May 8 2013 by Chris McGinnis
Is there any way to dodge pricey flights this summer?
With airfares skyrocketing and "deals" increasingly hard-to-find, budget conscious business or leisure travelers might consider more trips by car this summer.
In addition to high fares, airlines are now assessing new fees, which add even more to the cost of air travel. For example, in May most major carriers increased the fee to change a nonrefundable ticket to $200--up from $150. And if you must check bags, the standard fee is now $25 for the first bag, $35 for the second.
Some smaller airlines such as Frontier or Spirit are even charging passengers for carry-on baggage that does not fit in the small space under the seat. Only Southwest and JetBlue do not charge a fee for the first checked bag.
What about travel by car?
On the bright side, gasoline prices have tumbled over the last year, and the US Energy Information Agency does not expect the average price for a gallon of gas to top $3.63 this year--slightly less than last summer's average. With gasoline prices moderating, road trips might make a lot more sense this summer.
That's reflected in Best Western advance bookings for this summer. For example, among Best Westerns 2000+hotels, those located along highways are showing the largest growth in bookings this summer--up 5% compared to this time last year.
If you are one of those Best Western Rewards members with more point than you know what to do with, consider redeeming those points for gas cards at Exxon/Mobil or Shell to help cut the cost of your summer trips.
If possible, try to adhere to "the five hour rule" this summer. If you can drive to your destination in five hours or less...drive! You'll avoid airport crowds, delays, high fares and new fees. And you won't have to pay a cent to check a bag in the trunk of your car!
What are the most/least expensive times for taking a trip this summer?
Traveling during peak summer travel season nearly always means significantly higher prices. However, you can use timing to your advantage to avoid the most painful peaks. If possible, try to schedule business trips in early June or late August when demand is relatively low.
Bargain hunters should avoid travel during all of July if possible. For example, some weekends during July are as busy as Thanksgiving or Christmas at airports.
Depending on your destination, you will likely find some dips in demand (and slightly lower prices) during the weeks immediately following Memorial Day, July 4 or Labor Day.
Tune in later this month for Part Two of my strategies for saving money on summer trips.
Chris McGinnis is Best Western's travel trends expert and business travel blogger on youmustbetrippin.com