Follow this author to improve your content experience.
With Memorial Day weekend now in the rear window, millions of Americans still haven’t yet booked a summer vacation. If you’re among them, don’t panic. There’s still time to snag a super deal.
The key is to have an open mind and a smidge of flexibility, something a lot of people have in spades these days thanks to remote and hybrid work policies.
The smartest travel companies have taken note, offering up tools to help travelers widen the lens and view a bigger breadth of possibilities. Most often, there’s not only a perfectly dreamy Plan B but also a Plan C, D and E.
Adopt A “The World Is My Oyster” Mindset
“People are coming out of the pandemic with a real openness to where they travel,” says Laura Lindsay, a spokesperson for Skyscanner, a travel booking engine and app with 75 million active users. “They're thinking much broader and that's a really great thing, because supply and demand is what impacts prices. Being open actually gives them the ability to uncover some really good deals.”
To wit: The most popular destination on Skyscanner is a search setting called “everywhere.” When searching for flights, the traveler plugs her home airport into the “from” field. In the “to” field, an option appears for searching “everywhere.” This simple trick can surface a panoply of tempting — and very affordable — options far below the average cost of airfare.
For example, if you search for roundtrip tickets from Chicago to “everywhere” in August, options include Miami from $87, Denver from $152, and New York from $183, among many other domestic possibilities. A traveler eyeballing an international trip can also find cheaper-than-average airfares for Portugal (from $372), France (from $451), and Australia ($1,040). To expand options further, compare different travel months and be sure to tick the boxes for “add nearby airports.”
It’s Not About Where To Go, But Where To Stay
Earlier this month, Airbnb unveiled what it touts as the biggest change in a decade to the platform’s search function. Airbnb users are now able to explore more than 50 categories that group listings by a particular interest — for example, “design,” “amazing pools” or “lakefront.” Because these settings are keyed to feature rather than a specific destination, the results can open a window to an experience you might never have considered otherwise.
Setting the search parameters to “lakefront” and “anywhere” for a week in August turns up a good number of waterside bargains under $200 a night in under-the-radar resort towns like Osage Beach, Missouri, in the heart of Lake of the Ozarks; Gilford, New Hampshire, on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee; and Sugarcreek, Ohio, known as the “gateway to Amish country.”
But that’s just the beginning. From railroad cabooses to yurts to converted grain silos, the “OMG!” category can also unearth some very cool and unusual finds that won’t break the bank, like a covered wagon on a farm near Las Vegas ($120 a night) or a windmill in Greece ($301 a night).
For the work-from-anywhere crowd, Airbnb now offers “split stays,” widening search results to make it easier to divide a longer trip between two homes in the same vicinity. Previously, a listing would remain hidden if it was unavailable for any part of a searched time frame, so this single tweak unearths a great many more options for those who are keen to get to know a destination from different vantages.
When Airlines Add Routes, Be Ready To Pounce
No travel company obsesses about timing like Hopper, an app conceived to determine the optimal moment to book flights, which, it turns out, is very much a moving target.
“An individual fare can change multiple times in a day, let alone over the course of a few weeks in advance of a flight,” says Hayley Berg, Hopper’s chief economist, noting that the right time to buy can change due to something as granular as the departure airport, arrival airport, departure dates or booking dates.
Berg says several factors can make airfares rise — fuel costs, pilot shortages, travel demand — but there’s also a tried-and-true rule for predicting when and where airfares will fall.
“Specifically, when a low-cost carrier starts a new route from a given airport, prices will drop by an average of 20% on all carriers that fly that route. So if a lower-cost carrier enters a route, it's a great opportunity for travelers,” says Berg. Even better, the low-cost carrier will almost always offer promotions for the first couple of weeks or months that they're running that service.
One easy way to keep an eye on how route maps are changing is to monitor your home airport through the Hopper app. “Rather than doing a ton of research, you could use our tool to track a couple of different destinations and when there’s a price drop, you’re ready to book,” suggests Berg.
I watch trends in travel. Prior to working at Forbes, I was a longtime freelancer who contributed hundreds of articles to Conde Nast Traveler, CNN Travel, Travel + Leisure, Afar, Reader's Digest, TripSavvy, Parade, NBCNews.com and scores of other outlets. Follow me on Instagram (@suzannekelleher) and Flipboard (@SRKelleher).