Whether you’re planning a vacation months from now, or looking for last-minute travel package deals for a weekend getaway, a few tips can help you save a lot of money on airfare, hotels, and even rental cars.
The best travel deals can be found by a combination of knowing where to look, doing lots of comparison shopping, keeping your travel plans as flexible as possible, and being able to nail down a bargain when you find it. The ease and availability of Internet search engines have made travel pricing more competitive than ever, and that’s a good thing for travelers who are trying to stretch those travel dollars as far as possible by finding the best travel deals.
Internet Travel: Beyond Expedia and Travelocity
Sites like Expedia.com and Travelocity.com have spent serious advertising money to encourage you to look to them first for the best travel deals. Certainly, these are great sites to use, especially if your plans aren’t very flexible (traveling for a specific business or personal purpose involving pre-scheduled meetings, conferences, etc.).
However, there are a few other Internet travel sites that, while they may not include all the bells and whistles of the largest sites, can still save you significant money on your travel plans. Take, for example, Savings Highway offers its members even deeper discounts than found on Expedia or Travelocity – or even Priceline.com!
Some other good sites that can often help you locate the best travel deals is HotelsCombined, CheapFlights.com (the name says it all) and Kayak.com. Some of these sites work by comparing rates available on other search sites, so it actually does shopping among travel sites, not just among airlines and hotels. Though a few of these sites are less well-known, they can definitely help you find the best travel deals.
Flexibility in Your Plans
One of the best ways to locate the best travel deals is by keeping your plans flexible. Can you travel during off hours—very late at night or very early in the morning? Often, such flights are underbooked and airlines will offer special rates in order to make the flights more efficient for the carrier. Can you extend a stay beyond a weekend? That will help you save major money in most cases. Are you willing to include an extra transfer or layover in your itinerary? Again, such tactics can help you get where you want to go and still keep your costs as economical as possible.
The best rates will be found during the off-season and other times when the hotel tends to have empty rooms. Business hotels will have discounts on the weekends, while resorts will have specials during the week. You can sometimes save big on your hotel if you call the hotel that you want to stay at on the day that you intend to arrive, or possibly the day before. Hotels will often be prepared to offer substantial discounts on the day, as from their point of view an empty room is a complete waste of money. If you are not feeling quite so bold in terms of leaving it until the last minute, you can phone the hotel a few days in advance.
If you are targeting a specific hotel, check out their cancellation policy. For example, if a specific hotel requires at least 3 days notice to not charge for a cancellation, then this is the point where they are most likely to receive the most cancellations. Hotels will then be eager to fill these spaces.
Sometimes, finding the best travel deal means nailing down a reservation when you find the one that looks right. If you’ve done your homework, compared rates among several carriers and networks, and expanded your range of possible travel dates as widely as possible, when you see that attractive rate—grab it! Remember, lots of other people are looking, too, and it may not stick around long enough for you to ponder a day or two. Make sure there aren’t any restrictions that you don’t know about or accept, then make your move.