With most people taking summer vacations, or starting plan something for the fall, here are some fail-proof ways to ensure that you are getting the best prices available for where ever you are traveling. I can't guarantee that where you want to go is cheap (say, the Seychelles), but where ever it is, following this simple, easy guide will make sure that you are paying the least possible.
Step 1. Check The Main Travel Sites
Checking the main travel sites will give you a great baseline as to where to start your travel search. These sites include Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia, Kayak. It is important that when you are booking your trip, you check each of these individually:
- Flight, Hotel, Car all bundled together
- Flight and hotel bundled together
- Flight and car bundled together
- Each individually
In many instances, hotels and airlines offer discounts for bundling. For example, if any student books an Island trip to Hawaii during spring break or any other holiday break, then searching online is the best choice to find the best deals. Hawaii travel can get rather expensive however, for affordable options you can find some of the best hotel ideas in Hawaii online. All the necessary travel information can be found online, from pricing to availability and if you have a little more to spend you can still book your entire trip in one package deal. Sometimes, however, they charge more and you won't know it unless you check each out individually. Also, sometimes these main travel sites offer discounts themselves for using their preferred hotel/rental car chain. This can also vary by the month depending on any specials being offered.
Step 2. Check Costco and Other Travel Agencies
After you have a base line for prices using the main travel sites, you should go to Costco and see if they have any packages that match where you want to go. They mainly offer discounts to major vacation hot spots, such as Hawaii and Mexico, and also on cruises.
There are also many larger travel agencies that serve specific destinations. For example, Pleasant Holidays is one that serves Hawaii. They sometimes have great package deals, or even individual deals, for vacations. Just like above, compare the rates offered if you bundle your entire vacation together, or if you book it separately.
One of the benefits of booking with Costco or another travel agency is that you usually get some perks you don't find on the travel websites – such as room credits, room upgrades, free shuttles, etc. This is something you should price out when making a selection.
Step 3. Check With Your Employer
One of the most unused employer perks is travel discounts. Many employers offer travel discounts to employees, especially large companies that have partner airlines or hotels. Make sure that you check with you HR department to see if this is a benefit offered by your company. If it is, you could see fare reductions by up to 10%, which is a nice savings.
Step 4. Check With Your Credit Card
After checking the above options, one of the last internet stops you should make is your credit card's website. American Express is widely known to offer travel discounts to their card members, but many other credit card companies do offer travel services as well.
In fact, when I was looking at booking my last vacation, American Express's Travel Services offered the lowest airfare/hotel bundle of anyone – the only condition was that I use my American Express.
Step 5. Call The Hotel/Car Rental/Airline Directly
After completing steps 1-4, you should have a pretty good idea of the market, where you want to stay, and how you want to get there. The final step in ensuring that you have the best deal is to call the hotel, car rental, or airline directly and ask them what it would cost. Sometimes, the clerks that you speak to have incentives that can beat all of the sites above; sometimes they have worse offers.
However, by completing this final step, you can ensure that you have the best deal. And it never hurts to try and negotiate with them over the phone. If you mention that you were considering another hotel, because they were offering a specific rate, see if the clerk will match or beat it.
If you follow these steps, you can feel comfortable about getting a great price for your future vacation. Every few dollars that you save on the essentials of travel is a few more dollars you can add back into your vacation “fun” budget.
Readers, have you utilized any of these strategies for saving money on travel? Do you have any secret tricks that I'm missing?