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Wendy Perrin's Golden Rules of Travel

by Wendy Perrin | Published November 2011 | See more Condé Nast Traveler articles

To celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of "The Perrin Report," I've compiled the travel tips that consistently save me and the readers of this magazine the most money, time, and aggravation.

Have a favorite tip of your own? Share it at condenasttraveler.com/besttip and you could win a $15,000 weeklong vacation for four in Charleston, South Carolina—our readers' favorite U.S. city (see Readers' Choice Awards). Read the Perrin Post for prize details or watch the video below.

Time It Right

1. Fly on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday. Traveling on off-peak days—and at off-peak times—means lower fares, a less crowded cabin, and a greater chance of snagging those elusive mileage-award seats. Taking two days off for a long weekend? Instead of a Thursday–Sunday or Friday–Monday trip, save money by flying on a Saturday and returning on a Tuesday.

2. Buy airline tickets midday on Tuesdays. When I purchase a domestic ticket, I usually do it on a Tuesday between noon and 3 p.m. Airlines tend to announce fare sales on Monday nights, and other airlines match those sales on Tuesday mornings, explains Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare.com, which means that by 3 p.m. on the East Coast and by noon Pacific time, the greatest number of sale tickets has hit the system.

3. Snag mileage-award seats six months ahead or over a weekend. Some people mistakenly think that the trick to using miles is to book award seats the moment a flight is put in the reservation system—often 331 days ahead of departure. Statistically speaking, though, you have the best shot at nabbing seats you want six months before your flight. Airline sites often don't display all the available award seats, so if you're not finding what you need, call the mileage-award redemption desk. I've gotten award tickets for my family of four several times by following frequent-flier guru Randy Petersen's advice to phone just after midnight over the weekend: Airlines update their inventory on Fridays and occasionally on Saturdays—changes that go into effect at midnight—yet most people don't call until Monday, so over the weekend you have more availability and agents will have the time to work with you.

4. Pounce on international business-class fare sales in January and August. There are four periods when business travel slows and airlines drop business-class fares to lure vacationers: Easter, summer, Thanksgiving, and the Christmas/New Year holiday. Lately, airlines have been announcing summer sales early in the new year and winter sales in August. They barely promote these sales, so I keep on top of them by subscribing to JoeSentMe.com ($49 per year).

5. Get into a sold-out hotel. Find out when cancellation penalties kick in for the date you want to arrive, then call the property on the morning of that day. You can scoop up rooms made available by people who've just canceled.

6. Stay over Sunday. Many hotels get Friday and Saturday night bookings from leisure travelers and Monday-through-Friday traffic from business travelers, so there's a void on Sunday night—which increases your chances of an upgrade. Instead of going for Friday and Saturday nights, book Saturday and Sunday or Sunday and Monday.

7. Hop between cities at midday. When you're traveling through Europe or Asia and need to get from one city to another, consider scheduling transportation for the middle of the day. If you leave at dawn, you miss the sunrise—ideal for photography and observing locals—and reach your destination at mid-day, when temperatures are highest, the light is at its worst for photos, and it's too early to check into your hotel. (You may also have to fight rush-hour commuters and miss a breakfast that is included in your rate.)

8. Visit islands during shoulder season. Peak-season rates on islands often reflect nearby countries' vacation schedules rather than the best time to visit (Bali's hotels, for instance, fill up with Japanese in early May and with Australians in January). In low season, many businesses shut down. Shoulder season—when crowds are thinner but the weather is still good—is the solution.

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