By Alek Vernitsky, CEO of GetGoing.com.
The cost of airfare has increased by 22 percent over the last 10 years, and as a result, many people cannot afford to fly for vacations—especially when there are multiple tickets to buy, and the price of airfare is often cost-prohibitive.
But there is a simple trick for saving money when planning a vacation: avoid focusing on the destination. I know that sounds counter-intuitive, but all too often, people get hung up on a particular destination they want to travel too, and if it is too expensive, they rush to the conclusion that they can't afford a trip that year.
There are thousands of affordable places out there, and people should never feel as though price was the only reason they couldn't go on a great trip. So if you really want to save money, approach the travel planning process by thinking first about the type of experience you want, and then the destination. By thinking about the kind of experience you want to have, you open yourself up to a vast array of possibilities when it comes to the destination you book. Say you wanted to go to Maui (focused on destination), but Maui was too expensive this time of year. Is it really important to you that you go to Maui in particular, or are you simply looking for the experience of a great beach getaway? If you're looking for the experience, then why not consider Oahu, Kona, Honolulu—or even much cheaper destinations in the Caribbean?
A quick search on GetGoing for "Hawaii Beaches" shows that right now, a flight from San Francisco to Maui is $683, but a flight to Honolulu is only $553. That ends up being a savings of $130 per person. So if you have a family of four, they would have saved $520 right off the bat—money that could be spent on the hotel, meals, or activities. A search for "Caribbean Beaches" reveals flights from San Francisco to San Juan, Puerto Rico, for $372—a savings of $211 per ticket or $844 in savings for a family of four.
If you're simply looking to go on a great beach vacation (or whatever experience you're interested in) with your family, locking yourself into a destination-focused mindset can cost you a lot of money in the trip-planning process. The problem is that people often don't know what else to look for. If you've never been to Hawaii, you may not know that in addition to Maui you should also search for Honolulu, Kona, Molokai, Hilo, and Kauai. There are more than 15 destinations in the Caribbean, too, so if you don't know every single one, you wouldn't be able to search for more flights.
This is where new travel technologies come in handy—enter a city, region, country, or experience and GetGoing will search for all of the destinations that match. Want to go scuba diving? Type in "Scuba Diving" and within seconds, view all of the options for great scuba destinations. Want to explore Italy, but don't know where to start? Enter "Italy" and it will return the best fares for every airport in the country with a single click, making it super fast and easy to compare all the fares and find the cheapest city to start your journey in.
The same thing goes for planning your activities—focusing on the overall type of experience you want to have can help you find great deals on activities to do once you get to your destination. Websites like Viator let you search for activities based on the experiences you want to have, making it easy to find the best deals on food, wine & nightlife, cultural activities, watersports, and many more experiences.
Regardless of whether you're just starting your trip planning process, trying to figure out if you can afford the flight and hotel, or you're looking for activities to book while at your destination, changing your mindset to focus on the experiences you want to have can help you save more money.