With the average summer vacation running $1,246 a head (according to 2014 research from American Express), getting away isn’t cheap. Real Simple investigated classic money-saving travel advice to uncover the tips that truly make a difference.
Myth: The best airfare deals are available on Tuesdays.
Fact: Actually, you’re generally going to find the lowest prices if you buy coach seats on a Sunday. A 2014 study conducted by the Airlines Reporting Corporation, a ticket transaction organization, found that domestic tickets purchased on Sundays 50 to 100 days prior to travel cost an average of $110 less than the overall average ticket price. If you want to book a trip to a U.S. destination, like Orlando (hello, Mickey!), do it exactly 57 days in advance—to save an average of 19 percent off the typical fare.
Myth: The free upgrade is always worth taking.
Fact: Checking into a suite for the price of a single room is a steal. But that freebie at the Hertz counter? Maybe not. Tooling around in, say, a roomy SUV instead of the compact that you reserved is going to cost you in fuel, says Seth Kugel, a frugal traveler columnist for The New York Times. If you want to make sure you avoid the old unsolicited switcheroo, Kugel recommends calling the rental office where you’ll be picking up the vehicle to verify that it will save the exact car you reserved.
Myth: All-inclusive vacations are a scam.
Fact: Not always. If you book a getaway to an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean or Mexico, chances are there won’t be extra charges for things like alcohol, paddleboard equipment, or specialty dinners. The time to watch out, though, is on a cruise. That’s when “all-inclusive” might have a fuzzy definition. “Cruise lines know that you’re a captive audience. So while booking the trip may not cost a lot, you can rack up lots of additional charges for things like shore excursions and meals,” says Pauline Frommer, the editorial director of the Frommer’s guidebooks. Investigate details carefully.
Myth: Hostels are only for backpacking college students.
Fact: Maybe due to competition from options like Airbnb, some hostels have recently enjoyed a surprising upgrade—even as they maintain their budget pricing. “A lot of hostels are downright chic in looks and amenities,” says Frommer. Many now feature private family rooms with two bunk beds. Some hostels offer waterfront views, Wi-Fi, and free breakfast. Book a private room at one and you could pay 50 percent less than what you would for a hotel room. Go to roughguides.com or hostelworld.com for reviews.