- Joe Raedle / Getty
Everybody has their favorite splurge.
Mine happens to be travel.
But as a financial planner who enjoys finding a good deal, I’m not willing to pay a premium for the trips I take. I’d rather visit an under-the-radar destination during the off-season than fight the summer crowds in Europe.
It’s a travel philosophy that has served me well over time. One October, I spent 17 days in the Galapagos for $1,800, including airfare. Traveling to Antarctica via Argentina in March cost me just over $5,000. Another month-long trip to Australia, New Zealand, and Dubai (thanks to a well-planned layover) in November set me back less than $4,000. Although not cheap, the trips are a steal relative to what most people pay to visit those destinations.
The key to finding such great deals requires two things: research and flexibility.
I tend to approach travel-planning knowing vaguely when I’d like to travel (usually winter in New York City, so January through March), and with a general sense of places I’ve never been but would like to visit at some point.
Then, I search for airfare to see where ticket prices are lowest during my desired time frame. I try not to pay more than $1,000 for round-trip airfare if I can help it. Even the most exotic destinations have price fluctuations, so if you stay open-minded, you can find something good.
Scouring the web for this year’s cheapest destinations is fun for me. But most of my friends don’t have the patience to research travel prices for hours. And that’s how long it usually takes me – hours. I realize it’s not a budget travel tip that will work for everybody.
If you’re enticed by the idea of saving money on your next trip, but turned off by the amount of work my approach requires, I’ve got good news. Travel app Hopper recently launched a new feature, called Flex Watch, that automates this process for you.
Hopper already offers useful flight price reports, which track and analyze airfare to various destinations to help you figure out “when to fly and buy” for the lowest cost. But to use the reports, you have to know where you want to go. That may help you find a good deal to a specific destination, but you could be missing out on even better deal to somewhere just as good.
That’s where Hopper’s free Flex Watch feature comes in. Rather than searching for a destination, it will suggest locations that have the cheapest prices available right now. It’s perfect for the budget-conscious traveler, as well as the indecisive traveler who desperately needs to get away but doesn’t want to overpay.
All you have to know is where you are traveling from (your home airport, most likely) and when you want to go (this could be a span of a few months or specific dates). Once you put in that information, Hopper will return potential destinations that have the best deals during that time frame.
- Courtesy of Hopper
Here’s why this is a great service. Let’s say you really want to go to Thailand, and find round-trip tickets for $1,500. If you book it, you’ll have less money in your overall travel budget for fun activities, food, and accommodation. But, if Hopper happens to find tickets to Cape Town for $850 during the exact same week, you can adjust your travel plans accordingly, and visit Thailand another time.
It’s really a win-win. I should know, because that’s a real life example of another one of my trips. I found the deal on my own, after my usual hours of searching. Flex Watch should make this easy and fast.
You can find good travel deals in many ways – travel rewards credit cards come in handy, as do no-frills services like ITA Airfare (which is also one of my favorites). Hopper’s Flex Watch is another good resource to add to your travel toolbox, sort of like an AI-driven travel agent that knows which sales will entice you to buy.
If you’re planning a vacation anyway, you might as well get the best deal available. Who knows, maybe you’ll have so much left in your travel budget that you’ll be able to take your next trip sooner than expected.