Who knew that summer vacations could be so much work?

On the latest episode of PennyWise, host Nat Cardona talks with Sally French of NerdWallet about her top 6 tips for summer travel.

Nerdwallet explains tips for booking domestic and international flights as well as how to use travel rewards to your benefit.

Get more travel tips from Sally French here!

Nat Cardona is host of PennyWise as well as Lee Enterprise’s true-crime podcast Late Edition: Crime Beat Chronicles. Lee Enterprises produces many national, regional and sports podcasts. Learn more here.

People are also reading…

Note: The following transcript was created by Adobe Premiere and may contain misspellings and other inaccuracies as it was generated automatically:

Welcome to Pennywise, a Lee Enterprises podcast. I’m your host, Nat Cardona. Summer is in full swing. But it’s not too late to plan your summer vacation and save some money while you’re at it. Here’s travel expert Sally French. All right. So today’s topic, we’re talking about six tips for traveling this summer. Where do you want to begin? 

I think we should start by talking about how early in advance you should book on. Unfortunately, it is already this summer, so this advice might come a little bit late. But the bad news is it it can be really difficult to find. Last minute flight deals. A lot of people are used to last minute deals when it comes to hotels and rental cars in shows. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case. So the sooner you can book, the better.

For domestic flights, the best deals are usually found 1 to 3 months out for international flights. The best deals are 2 to 8 months out. So, you know, maybe you just start planning ahead for summer of next year. That or the very tail end, right as it’s about to hit September. Throw it in there that could be summer, too.

Aside from that, what else do you have for me? Yeah. You know, the next thing is to choose the right location. We saw in the early years of the COVID pandemic, borders were closed. So often domestic airfare prices got really, really high because the people who otherwise would have done international travel might just instead do domestic travel. That sort of actually flipped.

In fact, domestic airfare prices overall have actually dropped in summer 2023 versus summer 2022. So that’s really good news. If you are a domestic traveler, you might pay less this year than you did last year. But the reality is international flights are much more expensive. Most people haven’t taken international trips in a while. So this is a summer.

They’re making it happen. According to Hopper data, the average flight between the U.S. and Asia this summer costs more than 1800 dollars for economy class. And it makes sense. Demand is high. The number of passengers leaving for Asia is about four times what it was this year versus last year. Okay. I may be jumping ahead and one of your tips that you have coming up, but when we talk about flights versus driving, do you have any tips on that?

Yeah, you know, it’s hard to say whether driving or flying is a better deal because often it depends on your own individual circumstances. How many people can you fit in that car? Also, what are the things that you typically pay for when you travel? So something to consider when it comes to airfare is often you’re not paying for the airfare alone.

You’re also paying for checked bags. If you’re someone who needs to board early, then you’re also often paying for priority boarding. And the nice thing about a rental car or your own car is that you can pack as many people into the car as you can fit. You can pack as much stuff as you can fit. So often, if you’re someone who packs heavy, who has a big family or other travel companions, that car can be worth it.

Another thing to consider this year is that luckily gas prices are down from what they were last summer. So you do get that reprieve when it comes to the cost of your road trip. Yeah, thank God for that, because that was a little intense last year. What do we have for number four? Yeah, well, I you know, sort of in that vein is a lot of people think about airfare when it comes to travel, that’s often their biggest component.

People will say, I got two airfare deals, so I want to book this trip. But the reality is often hotels and rental cars tend to be an increasingly large factor of your vacation budget, especially car rental prices. They’re up 50% more than what they were in 2019. We saw car rentals prices spike during the pandemic because so many people wanted to do road trips.

Couple that with things like the semiconductor shortage just made, car rental prices go so much higher. Luckily, car rental prices are down from those early pandemic highs, but again, 50% more expensive than what they were in 2019. That’s a huge factor of your budget. Yeah, And hotels are 20% more expensive, what they were in 2019. So that’s still a big factor.

I think a lot of people, especially if they’re taking a longer trip, that’s going to require them to stay in a hotel for many, many nights. They often figure I got a cheap airfare to someplace, but that place is really expensive. It might actually net out better overall if you book a more expensive airfare to a cheaper place because your hotel costs won’t be as high when you’re there.

