Looking for both a cheap flight and a car rental? You’re not alone. More Americans than ever are planning fly and drive vacations, according to the 29th annual Portrait of American Travelers survey by MMGY Global.
That’s because most trips are hybrids, where travelers fly to an airport and start a road trip from there. These so-called “wings & wheels” travelers are mainly Millennials. Nearly six in 10 (57%) Millennials are taking road trips that began from another city.
How to Find Low, Low Airfares
The first component of a fly and drive vacation is a flight. Like rental car rates, airfares change all the time. Sometimes, a fare will drop after you book your ticket. The big secret to scoring low airfares is tracking your airfare for price drops, which means that you need to do two things:
Be flexible with travel dates. If you are willing and able to shift your travel dates forward or back by a day or two, you can often save significantly. Many booking sites provide calendars that let you see exactly which days are the cheapest.
Widen your cancellation window. Typically, once you buy your airline ticket, you’re locked into that price because you can’t cancel without a hefty change fee. If you can widen the cancellation window, you are better able to pounce if you see a cheaper airfare. There are two easy ways to do this.
- Book with Southwest Air, which doesn’t charge change fees at all. If a cheaper fare comes along, simply change your ticket—even if it’s the same flight—and you’ll be given a credit or refund for the difference.
- Book through Priceline, because its super-flexible cancellation policy (up to 96 hours after booking in some cases) makes it easier to rebook if a cheaper airfare surfaces within a day or two of booking your flight.
Fly and Drive Vacation Cost-Cutting
The secret to snagging a cheap car rental every time is to use every advantage in your toolkit to bring down prices.
Leverage your memberships. Do you belong to Costco, AAA, AARP, or USAA? The discount codes for these organizations regularly offer excellent rates. It can be worth paying their annual fees just for access to cheap rental cars.
When you ask AutoSlash for a quote, we use a system called Coupon ID to automatically scan thousands of discounts and then crunch the numbers to find the very best deals, taking into consideration your memberships and clubs.
Book early. The best time to book your car is as soon as you know your dates. Rental car reservations can usually be canceled without a penalty, so if prices drop—as they often do—you can cancel and rebook at a cheaper rate.
After you book your car, ask AutoSlash to track your reservation at no extra cost. We’ll let you know if there’s a price drop.
Check both on and off airport. An airport rental might be pricier than taking a cab or Uber to a neighborhood location and picking up your car there. Taxes at airport locations can push well past 30 percent. But off-airport rates aren’t always cheaper, so it pays to check both.
Just say no to add-ons. The fastest way to turn a cheap rental car into an expensive one is to add unnecessary extra options. Ticking the box on a service you might not need can end up costing as much or more than the rental itself.
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