Best Time to Book and Other Insider Secrets

travel budget savings insider tips

Photo © AWelshLad

When should you book your flight to get the cheapest fare? How can you get a free room upgrade? Avoid long security lineups? Here are some travel tips from the experts.

Book your flight six weeks in advance. Whether to book your flight now or wait for a better deal is one of the most perplexing questions air travellers face. According to a U.S. study by the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) a good rule of thumb is to buy tickets six weeks before your flight. While it’s not necessarily a surefire strategy to snag the cheapest fare — depending on demand, airlines can offer deals all the time — most people paid about 6 per cent below the average fare if they booked 42 days in advance, the study found.

A few other general tips to keep in mind:

— Typically, the cheapest day to travel domestically is midweek (Wednesday), according to Other low cost days are Tuesday and Saturday, and not surprisingly, the most expensive days to travel are Friday and Sunday. And early birds often catch the best deal; the first flight of the morning usually has the lowest fare.

— Surfing the net for deals? This is another task you might want to do early in the day. Experts say airlines offer more reduced fares in the morning, and these tickets can sell out quickly.

— If you decide to hold off in hopes of a drop in price, it’s a good idea to sign up for fare alerts offered by travel sites such as Travelzoo. Another price-tracking service,, can even alert you if the price of your plane ticket drops after purchase. This allows you to request an airline voucher for the price difference.

Save time on security lineups. If you encounter a long security line, don’t automatically join the pack. Many large airports have additional screening points a little off the beaten track that are less crowded. If you plan to travel in the United States, for example, you can visit the Transportation Security Administrations website to find the location of security checkpoints at every US airport. The website also publishes average wait times by the hour.

Get the room upgrade — without paying a penny more. When it comes to upgrades, timing is everything. Naturally, you’ll have a better chance of success if the hotel is slow, but it’s also important to ask for the upgrade right away, before you’re locked into the room. If you want to score a more luxurious accommodation, don’t wait for the front-desk person to hand you a key.

Let it be known if it’s a special occasion or if you have specific business needs. And even if you “miss the moment” at check-in, communicate any displeasure with the room you’ve been assigned. You never know — you still may get the upgrade or at least be reassigned to a more suitable room.

Pay coach, fly first class. A useful airline secret to know is that you can buy a first-class ticket for little more than the last minute coach fare. The trick is to search for a fare destination code called a “Yup” or a “Q-up”. Check out, which has an online tool designed to search for these special fares. While Y- and Q-ups are usually significantly more expensive than advance-purchase fares, they’re not much more than last minute coach. (For more information, see First-class seats for less.)

Upgrade your rental car for free. Rental car companies typically overbook — and economy cars are usually the first to go. If you’re renting a car online, reserve the cheapest car available and chances are you’ll get a better car without even asking for it.

Hotel sold out? Here’s how to get a room. Do you have your heart set on a particular hotel? You’ll have better luck getting a room if you call the hotel directly instead of dialing the 800-numbers which put you through to a centralized reservation centre. Workers in the call centre don’t have the authority to manipulate a hotel’s inventory the way an on-site manager does.

And don’t forget to check reseller websites. Most hotels give some of their inventory to third-party travel sites such as Expedia, and Travelocity.

Sources: Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC); U.S. News & World Report; Money Magazine; New York Times,

Do you have any travel savings tips you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!