After 2020 grounded travelers and forced them to get reacquainted with the perks (and annoyances) of taking a road trip again, 2021 has been a year filled with movement, especially in the friendly skies. For example, on September 6, 2020, the TSA tracked 935,308 travelers through its checkpoints. Wrapping up the Labor Day holiday weekend this year on September 6, 2021, 2,025,556 were through checkpoints, inching close to the numbers of travelers on the move in 2019. But with an increase in travelers and demand also comes an increase in prices.
“The pandemic impacted the travel industry and airlines have undergone unprecedented losses due to many routes being suspended and passengers’ inability to travel. Now with vaccinations being more accessible, consumers are making up for lost time and are traveling again,” Patrice Washington, financial expert and author of Redefine Wealth for Yourself, tells ESSENCE. “The dramatic rise in demand for leisure air travel, short supply of pilots and rising fuel costs all contribute to increased airline pricing.”
And while some people are willing and able to fork over a pretty penny to fly, including just to domestic destinations, others aren’t looking to go broke to have a good time. With that in mind, we asked Washington, who recently partnered with Hilton, for the best tips to save as people give into mid-pandemic wanderlust — while they can.
ESSENCE: When is the best time to travel for the lowest ticket, and when is the best time to search for one?
Patrice Washington: Planning ahead is a great strategy to make your vacation a reality, particularly when you are traveling on a budget. Every destination will have different peak and off-season timings. Take New York City for example as it tends to be a top travel destination. This popular year-round destination can be quite expensive, but the total number of tourists tends to drop during the months with less-than-ideal weather, so being more flexible with timing, and carrying around an umbrella in case of rain or an extra layer of clothing, could mean more value-driven hotel and airline prices. I definitely think planning travel no less than eight weeks out, will help you take advantage of considerably lower ticket prices.
Can you speak to the importance of setting a budget? Once you get to a dream destination and want to look into activities, how can you do so without breaking the bank?
A wish list vacation definitely doesn’t need to break the bank. For nearly a decade I have been working hard to redefine the term wealth back to its original meaning: “well-being.” One of those ways is by nurturing ourselves without spending a lot in order to be able to enjoy those more lavish moments as part of our vacation in a smart and budget-savvy way. Two of my favorite travel tips to keep more money in your wallet and give you peace of mind are:
1. Expand Your Search Radius. Wish list destination cities could be expensive depending on where you stay. Expanding your hotel search radius only a few miles will provide a greater diversity of hotels to choose from. Find a hotel that fits within your budget so you can enjoy all the fun activities and travel experiences the city has to offer.
2. Book Direct. One of my favorite travel tips that also gives you greater peace of mind is to book your accommodations directly with a brand. Oftentimes booking directly with a well-established hospitality company ensures you’ll pay the lowest rate available, ensures you receive your loyalty program benefits, and provides you with flexible change and cancellation policies.
These budget-conscious tips are easy to implement and will make your money go further so you can enjoy even more destination-related tours and excursions on your wish list vacation.
If travelers are used to resort stays, what kind of lodging should they keep an open mind to that can help them save?
With thousands of locations around the globe, Hampton by Hilton and Tru by Hilton are perfect for travelers looking for the hospitality Hilton is known for at a value-driven price point, so you can save money on accommodations and spend more on activities and experiences. In fact, the off-season is a great time to travel to dream vacation destinations because you still get to enjoy all of the perks without having to battle the crowds.
Budget-savvy travelers also know that dining out for every meal adds up quickly, especially with a large family or group. However, Hilton’s suites brands feature two room suites and plenty of space for the whole family, and also provides them with the ability to plan meals in advance. Guests can start their evening with a complimentary drink and snack at the evening reception at Embassy Suites by Hilton, or prepare meals using the fully-equipped kitchens in their suites at Homewood Suites by Hilton and Home2 Suites by Hilton.
Why are rewards programs a must?
Why would you leave money on the table? Joining the loyalty program of your favorite travel brands is a must and great way to get the best deals and earn exclusive rewards. Choose a loyalty program that is free to join and once you identify your favorite brands, take the time to explore their website and see what perks and special promotions they have to offer
For instance, as a Hilton Honors member, I love to take advantage of their partnership with Lyft, where you can earn and redeem Points on Lyft rides and credit, as well as the Hilton Honors Dining Program, where I can earn Points on everyday purchases while I’m in the planning phase for my next vacation. You can also even redeem your Points on live experiences like concerts, sporting events and theatre tickets.
A lot of money is spent buying souvenirs and just shopping in general when on vacations. How can we be smarter about that?
We all love souvenirs, but so few people ever actually plan to get them or budget them into our trips. It’s a last-minute idea and unfortunately we pay dearly for that. Before your next vacation, consider applying for a credit card connected to travel, such as the Hilton Honors American Express Card, for more ways to earn and save on travel and everyday purchases – like those souvenirs and other vacation purchases – helping you to reach your financial goals and dream destinations even faster by earning Points on those purchases. For instance, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card offers Gold status with Hilton Honors and earns you special rewards like Free Night Certificates after eligible spend.