Watching Your Wallet: Make the most of your summer vacation

Experts give tips to capitalize on your travel

Watching Your Wallet: Travel Smarter

(Gray News) - Booking a flight? Reserving a hotel? It is time to make the most of your summer vacation.

We have some money-saving hacks from our partners at the financial website NerdWallet to help you “travel smarter” this summer.

Nickey McMullen is a frequent traveler for both her music career and her non-profit organization based in Virginia. (InvestigateTV)
Nickey McMullen is a frequent traveler for both her music career and her non-profit organization based in Virginia. (InvestigateTV)

You won’t find Nickey McMullen dragging a bag across the airport.

“I’m a book bag person,” she said.

She’s the only woman in a traveling roots/reggae band.

“I’m not going to let the fellas talk about me because I’m packing too heavy,” she said while laughing.

With all of her trips, McMullen is a bit of an expert traveler.

“I’ve never had an official vacation. I’m always vacationing where music takes me,” she said.

She travels about 50 times a year. She not only flies for her band but also for her job at GirlsForChange.org.

“We prepare the world for black girls and black girls for the world,” she said.

Girls for Change is a Virginia-based non-profit, so she said every penny is carefully spent.

InvestigateTV found McMullen on her way to a conference in Atlanta, and she said she is always looking for ways to save.

“That’s the way I look at it. Delta and all them have enough money! [They] don’t need my little $4 or $5 or $20 that I might be saving. Just give it to me,” she said.

McMullen said she tries to book trips on “off” times to avoid rush hour - not only in her drive to the airport, but also at the airport itself.

“We are such a transient and careless society now. Everything is disposable, but money shouldn’t be," she said.

When McMullen books her tickets online, she always turns her browser to private. She said she doesn’t want her web history to be public - potentially allowing online travel sites to track what flights she’s considering as she mulls over a flight for several days.

There are conflicting ideas on whether browsing incognito really helps or hurts - or simply doesn’t make a difference. For example, NerdWallet reported in some cases, like while using travel site Expedia, being logged in as a member and staying public will help you get a deal.

Money magazine has advised browsing privately when simply looking around the internet for different deals, and McMullen said she thinks it’s been working well.

“They’ll change [the price]. You know, five minutes later, it will be totally different price. So, that is absolutely true. I do that for car rentals as well," she said. “I don’t know how else to describe it other than playing the system that’s trying to play you, I guess.”

Anna Jackson, a financial expert with NerdWallet, talks to InvestigateTV consumer reporter Rachel DePompa about ways to save money when booking travel. (InvestigateTV)
Anna Jackson, a financial expert with NerdWallet, talks to InvestigateTV consumer reporter Rachel DePompa about ways to save money when booking travel. (InvestigateTV)

Anna Jackson, a personal finance expert for NerdWallet, also had suggestions for saving money - particularly when it comes to the best time to book your flights.

“Timing is everything with travel," she said.

NerdWallet discovered the best day to book your flight is on a Sunday about three weeks prior to your travel. Jackson said it is also best to travel on either a Thursday or Friday.

“By traveling on those days you can save about 10 percent,” she said.

Jackson advised steering clear of flying on the weekends.

She also said to not always assume that direct flights are going to be more expensive - sometimes they are actually cheaper. Jackson’s main message was to shop around and not just go with the first option that comes up.

“I look at one-way flights. Sometimes you can book with different carriers. Fly out with one carrier, and you fly back with a different one. That can be a great way to save some additional money as well," Jackson said.

For hotels, NerdWallet discovered that arriving at a hotel on a Friday could actually be your best financial bet. It has to do with business travelers.

“A lot of business travelers are in a location during the week, especially if there’s a conference going on. Those people tend to leave by Friday [or] before Friday night," Jackson said.

Jackson said to start with a big booking site like hotels.com, but she said to always take the time to click the mouse and go straight to the hotel’s website and look at prices there too. Also, she said it never hurts to pick up the phone and see what deal you can get directly from the hotel.

“Oftentimes the website has a slightly lower rate than what you’ll find on these aggregate sites. It may only be a couple of dollars, but if you’re going for four nights, that could add up,” Jackson said.

As with booking flights, if you have flexibility with your schedule, you can also find bargains for hotels. Jackson suggested using last-minute booking options with websites like HotelsTonight.com.

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