Outsmart Your Fellow Traveler

Traveling is hard enough with all the logistics, headaches and lately, rising fees, but you can outsmart your fellow traveler on planes, trains and automobiles - even hotels - with these insider travel tips.


#1 Check Flight's Occupancy
The trick to knowing if it's time to buy now or wait for a fare sale is to check the flight's occupancy. If there are only a few seats left, book fast. Prices will likely rise from here on out.

Also See: 6 Tricks to Slash Your Cell Phone Bill by $1,000 a Year

#2 Opt For Flat-Fee Upgrades
Flat-fee upgrades are becoming more common and the cheapest way to fly upper cabin, despite the fact that airlines do not advertise these deals. Its not quite first class but often means more legroom, more earned miles and early boarding. Prices depend on the number of seats free and range from $50 to $250 for domestic flights and up to $500 for oversees crossings.

#3 Get Bumped on Fridays
Everyone knows that volunteering your seat on an over-booked flight is an easy, if inconvenient, way to earn free air travel. But did you know that Fridays are often the best day of the week to give up your seat? According to insiders, with business travelers desperate to get home and leisure travelers departing on weekend trips, few are willing to give up their seat on a Friday night.

Also See: Road Trip Savings: 7 Ways to Save 15 percent

"The more desperate the airline is, the better deal you're going to get," says J.D. Rinne of Jetsetter.com. "This is particularly true on peak travel days like Thanksgiving Eve and Christmas Eve. So if you're planning on travelling on these days, you should book a morning flight but plan to volunteer to get bumped to an afternoon one. This is also true of resort and honeymoon destinations."

#4 Enlist Rewards Specialists
If you want to outsmart your fellow traveler through your frequent flier miles, it sometimes helps to enlist an expert. Experienced rewards specialists can help you use your own loyalty programs to help you make the most of your trip.

#5 Hire a Travel Agent
But even if you don't have miles to work with, good old travel agents can still save you time and money and there services are free to use. I recently worked with an agent and saved about 30% on flights alone.

Also See: Common Money Traps to Avoid


#6 Got Kids? Go By Rail
If you prefer to travel by land, consider rail. It's often cheaper than both driving and competing airfares, especially true in high-speed corridors like along the Northeast. And if you're traveling with kids or seniors, this is a no-brainer. Children ages 2-15 ride for 50% off and infants always ride free. Members of Triple AAA and AARP also get a 15% discount.


#7 Rent Cars By the Hour
As for car rentals, Hertz and other big rental car firms are increasingly offering hourly rates for their cars.

"One great site is Autoslah.com," says Rinne. "Think of it as the Kayak for car rentals. What's even more is that after you make a reservation, Autoslash continues to search for great rates and if it finds a better one it goes ahead and cancels that initial reservation and rebooks you at the lower rate."

Also See: When it Pays to Spend More


#8 Sign Up For Loyalty Programs
Now that you've landed at your destination, time to make the most of your lodging. And just like flyer miles earn you free airfare, hotel loyalty programs are among the most generous to members.

"At Jetsetter one loyalty program we love is Starwood's Preferred Guest Program This gives you access to great brands like Sheraton, Westin and Le Meridien - basically 1,000 hotels in almost 100 countries," says Rinne.

Also See: 5 Things You Should Stop Buying

#9 Seek Upgrades
Even if you're not a loyalty member, don't be shy to ask about upgrades, especially at the big hotel chains. In fact, the best time to ask is around 6 p.m. the day you check in, at which point hotel clerks can see which of the better rooms are likely to go vacant.

There are lots of ways to travel smarter and save. Got any more? Connect with me on Twitter @Farnoosh, and use the #FinFit.