french bulldog puppy in suitcase

@nikcanvas/Twenty20

It’s that time of year when many of us happily swap our swimsuits for sweaters and chilled rosés for PSLs. But if you’re a savvy saver, you know the real reason to really love this season has nothing to do with pumpkin-flavored products, and more to do with it being prime time to fly the skies, frugally.

In many regions around the world, September and October are great months to travel, and are fondly known by frugal travelers as “shoulder season.” This short timeframe yields long daylight hours, thinning crowds and (often) deeply discounted hotel rates and airfare. While shoulder season differs from region to region (so be sure to do your research), now is the time to YOLO a bit, and book that trip.

In honor of shoulder season, I’m giving you the lowdown on my fave ways to sneakily save on airfare and accommodations, which likely take up the bulk of your travel budget. You don’t have to sacrifice your savings to stack those stamps!

Airfare

The biggest dent you’ll make in your travel budget is likely when you purchase your airfare. Flying the skies frugally can make an immense difference in how far you can stretch your travel budget, and it can really boil down to when you actually book. Patience can really pay off, but procrastination can end up being pricey! It’s a delicate balance.

You’ll typically find the cheapest airfare on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so plan on checking out airfare on those days of the week. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays also tend to be the cheapest days to fly, so plan your vacay accordingly!

Also, shout out to technology for making it so much easier to score a deep deal. My favorite tech tools that I always tinker around with before I book a flight include:

  • Airfarewatchdog: This website combs through airfares, finding and highlighting the most affordable ones. Plus, you can filter by specific airlines or routes. You can also sign-up to get alerts when airline prices drop. Another reason I love Airfarewatchdog? It lays out all airline and baggage fees in one handy spot, so you can budget out every cent you intend to spend; no surprises!
  • Google Flights: I absolutely love booking with Google Flights. If you’re not quite ready to book, you can track prices for specific flights or routes. I also like to enable mobile notifications, so I’m notified when prices for a route I’m currently viewing will likely go up or when a current fare for a flight will expire soon, and the new fare will likely be more expensive.
  • Hopper: This is one of my favorite travel apps! Hopper is super easy to use, and uses historical price data to predict when your flight will likely be cheapest, recommending you either “wait” or “book now.” Simple as that.

Oh, and don’t forget to really maximize your money with a travel credit card! You can easily earn frequent flier miles, bonus miles and hotel rewards with everyday purchases.

Accommodations

While there are definitely perks to staying at a hotel—like that fluffy bathrobe and room service—you could save tons on your trip by rethinking your lodging accommodations. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars at a Hilton, consider the following:

  • Airbnb: I only stay in Airbnbs when I travel; the price difference is astounding. Don’t believe me? When I did a search for a room at the Hilton Chicago for the end of September, I found it was priced at around $194 a night. However, you can stay at an Airbnb for around $46 per night during the same time, while getting to know a local Chicagoan, (as a native Chicagoan, I can assure you that we are pretty amazing).
  • TrustedHousesitters: Talk about a win-win: This site connects people in need of a pet sitter or house sitter with frugal travelers looking for a place to crash. In exchange for watching over a person’s pet or home while they are away, you’ll get to stay at their place for free. It’s basically like an Airbnb with a bit of added responsibility. Membership costs $119 annually, but then that’s it! TrustedHousesitters operates in a slew of countries and cities.
  • Roomer: Can’t bring yourself to pass up those perfectly-plumped hotel pillows? Check out Roomer for deeply discounted hotel rooms. Roomer acts as a “peer-to-peer marketplace for buying and selling hotel reservations,” and gives people who need to get rid of a prepaid hotel room an easy out. Frugal travelers can swoop in and scoop that room for a rock-bottom price. The platform validates all reservations and offers both buyer and seller protections.

If you’re all about that hotel life, it might be beneficial to check out a hotel credit card. You could potentially score complimentary hotel stays, membership status and room upgrades.

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