhone. Just enter in your flight information, and FareScout will tell you whether you should buy now or wait. The app will even let you know how much fares could increase or decrease. So if you want to save some money, without trying to figure out the best day to buy tickets on your own, try FareScout.
3. Find the best deals on rental cars. AutoSlash is a website that searches for the best car-rental rates. All you need to do is enter where you want to pick up the car, the date, and any car preferences you have. AutoSlash will show you the best car deals available in the area. Better still… if a cheaper rate comes along, AutoSlash will re-book you automatically at the lower rate.
My colleague Fawn registered for this service on a cross-state trip. She needed a compact car from major rental-car company Avis for nine days. With no effort on her part, AutoSlash lowered her rental cost from $313 to just $180… and upgraded her to a mid-size sedan.
AutoSlash is a simple way to find great car deals so you don’t have to spend your time searching for coupons.
4. Avoid foreign transaction fees. When you’re traveling overseas, one thing you shouldn’t have to worry about is paying a fee just to use your credit card. But about 90% of credit cards charge foreign transaction fees… ranging from 2%-4%.
But you can still find good credit cards without foreign transaction fees.NerdWallet and WalletHub each created a list of their favorite ones.
5. Know your hotel. The next time you book a hotel for your vacation, try the travel website Booking.com. The site provides information on property rankings, how many people are looking at staying there, and user reviews.
One catch with Booking.com: You can’t use it to plan your whole trip – airfare, rental cars, etc. You can only book your hotel room. But Booking.com doesn’t charge any additional fees. So the rate you see when looking at a room is the rate you’ll get.
I love the detailed information on how many rooms are left. That way, you can still wait to solidify plans that require input from friends or family who are traveling with you.