In the past few years, I have had the privilege of witnessing the Northern Lights, climbing the tallest mountain in Mauritius, and swimming by wild dolphins in the Red Sea. Travelling can be expensive, but it can also be economical. I have bought roundtrips to Iceland for $260, Mauritius for $638, had half-price flight tickets to Miami, and even scored a free hotel stay there! Here are my tips and tricks that will ensure you always get the best deals out of Canada.
Note: This article is not sponsored by any of the websites mentioned below. I am simply sharing these hacks so you can save some money too!
1. Be Open to Different Destinations
Some of the best vacations I’ve had were trips that I bought “on a whim”. I put that in quotes, because they weren’t impulse purchases. Moreso, they were buys where the destination wasn’t planned. Each time I have planned where and when I wanted to go, my flight prices have been significantly higher. On the other hand, each time I have bought a roundtrip just because the opportunity arose, it has been an extremely economical purchase (and a fun time!). So, be open to different locations, and follow the tips and tricks below.
If you take one thing from this article, make it this website! If you haven’t already subscribed to this website, do it right now (well, do it after you read this article, please). Chris Myden over at YDeals saves Canadians hundreds of dollars each year by curating the best deals on his website. Currently, you can subscribe to deals from all major cities in Canada, and even some smaller cities such as Regina and Saskatoon. The YDeals franchise has a handy-dandy subscription service where, when you sign up, you get an email for every extra-amazing deal out of the airport closest to you. This is a great way to travel on a budget! P.S. if you have a Gmail account, make sure that your YDeals aren’t going to the promotions tab. For the longest time, I wasn’t getting the deals because Gmail would automatically categorize it as a promotional email.
Like YDeals, this website curates flight deals out of major cities all over the world. If you’re around a city like Toronto, Vancouver or Calgary, you can enjoy travel deals from this website as well. To set up alerts, you can simply download the app, create a member account and allow push notifications to tell you when Secret Flying finds a flight deal out of the airport closest to you. Alternatively, you can directly visit the website and see all the current deals. Some of the recent deals include Toronto to San Juan, Puerto Rico for $327.
If you already have an idea of the destination and the time you want to go, Google Flights is a great way to monitor prices and save hundreds of dollars. The tracking, date grid and price graph functionality are great ways to do this.
Here’s a quick overview of how to use the date grid, price graph and alerts features to maximize savings. Select the destination you want to go to, and the date range. Your search result will look something like this.
For the dates I’ve chosen, the cheapest flight out of Vancouver going to Honolulu is $578. However, I’m flexible with my dates, so I can check out the price graph and date grid to get a better idea of how much roundtrips of similar lengths can cost.
The date grid shows me that if I change my dates from Sept 5th- Sept 14th to Sept 4th – Sept 12th, I can decrease my flight costs by $85.
Checking the price graph feature, I can see the dates when a similar length trip can be found for lower. Here, I can see that if I bring my trip forward by 9 days, I can get a flight that is $77 cheaper. You can toggle the plus and minus buttons to change the trip length.
If you feel like you can wait on buying the tickets, or you simply want to keep your options open, just swipe the Track prices option. Google will notify you on your Gmail account when prices have changed. Please note that you have to be signed into your Google account for the Track prices option to be available to you.
In my opinion, this is not the best travel loyalty program out there, but this is one a Canadian should never forget about. The program is widely available and easy to collect points on. However, it is important to note that the miles (points) are not worth the same at all times. The same flight could cost thousands of miles more, depending on when you are buying the ticket for. Furthermore, come 2020, Air Canada will replace Aeroplan with a new loyalty program. Air Canada says that with the new program, your Aeroplan miles will be honoured on a one-to-one basis. All verbiage from Air Canada and Aeroplan assure us that this acquisition will not negatively affect loyalty status, ratios, etc. While I hope this is true, I’d take this with a grain of salt.
Now that my disclaimers are out of the way, I’ll say that I’ve still saved approximately $1000 using Aeroplan. So, it definitely is worth collecting these miles via your travel rewards credit cards, and/or taking multiple Star Alliance flights.
Even though Aeroplan miles get you the flight for “free”, you still have to pay taxes and surcharges on the flight. Oftentimes, these are around half the price of a full fare ticket. I typically use these points for a long haul U.S. trip as this has proven to be one of the best Aeroplan cents-per-mile ratios. Typically, Air Canada charges a higher number of incidentals that its Star Alliance brethren. Thus, if you are able to find a flight that is serviced by another Star Alliance carrier, you will probably save some more money.
To give you an idea of what your savings can be using Aeroplan, here’s the cost differential for a roundtrip this coming weekend from Toronto to San Francisco (June 28th – June 30th).
Aeroplan: $205 in taxes & surcharges, and 25,000 Aeroplan miles
Google Flights: $1006
As you can see, for last minute flights, or typically expensive flights, Aeroplan can really save you some money. So, when you’re travelling on peak days, it can be very beneficial to use up those miles. Currently, Aeroplan points can be used to purchase flights, hotels, transportation and even shop online at stores such as Costco, Indigo and Best Buy . With the 2020 acquisition this may change, but let’s hope, it changes for the better!
6. Your Corporate Job
Do you have one of those corporate jobs where you travel a lot (or even a little)? If so, take full advantage of it and collect all travel points available to you on it! I had a job where I travelled only 3 times in a span of a year and a half. Within that short span, I was able to collect approximately 65, 000 Hilton Honors points. This allowed me to book accommodation at a Hilton in Miami for free! The company I worked for had Hilton as it’s preferred partner, and so each time I was sent on a trip, I stayed under the Hilton brand. I started collecting points since my first trip, and very soon, I had a lot more points than my coworkers. Check out if your company has a preferred hotel chain or airline. This would mean that if any accommodation or flight is booked for you by the company, it would likely be under this chain. Thus, it would be wise to acquire a loyalty card with these companies and then accumulate points on every business trip you take. With business trips, you are essentially paying nothing to build loyalty with travel companies. These loyalty benefits can then later be used for personal use.
7. Be Flexible to Travel Off Season
I understand that not everybody is able to be flexible with when they travel due to different commitments. However, I challenge you to stretch out of your comfort zone. For example, if you have kids, consider letting them have a prolonged sleepover at grandma’s, or hey, take them out of school for a bit. Some of the best memories I have as a child are memories of when my parents took our family on vacation. Travelling off season means less tourists, and less tourists means lower prices. So, when you’re booking your next vacation, see if you can book it off season!
What are some other ways that you save costs on travelling? Let me know in the comments below!