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I don’t need to tell you that travel is the hottest ticket since Snoop and D.R.E started performing again. Just run a search and you’ll see sticker shock, sold out spots and a whole lot of what in the world!

If a trip is a must, this is crunch time.

Finding opportunity is harder than ever given the unprecedented demand, but it’s worth knowing that opportunity still exists. There are still red hot deals popping up and great ways to use points to curb expenses.

As you dive into trips this summer, and into 2023, here are a few key principles to search and book by, from bringing back travel agents to useful new tools.

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Early, Late Or Active Watcher

For the best chance at nailing travel this year, book early, book super late, or be a very active watcher. Those are your best bets, really.

Booking Early

From hotel rates to airfare and car rentals, booking early actually has some benefit again. Filling early seats, or beds, gives these travel businesses confidence to charge more later, while rewarding those who get things off to a flying start.

Think of it like getting an introductory offer. It’s not always the lowest, but given the demand right now, prices are going up once dates are released more than they are going down. That’ll change after summer, but for now it’s a hot market.

Booking Late

Booking late is a chance to take advantage of last minute availability using points, as airlines or hotels look to sell out every last bed or seat. It’s also an opportunity for any flash sales using cash.

Online travel agencies which may be on the hook for some hotel inventory can be a great source for last minute deals. Packaged together with airfare you can save quite a bit by lumping trip elements together.

Active Participation

Being an active participant is the cure for everything else value related. Blogs such as GSTP, Thrifty Traveler, VFTW and others provide regular flash deals that don’t last but do bring amazing opportunity.

Just last week there were flights from Europe to South Africa, South America and more for under $2,000 in first class, and not long before that there were sub $1000 business tickets from the US to UK. Flash deals pop up, but you’ve got to be an active participant (or super lucky) to find them.

Points For The Win

Sometimes points save pennies, but when they are used well, they can save thousands upon thousands. Try for the latter this summer.

Particularly for people who fall into the last minute, or active participant category, a dip into the points bank can really save the cash. Airlines are trying to sell every last seat on every single flight. 39 out of 40 in business? Not good enough.

For profit, sustainability and every other reason under the sun, airlines want someone to fill that seat. With hotels, it’s all the same. Hotels actually get paid more when you use your points when the hotel is almost full, too.

That often means that even if a flight or room has been impossible to book with points for 350 days, in the 15 days (or usually 5 days) before a flight or stay, it may suddenly become an option.

If it’s an “I’d like to go” travel situation, rather than an “I must go”, then a bit of active participation as the trip dates near can unlock wins.

Alerts from Straight To The Points, or services like point.me (I’m a part of the team) are some of the best ways to uncover last minute opportunities or space using points.

Bring Back Your Travel Agent

For a long time, when people thought travel agent, they thought fax machine. But as travel on the internet became a confusing mess of best price guarantees, secret deals and comparison sites, the old way became one of the best ways — again.

Great ravel agents have access to “preferred partner” deals, such as buy 2 nights get 1 free, preferred perks like free breakfast (without needing elite status with a hotel) and late check out. Here’s how to find a great agent.

With flight bookings, they can do something equally wonderful: “deal with it.”

Airlines are a bit of a hot mess right now as they struggle to retrain staff, scale up and grapple with all the uncertainty of the world — and that means schedule changes and the cancellations that follow.

Having a ticket booked by a professional travel agent means you have someone to actually deal with the airline and get you rebooked, without you needing to wait on hold, or struggle through confusing policies. This is priceless, and if you know — you know.

Outsmart Your Opponents

Mexico, Hawaii, Dubai, Italy, Maldives… you and everyone else. Oman, Montenegro, Belize… not quite as much. There are a couple added keys to unlocking the very best deals, and a lot of it has to do with where.

Pick places that are either “like” where everyone else is going, or places where major capacity exists, or should. Airlines are desperate to get back to flying 100% of the route traffic they did in 2019, so between places they’re trying to get back to 10X daily flights a day, deals exist.

For destinations that were late to reopen, deals also exist. Malaysia just dropped its quarantine and testing requirements. Vietnam has too. Both were later than Thailand and that means opportunity still exists. Get the thinking cap on.

Saving On Travel Right Now

Even with all the best tips in the world, travel is more expensive right now than it was in 2019. Inflation is part of it, pent up demand is another and travel businesses trying to recoup losses is another.

But if you use the advice in this article earnestly, you really can save, or travel nearly for free. If you had to pick one of the booking options, participation is probably the best. It’s self serving for bloggers like me, but there’s just no guarantee that booking early, or booking late will work.

People who follow the play by play and keep up with things in real time are often the ones to benefit the most.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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3 Comments

  1. Yes there are deals but to get them requires a lot of sacrifice. Let’s say to get that discounted F on LH or partners from Warsaw to JNB. I have to fly to London on positioning flight in economy, change to LH flight from London to FRA in intra Europe J (very subpar experience) to finally board LH F to JNB. That is not an optimal experience, lots of wasted time and the risk of connections going wrong.
    I would much rather board QR787 in WAW, lay over in DOH and board 777 Qsuite to JNB. It will cost $600 more but the experience is way better when you factor that QR 787 and 777 have a really good J hard product and superb soft product.
    So that LH F maybe an acceptable experience for Londoners. Less so for every body else.

    1. Hey Rafa, thanks for the comment, but I don’t quite understand. These are examples of things that exist, not what exists for any one person. None of these deals worked for me personally, but sharing them enabled people to travel well this summer. You are illustrating why it didn’t work for you, but I didn’t write it for you, or me, or anyone specific. I wrote it to share that great options may exist, we’ll do our best to highlight them and some will work, others won’t. But the message is participation often leads to better results. All the best.

  2. If you want to save money and concerned about inflation do what Ott does and fly economy with a seat next to the dunnies and stay at ibis hotels.

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