I’ll be the first to admit – I LOVE planning for trips. Retirement has given me all the time in the world to do just that, and this year’s trip planning has been particularly rewarding.
Unlike last summer, this year is starting to look like an expensive summer for travel. It all comes down to supply and demand, with demand outstripping supply. Gas prices, rental car prices, hotel/Airbnb rates, and now airfares are all rising to (even exceeding) pre-pandemic levels. The key to planning trips this year was to get it all booked before everyone else decided they wanted to travel. Luckily for us, I was able to nail down the majority of the year’s travel arrangements by mid-April. Then I just sat back and watched prices and points/mileage redemption rates go up and up and up. There are deals that still pop up here and there, but they are few and far between compared to earlier in the year. Expedia just had their big sale last week, and Southwest currently has a 3-day 50% off sale that ends Thursday.
Another key to getting the best rates is to be strategic about when and where to travel. Don’t go where everyone else is going (I’m looking at you, Yosemite). Travel during weekdays, avoiding holidays and long weekends. Fly midweek. Avoid fancy hotel stays on Friday and Saturday nights (especially in cities like Las Vegas). Of course these are not always feasible for non-retirees, or families with school-aged kids.
After all is said and done, I managed to cover 74% of this year’s trip expenses (transportation and accommodation) using just points, miles, Amex offers, and statement credits. I’d say shelling out $2600 for 2 people for 43 days of traveling (including a week in Hawaii, a transcontinental trip, and 5 nights at 5-star hotels) is pretty darn good. I am doubtful that I will be able to replicate this next year because the value of points and miles will never be as good as it is during times of uncertainty, and those days of uncertainty are behind us.