Now’s the time to plan your winter vacation if you haven’t done so already. That’s because travel appears to be back to pre-Great Recession levels, notes Roger Brooks, an expert at WalletHub, a personal finance information and planning website. “With lower fuel costs, a stabilized economy and a pent-up desire for travel, 2015 has been a banner year and that will extend into the winter season of 2015 and 2016,” says Brooks.
The big beware: weather. Last winter low snowfalls in Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia plus freezing temperatures in the Northeast negatively affected ski areas. “With El Niño in the forecast, Northerners may opt to stay closer to home and avoid the colder than average weather [predicted] in the South,” says Concha Allen, associate professor of marketing, Central Michigan University.
Wherever you go and whatever you do, here’s advice from WalletHub’s experts:
• Compare prices for hotels using sites such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Trivago.com, and others. Brooks issues this caution: “Shop the Internet for the best prices but book your stays, your airlines, your rental car, your activities directly with the company you will be doing business with. Once you book with a third party, when it comes to changing seats on a flight, or changing anything at your accommodations… it can be problematic.”
• Beware of airlines’ hidden fees. “Don’t be afraid to accept the minimal level of service without feeling “shamed” by the numerous warnings you get on the airline website as you attempt to make the purchase,” says Allen.
• Use a credit card that does not tack on foreign transaction fees. “Find out from your bank about ‘user friendly/affiliate’ ATMs overseas. Take local currency of the place you are travel to,” says Jamal Feerasta, professor of hospitality Management, University of Akron.
• Travel when others don’t. “Normally, the first weeks of January are a good time to travel—less kids and many people have taken their Christmas vacation so it is not crowded,” says Christopher DeSessa, associate professor, Hospitality College at Johnson & Wales University. Think about destinations such as Bermuda whose winter weather is warm enough for golf and tennis, but not for swimming.
• Be careful about booking promotional offers. “Plan very carefully and read the small-print on many of the promotional offers that look too good to be true…because they often are!,” says Alan Fyall, Orange County endowed professor of tourism marketing, Rosen College of Hospitality Management, University of Central Florida.
• Plan ahead and set a budget. “Allow yourself to splurge for a special day or a great meal but don’t expect every day needs to be jammed packed with expensive activities. Give yourself—and your family—permission to just hang out and relax,” says Jonathan Day, associate professor of hospitality and tourism management, Purdue University.
What are your methods for saving money during the winter/holiday travel season? Share your answers in the comments below, or connect with me on Twitter, @familyitrips.