Very, very good advice there. Wouldn’t have thought of that. So thanks for sharing that one. We have just a couple more tips for summer travel. What do you got? Yeah, well, you know, I mentioned that hotel and rental car prices are up, but Nerdwallet tracks inflation prices for restaurants as well. And restaurant prices are up 25% now versus the same time in 2019.

That’s a huge increase, one of the biggest increases. And of course, most people when they travel, go out to eat at restaurants. So whatever you can do to save on your food costs is so crucial. One of my favorite tips for saving on food costs is to head to the local grocery stores. I find this just to be a fun activity, to learn about the culture.

If you don’t even go to a grocery store but go to a farmer’s market or some sort of other open air market, these can be a great way to find a new fruit that you’ve never seen before or just to pick up those local snacks. It’s always fun to try the chips and the candy from a different culture.

I always feel like I see something that looks like it’s made by Coca-Cola and it doesn’t taste like any sodas that I’ve had before. So I almost think that’s one of the most exciting parts about travel anyway, is going to the grocery store, is it? And just to kind of piggyback off of that is if you don’t opt for a hotel and you go more of the Airbnb furbo right route, you can always hopefully have a kitchen to be a little bit better equipped for that kind of style of eating.

Absolutely. And then it’s fine. You find vegetables you’ve never seen before and you find a fun ways to cook them that can actually be part of the vacation experience itself. There we go. Keep things interesting for sure. All right, Sally, we got the last thing on the summer list. Of course, my final tip that I live by is making sure I have the right travel credit cards.

So you can use travel credit cards to rack up points to pay for travel. And a lot of people think I don’t have that many points. I’m never going to be able to book of international flight with my miles. I just don’t have that many. But even if you don’t have that many points yet to book after travel, credit cards can save you money in so many other ways, so you can accrue enough points for your spending.

But many airline hotel credit cards will or airline and hotel credit cards will have perks that save you money. So often, airline and credit cards will offer something like free checked bags, free priority boarding. And you figure even if a card has a $100 annual fee, which is pretty common, but you check bags each direction for you and your buddy, that pays for itself right there.

The same goes with these hotel credit cards. Many of them have perks like free breakfast, free room upgrades, even a free night certificate. These credit cards that have annual fees, about $100, and they give you a free night certificate. Find me a hotel room for less than $100 is a challenge that that can be worth it right there.

Other credit card benefits include things like travel insurance, which we all learned during the pandemic are so crucial. Many of the best travel credit cards offer travel insurance as a benefit for paying on the card. So that’s just another way that these credit cards can save you money. Even if there’s an annual fee, it’s not for everyone. But if you can take advantage of that, that can often see you in the end.

Yeah perks all around there and just a friendly reminder this would be going directly through the airline and website, not some third party website if you’re using their credit card. Correct. So typically when you are looking to get those bonus points on something like a hotel or an airline, typically you do have to book it directly with that hotel or that airline.

But that’s what Nerdwallet recommends anyway. Travel. These are really, really great to get an overview of the location and compare flights or compare hotels, but typically it’s best to book directly anyway. You can get more benefits often lower rates, because you figure a hotel likely will have to pay a commission to that third party travel agency if you book with them So often hotels will just pass on that savings to you, at least in some small way.

And even if it’s not lower prices, it’s pretty common for hotels to offer things like free breakfast if you book directly with them. And then you figure if you have to make a change or a cancellation to your reservation, it’s much easier to cut out that middleman and just be able to call the hotel directly and change that reservation rather than then say, Well, we need to contact your online travel agency.

That just adds an unnecessary next step. Most of the time, if things are black and white, no gray area, I can speak from experience to always go the direct route. There’s a lot of headaches that every once in a while you’ll find like an amazing deal on those third party travel agencies. And if you do, you know, you don’t want to pass that up.

But often if the prices are similar, it’s better to just go. Director Perfect. Perfect. Well, I think that’s it for your six travel tips through the summer. Correct. Good luck to you with your travels this summer. Road trips ahead, nothing too, and saying. Right. Good luck to everything. Thanks so much, Sally. I’ll be talking to you soon. Thank you.

Related Posts