Best Way to Save for Travel in 2013: Book Rewards Now

by  Blane Bachelor | Aug 31, 2012
Passport / goodmoments/iStock

We here at ShermansTravel hope you’re spending the long Labor Day weekend somewhere fabulous. But if you want to score the best deals and rewards perks for busy travel times in 2013, here’s a heads-up: Factor in some time over this holiday to start planning your next trip, especially if it falls during peak travel times like Spring Break and Thanksgiving.

If planning (or booking) so far ahead seems a little extreme, consider that scoring affordable airline seats – whether through rewards programs or good deals themselves – will require even more energy, savvy, and patience than ever before. Recent airline mergers have cut capacity and reduced routes; adding to the problem is the explosion of credit-card rewards programs. The bottom line is that there are more travelers scrambling for fewer seats these days.

Fortunately, there are some ways to help travelers score the seats and travel times they want. Here, a few tips that will have you headed for takeoff in 2013, without losing your sanity (or a chunk of your life savings) in the process.

Call, don’t click. Booking awards miles is one of those times when you should use your smart phone as an actual phone (i.e. call the airline’s reservation agent, or even use a travel agent, to get the job done). Online booking of frequent-flier awards is notoriously less effective than talking to a live human, because airline websites don’t have the full inventory of available award seats – or the brainpower to piece together the most effective way to use your points by offering different routes and flight times.

In other words, an experienced agent can save your hard-earned miles (and stress). So save yourself the hassle, and reach for the phone instead of the mouse.

Grab good deals when you see them. Who hasn’t found an enviable rate online and then waited a day or two, hoping it would drop even lower, only to watch it skyrocket the next day? Bottom line: When you see a good deal, whether it’s for a hotel or flight, book that sucker, stat. In addition to the budgetary bonus, you can start using the time you would have spent monitoring the airfare on planning another aspect of your trip.

Try to get elite status on one airline. These days, travelers are much more driven by finding lower prices than staying loyal to one carrier. But if you can, achieving elite status on one airline can pay off with some pretty serious perks, one of which is much better availability for rewards seats.

And don’t forget about foreign carriers. Understanding the intricacies of the various rewards and frequent-flier programs is a mind-boggling prospect, but sometimes, the simplest solution to securing a seat for the cheapest price is to consider international carriers. Several of them offer programs and plans that their U.S. counterparts should take a hint from. Take British Airways, for example, which allows passengers in the same household to combine miles for reward redemption.

In addition, consider Air Canada’s Aeroplan frequent-flier program, which it branched into a separate loyalty company. With Aeroplan, savvy travelers can use Air Canada to book trips on other Star Alliance carriers, including U.S. Airways, United, Lufthansa, and Singapore.

To start planning your next trip, use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rate on flights, hotels, packages, and more travel deals.

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