Book separate one-way fares
Compare separate legs instead of defaulting to a round-trip
Fly on less desirable days
Typically Tuesday Wednesday, Saturday. Although this is not by any means a hard and fast rule.
Pick off-peak times of year to travel or "shoulder seasons"
It's all about supply and demand for seats. Traveling to destinations during the fall and spring shoulder seasons and/or during off-peak times increases the chances for smaller crowds (i.e. more availability at popular restaurants and attractions), less expensive hotels and moderate temperatures in popular destinations.
Purchase your trip with a relevant credit card for points, perks and rewards
Co-Brand travel cards and / or cards with no foreign transaction fees, insurance, priority airport activities, lounge access etc. can add meaningful value and savings to your next trip.
Familiarize yourself with common airline fees
Be mindful that not all airfares are the same that you need to consider the total cost of a flight (inclusive of check-bag fees, seat selection, carry-on fares etc.
Book flights when the price is right (for you) leveraging fare alerts, flight tracker apps, newsletters and email notifications
There are many sites that tell you to book on a certain day of the week to get the best fares. Fares are determined by many factors and you should be using sites that give you regular fare alerts - many good options include: Kayak, Google Flights, Hopper, Airfarewatchdog and Skyscanner. Start the alerts well in advance of when you want to travel and act on it when the price hits your threshold. FlightAware is an excellent app to track delays or updated flight timings. LivingSocial, Groupon and Travelzoo are good newsletters / tools for travel options.
Choose flights departing at off-peak and outside the box times of the day
Consider options like Saturday mornings/evenings or mid-week afternoons for reduced fares and also for reduced activity at airports. It makes the whole travel experience a bit more enjoyable when you can take some of the stress out. Early morning/late night flights + redeyes etc. may sometimes be your best bet. It's all about supply and demand.
Fly from the largest airports for the most competitive rates
The biggest airports in the largest metro areas have the most flights and the most competition and thus the most potential for discounted rates. While smaller, local airports may be more convenient for passengers - potentially closer to home/destination, less crowded, easier to navigate etc - they may be more expensive because there may be less competition.
Consider booking channel an important part of your search
Booking directly with travel providers (e.g. big hotel providers) or their agents can net loyalty points, added perks (e.g. free wifi/breakfast) and a guarantee of the lowest rate. Online Travel Agents (OTAs) are extremely valuable partners for travel providers and can give consumers broad choice when considering travel options.
Stay flexible in your Google Flights search
If you know where you're going and when you want to depart, consider leaving your return date blank and Google will present you with a calendar showing the lowest prices for your desired route. You'll see that some days might be significantly cheaper than others, potentially saving money on your trip.
Don't know where you want to go? Use Google's Destinations
If you don't have a specific destination in mind, Google Flights offers helpful tools - if you want to go to somewhere but not sure where yet, enter desired travel dates with a destination like "Europe" and then see where the best deals are for your dates, preferences and locations.
Use Google's hotel search features to save on room rate
Google's comprehensive hotel search tools allow you to search based on hotel class, rating, location and budget. You can see pricing on an easy-to-navigate calendar and a flagged "Deal" badge adjacent to hotel names where pricing has dipped from normal average rates or fallen beneath the price of similar nearby properties. You can sort searches by rating, price and relevance, enter a maximum nightly rate and even filter according to amenities (e.g. free breakfast and pet-friendliness).
Use loyalty points effectively
Use sites that help you track points (e.g. Points.com, Award wallet) and make sure you are getting good yield on your points. 1.5%+ is a good marker for flights, 2%+ for hotels and accomodations.
Consider concentrating travel to preferred airlines / hotels to reach elite status and save
While it may not always be the cheapest option, the general idea of concentrating travel with fewer providers leads to faster elite status which in turn provides benefits (e.g. potential discounts, amenities etc). Certainly a trade-off may be cost especially for infrequent travelers.
Consider local (and national) ride share where applicable in conjuction with public transport
While local taxis, buses and trains can be staples in some markets, always do a scan of Uber and Lyft in a market to see price differences. Furthermore, consider local apps / rideshare options in a market which may be more popular, more convenient and less expensive than the traditional comparable option. When possible, avoid renting cars to save on rental insurance or parking fees. Consider that trade-off vs. the importance of having a car for families, extensive driving trips or a sheer preference for this type of convenience.
When choosing cities, consider traditional business travel destinations during off-peak periods
For affordable U.S. city trips, consider cities that draw signficant business travelers (possibly even more than) leisure travelers. Visit when business travel is low (e.g. August, early January, holidays, weekends). There may be more opportunities for lower airfares, emptier hotels. Consider less obvious tourist destinations in these cities to maximize savings and value.
For local experiences, consider booking tickets in advance and using local companies
Take the opportunity to save on early booking discounts and contribute to local businesses by sourcing local tour companies.
Consider vacation packages no matter what your price point
Consider booking a vacation package where you bundle air, hotel and possibly rental car and tour options. While traditional options like Cheap Caribbean, Expedia, Priceline, Kayak, Travelzoo, Groupon and Living Social exist, many travel providers (airlines, hotel companies) are offering packages and using your preferred airline or hotel brand may lead to an outcome where preferences can align with cost. Always keep an eye on the fine print.
Consider all-inclusives at any price point
The point here is that all-inclusives help avoid sticker shock and keep prices predictable no matter your budget - an all-inclusive vacation typically includes some combination of meals, activities and lodging. higher-end offerings at predictable prices. Always read the fine print.
Avoid checking bags whenever possible
While it may be hard to do with kids (or even as just adults traveling), try to pack light and avoid checking luggage as much as possible. Avoid the risks of lost bags, paying high/overweight fees etc. Packing less just means relying on the destination more (for activities for families) or just wearing fewer clothes more times. The flip side of course of checking bags, cost and lost-bag risk side, is carrying less between destinations which can certainly be a low-stress way to travel. And if you have a reward card or elite status, the cost of checking bags may be moot.
Consider less traveled destinations vs. traditional choices
An easy way to stretch travel budgets is to consider less traveled desintations rather than traditionally popular choices. Emerging destinations often have fewer tourists, can offer a hyper local feel and typically still offer world-class museums, cultural enclaves and culinary scenes. Every country has them, so take advantage of the current situation on the ground.
Use hotel cancellation policies to your advantage
If you think you will travel to a particular destination and you have a hotel in mind, familiarize yourself with cancellation policies for that location. Many hotels offer policies to cancel close to arrival. Depending on how far in advance you book, you may be able to plan a trip but then cancel closer in if plans change. This is important to stay in the midset of travel and have options in case the trip fall through.
Source: US News