In addition to traveling off-season whenever possible and using miles, you can use travel deal websites to score cheap travel deals without sacrificing comfort. Not all sites are equal, but there are a few gems that can really save you a lot of cash, but won’t have you flying as cargo or sleeping on the floor of a youth hostel.
For travel packages, I love LuxuryLink. This awesome site auctions luxury travel packages. Many of them are Dutch auctions, which means everyone gets the lowest price and the auctions rarely sell out of all the packages. My parents once bought a trip to New Orleans, but it was scheduled for shortly after Hurricane Katrina. LuxuryLink allowed them to choose any other package in the same price range. They chose Costa Rica and wound up in a small 5-star resort where they were the only occupants for that week. Needless to say, the service was amazing and the price was below $1500. Last year, I had to travel to the Midwest for a winter wedding. For the same cost, I could have bought a 5-day luxury trip to Belize and then used airline miles to fly there.
If you’re booking through LuxuryLink, follow these steps:
- Check the fine print for blackout dates
- Contact the resort to confirm availability the dates you want to go
- Place your bid.
Most people know about the leading airline sites, like Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity, Priceline, and Hotwire. Sidestep and Kayak will both search multiple airlines for fares, even most low-fare airlines. Farecast is unique in that it predicts whether fares will rise or fall when you’re searching within three months of your flight.
If you find a good fare on most of these sites, a travel agent friend recommends writing down the flight info and then going directly to the airline website to book the same itinerary. You’ get the same price, or possibly a lower one. You’ll definitely save the booking fee. An exception is Priceline and Hotwire, which may have exclusive deals you can’t match directly.
When bidding in Priceline, first visit BiddingforTravel to find out how much to bid and develop a bidding strategy. Their tips can save you substantially.
If you do a lot of traveling, consider using the wholesaler cFares, which buys bulk tickets and then resells them. You have to pay a membership fee of $50, but you’ll typically save much more than that.
Hotels seem to be getting more expensive, but there are strategies for saving there, too. Often you can get a lower-priced hotel room by booking it with your airline ticket. If you don’t want to do that, use BiddingforTravel to find Priceline deals. Using their tips, I scored a 4-star room near Heathrow for $80 US (I had an early flight and didn’t want to stay in central London.) I’ve also received a 4-star room on Michigan Avenue in Chicago for $32.
When traveling in Europe, consider staying in Bed & Breakfasts rather than luxury hotels. Not only will you receive more personalized service, but you’ll save a lot of money on breakfast. When my husband and I visited Ireland, all our rooms came with full Irish breakfasts. That was two eggs, sausage and/or bacon, baked beans, tomatoes, toast, coffee, and juice. We could add cereal if we wanted to. We were rarely hungry before lunch.
One tip for foreign travel: ask that they charge your credit card in the local currency. Many will convert it for you as a convenience, but they tack on a fee and the conversion rate is higher than you’d receive through your credit card.
Car Rental Discounts
When renting a car in the US, use a site like Travelocity to find great deals. Most major rental agencies offer good cars, so your main concern should be price. If possible, reserve a car from an outlet that isn’t at the airport because you’ll pay extra fees. Most have a shuttle that will pick you up. You can also use AAA discounts and other club discounts to score great rental car deals.
If you plan in advance and take advantage of all the online resources, you can usually find great travel deals that won’t make you feel like your roughing it. What are your tips for scoring great deals?