Win cheap rental cars, plane tickets and more for summer trips

After two years of reduced stays and travel, Americans are ready to wander far from home.

More than 80% of New Yorkers are planning a summer vacation — or two — according to a survey by online travel journal and planning guide, The Vacationer. This pent-up demand and post-omicron travel boom is exciting, but you’ll pay more.

Travel comparison firm Hopper reports that the average cost of domestic airfare has risen 40% since the start of the year. According to AAA Travel, cruise bookings are twice as high as the same time last year.

Even in light of high gasoline and jet fuel prices, inflation, the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, and perennial worries about COVID, Americans are determined to take a vacation this year, said Eric Jones, co-founder of The Vacationer.

Forty-two percent of vacationers in our region plan to travel more, according to the survey, and they want to go so badly they’re willing to make the sacrifices to do so. Nearly 65% ​​of respondents said they would be fine with an inconvenience such as paying more or more flight layovers to reach their destination.

“Overall, I think our summer travel survey indicates that more people than at any time during the pandemic are travel-ready. And, more importantly, they will travel,” Jones said. “We will see a drastic increase in travel this summer, which is good for consumers and businesses.”

There’s plenty to do, but there are still plenty of ways to enjoy a summer respite without wiping out your savings. When booking a budget vacation by land, sea or air, there are many resources. The web offers a wealth of travel booking information and sites.

A multitude of options is great, but it can also be more overwhelming than a crowded flight and a surprise two-hour stint on a tarmac. Jones offers these tips and website recommendations to help you find the best deals on flights, hotels, cruises and car rentals. To see a complete list of the best websites in each category, visit

Find cheap hotels:

Start any hotel search with Google Hotels. “It offers powerful filters that allow you to find a variety of hotels near your destination,” Jones said. “It shows the cheapest prices from various online travel agencies (, Expedia, Travelocity, etc.) as well as the rate to book directly with the hotel.”

If an online travel agent offers the cheapest price, call or email the hotel directly and ask if they’re willing to offer you the same rate. Booking direct guarantees you’ll earn status and points with the hotel, and if there’s a problem, you’ll deal directly with the hotel, not a third-party site.

“If you have a lot of flexibility, consider using HotelTonight on the day or a few days in advance,” Jones said. “You can save up to 40% or more for last-minute bookings, but relying on it can be risky.”

Before booking, check to see if the hotel’s website or online travel agency participates in a cashback program. Popular programs like Rakuten and BeFrugal often offer 3-5% cash back on hotel bookings.

If all else fails, consider Airbnb and Vrbo. Depending on the destination, it may make more sense to rent a house rather than stay in a hotel, even if you don’t need the extra space.

Find cheap cruises:

Flexibility is key to finding a good deal on a cruise, Jones said. The best time – that is, the cheapest – to go on a cruise is when most children are in school. Avoid the heart of summer holidays and vacations.

“For the cheapest prices, I recommend booking in late summer through early fall,” he said. “During this time, most children are back in school and it is peak hurricane season, which will deter many others.”

Patience can pay. Cruise lines eager to fill all cabins tend to lower prices closer to the departure date.

“The main exception is if there’s a cabin or room you want to secure,” Jones said. Check sites like CruiseDirect and Cruise Critic for suggestions and deals. “In that case, you should book early to ensure it’s available,” he said.

Find cheap rental cars:

Start your search with an online travel agency like, Expedia, and Travelocity to see prices from different car rental companies.

“In most cases, I recommend booking directly with the rental car company because it’s often easier to cancel and change your reservation,” Jones said.

Choose only a rental that offers free cancellation, book as soon as possible and monitor the evolution of prices. If prices drop, you can cancel and rebook without charge.

“In some cases, I rebooked multiple times because the price kept going down,” Jones said. “The key is flexibility, so you always want a free cancellation policy.”

Avoid expensive add-ons such as GPS and toll packages. And, before you buy rental car insurance, check what you might already have with your credit card. Many credit cards offer secondary rental car insurance, but others offer primary insurance,

“With primary rental auto insurance, you first file a claim with your credit card company, as opposed to your personal auto insurance policy,” Jones said. “Car rental companies charge up to $35 to $40 a day to purchase this coverage, so it’s an expense you want to avoid if you already have coverage.”

Find a cheap plane ticket:

“Flexibility is the key to finding a lot on a flight,” Jones said. “Instead of picking travel dates and then booking your flight, you should find the cheapest days to get to your destination.”

Start with Google Flights, as the feature shows prices from various airlines and lets you book directly. Use the calendar view to see prices for a variety of dates. Sometimes changing plans for a day or two can mean hundreds of dollars in savings.

“Flight is often the most expensive part of any vacation, so I highly recommend finding cheap flight days and then booking the rest,” he said.

If you’re hesitant to book on a Friday because you’ve heard that Tuesday is the best day of the week to do business, don’t be.

“Contrary to popular myths, low prices are available every day of the week, so I recommend starting your search as soon as possible for summer travel,” Jones said. “For the days to actually fly, it’s usually cheaper on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.”

If prices stress you out even more than a red-eye flight during a thunderstorm, consider “shoulder season,” mid-to-late June and mid-August through the second week of September.

“Airline, hotel and rental car prices are often cheaper during the shoulder season, as they occur before and after the peak summer travel period,” Jones said. “The good news is that it’s usually still warm enough to enjoy typical summer activities for a much lower price.”

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