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Try This Pro Tip for an Affordable, Stress-Free Summer Vacation

Flights will be packed. Just before Memorial Day, the Transportation Security Administration set a new record for most air travelers screened, checking nearly 3 million passengers on May 24, surpassing the previous record set last Thanksgiving. U.S. airlines are projecting a record summer, expecting to fly 271 million passengers in June, July, and August, up 6% from last summer.

Roads will be jammed. GasBuddy’s latest summer travel survey predicts 76% of Americans plan to take a road trip sometime between Memorial Day and Labor Day — up 18% from last summer.

Hotels are full, too. Average hotel occupancy will rise to 63.4%, the highest level since 2019, according to the consulting firm HVS.

There’s only one way to get around the high prices and crowds: be flexible.

“With peak season prices, crowds, flight delays, and more, your itinerary should be in pencil — not pen,” said Bill Smith, CEO of Landing, a company that offers flexible rentals. “Being flexible can help minimize your travel spend while maximizing your adventure this summer.”

Here are ways to become flexible during the busiest travel season of the year, from planning your trip to using the right tools. Being a more flexible traveler also means thinking differently about travel — bending but not breaking.

Ways to Become More Flexible This Summer

Fly to Another City: Sometimes, the place you’re trying to visit is too popular — and expensive. For example, Phil Strazzulla wanted to visit Milan last summer, but ticket prices were over $1,000. Instead, he flew to nearby Zürich, Switzerland, for less. “Not only did this save us more than $300 per ticket, but the drive over the mountains was spectacular,” recalled Strazzulla, who runs a software review company. “Travel flexibility can result in cost savings — and a unique experience.”

Go Off the Beaten Path: True flexibility can mean stepping outside your comfort zone. “Instead of Rome, Italy, go to the Puglia region,” suggested Lynna Goldsby, a cruise planner with Travel With Lynna. “Instead of London, try Normandy or Bath.” These alternate destinations can still satisfy your travel itch but also reduce your expenses for lodging, restaurants, tours, and transfers.

Take a Detour: Airfares are often cheaper if you fly through an airline’s hub. Don’t waste that opportunity, said Linda Robert, a travel coach with Back in the Groove Again. Airlines like Icelandair, Qatar Airways, and Copa have stopover programs that let you enjoy a day or two at their hubs before continuing to your destination, often at no extra cost. “This strategy enriches your travel experience and offers a cost-effective way to see more places,” she said.

Useful Flexibility Tools

Landing’s 12-Month Flex Stay Program: This program offers renters the opportunity to save up to 30% on monthly rates by committing to living with Landing for a year, with locations in more than 375 cities. “This new offering gives members the freedom to roam throughout our nationwide network of fully furnished apartments as much — or as little — as they’d like throughout the year,” said Smith.

Airbnb’s Flexible Dates Search: This feature lets you select a period rather than a specific date, helping you find more options and potentially save up to 20% on vacation rental accommodations.

Flexible Scheduling on Travel Sites: Most online travel sites, like Google Flights and Kayak, offer the ability to search for airfares or hotel rates based on a flexible schedule. Pro tip: Don’t limit your flexibility to dates; select a region you want to travel to, which may include alternate airports.

Hotel Rate Flexibility: Virginia Tech hospitality and tourism professor Mahmood Khan noted that hotels cut their rates by about 20% if you pay upfront (nonrefundable rates). “Selecting a hotel away from busy destinations, yet comfortable for commuting, helps in finding an economical deal,” he added.

Increasing Your Travel Flexibility

“A critical skill is knowing how and when to put white space into your itinerary,” said Stephanie Chastain, owner of Infinite Ireland Travel. A blank page in your itinerary, an empty afternoon with free time, or a leisurely breakfast can prevent vacation burnout and give your schedule some wiggle room.

Even the experts keep relearning the lesson of flexibility. For instance, I recently needed to fly from Anguilla to Miami at the last minute, and flights were around $800 one-way. I realized Anguilla is a short ferry ride from St. Martin, which has more flights. Total savings: $200.

Being flexible means thinking about travel differently. There are many ways to reach your destination, and if you don’t get there on the exact day your vacation starts, it’s not the end of the world. Travel companies charge more when you must be in one place at a fixed time. Be a contrarian, but don’t go too far.

Bend So You Don’t Break

Veteran travel advisor Susan Sherren, who runs Couture Trips, advises lowering your expectations to stay flexible. “Life isn’t perfect,” she said. “Your trip will likely involve unforeseen and unpredictable events.”

Avoid being too rigid, which can ruin your trip. Schedule your flight on a weekday to avoid high fares. Use flexible fare features on Google Flights or Kayak, or check out Landing’s new flex program.

However, don’t make too many compromises. Ensure your vacation still feels like a vacation. Be flexible but be smart.

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