This past week Time featured a piece on ‘6 myths about travel spending that cost you money’.
What I learned from the piece is that when Time links to your blog, lots of other mirror sites pull their content and link to your blog as well, sending you trackback pings which are essentially spam that you need to clean up. Hah.
(This wasn’t my first time quoted in Time, for instance over the summer they included me on inflight reading styles explaining why I still travel with a physical book and not just an e-reader. But it was strangely the first time they linked to me that I can recall.)
When to Book Airline Tickets
The first myth they cover is when to book your ticket, and the correct time is not ‘as soon as possible’. To me booking too early is a mistake entirely apart from price, you don’t want to book when it’s reasonable likely that plans change and you’ll incur change fees.
But booking when airline schedules load usually means booking before the cheap fares extend out to your travel dates, and make it highly unlikely you’re booking during a sale.
The advice in the piece is to book 6 to 7 weeks out, my own mental model is that for peak holiday travel 90 days is closer to right since the cheap fare buckets will tend to sell out early since vacationers tend to book farther in advance.
When to Book Award Tickets
Here’s what the piece has to say about the timing of redeeming miles.
This holds true if you’re booking an awards ticket, says Gary Leff, who blogs at “View From the Wing.” Airlines don’t open award seats at the same time… This varies not just by airline but also by route and even day of week,“ he points out. If you want to cash in those miles, shoot for six to nine months out, and run some test searches a few weeks beforehand, he suggests. “Often times the patterns remain the same because far in advance airlines are usually working off a fairly generic playbook based on historical data.”
Here we’re essentially channeling The Myth of Booking Award Tickets at Midnight 330 Days Out.
Their other myths are:
- You need the extra insurance on your car rental. Generally your own car insurance covers you in a rental, and premium credit cards will come with coverage that can pay collision costs not covered by your own policy. I use Diners Club, because its collision coverage is primary, meaning rental car dings don’t even have to get reported to my insurance company. (United Explorer’s coverage is primary as well.) And I rent from major agencies at airport locations which tend to be less persnickety about little scrapes.
- You’ll get a better exchange rate overseas by paying in dollars. Wow, never actually heard this one, although there are some places where dollars are a preferred currency, certainly in Vietnam folks will want to take your dollars and give you change at the ‘official’ exchange rate. Don’t exchange money at booths in the airport in the U.S. at least, your best bet will be to pay with credit cards that incur no foreign currency transaction fees and to take cash out of an ATM (since you’ll get close to the interbank rate) using an account that doesn’t surcharge foreign currency as well.
- Airfare prices are lowest late Tuesday night. I’ve never bought this one. There are certainly more updates to pricing during the day in the midst of the week, the best fares last only a few hours, you’re not really going to do the best by timing your searches to a particular day or staying up late at night.
- The best hotel deals come from third-party sites. Often the best prices can be found elsewhere, you can do even better by using a hotel chain’s best rate guarantee, some properties though can be booked cheaply through third parties (especially international resorts) and some properties can be booked with better benefits through third parties (such as Virtuoso or American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts where you’ll get breakfast, upgrades, late checkout, and room credits at a similar room rate as booking directly). So it’s not entirely a myth, and the mere existence of best rate guarantees doesn’t actually mean that hotel chains offer the best rates on their own websites. But you don’t want to book through third party online travel agents usually if you want elite stay credit, and with some chains even recognition of elite status benefits.
- Duty-free is a place to score deals. The finding is that some items are a deal, others are not, and of course pricing varies by airport and country as well.
All in all a good general-interest piece that turns out to be more right than wrong, which is my standard for travel pieces in mainstream publications.