Why Your Summer Vacation Is More Expensive Than Usual This Year

We've all heard about the terrifying crashes... and the public relations nightmare that followed.

In March, Boeing grounded its entire fleet of 737 MAX planes following two fatal accidents involving the aircraft, which occurred just five months apart. And last month, the grounding was extended, throwing the summer holiday travel season into chaos.

Boeing is waiting for regulatory approval for a software fix. The update is intended to make an automated flight-control system more reliable and easier to override... but in the meantime, travelers hoping to take a well-deserved vacation are being left to suffer.

The 737 MAX grounding puts nearly 400 planes out of service for the summer. And the implications are enormous...

Southwest Airlines recently raised its estimate of daily flight cancellations from 90 to 160 per day between June 8 and August 5. Similarly, American Airlines says it will cancel 115 flights per day until August 19. Between those two companies alone, that's an estimated 40,000 seats per day being taken out of service. That's not even taking into consideration airlines like Air Canada and Norwegian Air, both of which rely on the 737 MAX planes for a number of flights to the U.S. and elsewhere.

Airlines are scrambling to cover routes that were supposed to be flown by Boeing 737 MAX planes... and they're rebooking customers from those flights in advance to minimize surprises. Even so, people who booked nonstop flights originally on 737 MAX planes may now find themselves with layovers, or with flights on different days from the ones they selected.

And it's not just current aircrafts... Many companies had already scheduled summer flights for brand-new 737 MAX jets that are now stuck in the factory. Southwest had placed an order for 41 more 737 MAX planes in 2019, while American Airlines was expecting 16 more, and United Airlines was banking on another 14.

If you haven't already booked your summer travel, this isn't the year to put it off... Especially if you don't want to get stuck emptying your wallet for plane tickets. Several major airlines have already reported expected fare hikes between 2.5% to 9% for the summer.

So today, we're sharing...

Three Tips to Save Money on Summer Travel

1. Find the perfect time to book your flight. For the cheapest fares, consider flying at less popular times or days. Travel sites like Kayak let you see what your flight would cost depending on which day you'd want to fly. For example, if you wanted to fly from Baltimore to Los Angeles on a Monday, you might pay $397. But if you flew on a Tuesday instead, you could save $79.

You can also use an app called FareScout. This helps 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.

2. Don't let airport security goons force you into buying overpriced water. I hate paying $4 for a bottle of water. But what can you do when airport security makes you pitch any bottle with more than 3.4 ounces of liquid? Here's what I do: I put a large EMPTY bottle in my bag before going through the screener. Once through security, I fill it at a water fountain. Many airports now even have water-bottle refilling stations with cold, filtered water. I save at least $4 each way, and I get water whenever I want when I'm on the plane. No waiting for a flight attendant to bring me a tiny cup.

I'm cheap and like to reuse old bottles, but you can use that $8 you save to buy a reusable water bottle – one that's free of BPA, a chemical that may cause hormonal imbalances and cancer. The bottle will last for years and save you more money every time you fly. If you're a frequent traveler like I am, you can save up to $80 a year by avoiding overpriced bottled water.

3. Make some money the next time you get bumped. Most airlines will initially offer you an airline voucher if you're bumped from a flight. This is cheaper for them. But if you don't have a choice in giving up your seat – an involuntary denial of boarding – ask for cash.

Here are the rules: If you give up your seat and the agent books you on a flight that arrives at your destination one to two hours late, you should receive a check for two times your one-way fare, up to a maximum of $675. And if you arrive more than two hours late, you should receive four times the cost of your one-way ticket, up to a maximum of $1,350.

The average cost of a one-way domestic flight in the U.S. is around $350, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. So that's $700 that you could pocket... just for knowing your rights.

Usually, the process to get this money is fairly straightforward. But if you run into hassles with your airline, you can file a complaint through the Department of Transportation's Aviation Consumer Protection Division right here.

How do you save money on travel? Send us your tips at [email protected].

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health and Wealth Bulletin Research Team
May 16, 2019