Friends and family (and sometimes complete strangers!) how I find the travel deals that I use. If you were to sit down and really think about it, you’d probably figure it out on your own (eventually) but I don’t mind sharing my secrets to save you the time.
The most important thing to know is how to do your reserach. Would you buy a car without doing your research first? Your destination and deals should be no different.
Find out all you can about the place you want to visit. When are the best times to go? What’s the weather like in the different seasons? When does everyone else want to go? If there’s a high-season, consider booking what they call a “shoulder season” – the time right before or right after the “most happening” time to visit. For example, if you want summer weather, but don’t want to pay summer prices, consider traveling just after summer starts to wind down. You’ll get similar weather for much less money – plus, you can avoid the crowds.
Then – and you should love this part – start shopping! But you should really shop around. Did you find a great deal on one Web site? Check it against another Web site (and another.) Did you find a hotel deal that you think can’t be beat? Think again, and call the hotel directly. Tell the booking agent about the rate you found, and they may meet or exceed it. Never, ever, take the first deal you find, unless it’s free, and even then, I’d look around to see if you could get a spa credit or something thrown in.
You’ll get better deals if you can be flexible. For example, each time I book a trip to Las Vegas, I look at the prices the week I really want to go, and then the week before and the week after. You’d be amazed at the extreme swings between the deals. If it doesn’t matter about the “when” you could find yourself excited about the “how much”.
Las Vegas is one of my favorite destinations, so I have signed up for every email, alert and Tweet I could find for Vegas. Your favorite hotel or airline might give you an incentive to travel with them – exclusive promotions make you feel like a high-roller. And it works for more places than Vegas.
If you’ve done your research, you should be prepared. But just in case, I’ll warn you to be careful when you book in “off” times to save money. If you book a trip to the Caribbean in the U.S. summertime, for example, yes, you’ll save lots of cash because it’s hurricane season. However, you may want to spend a bit of that savings on trip insurance, because the same reason that the trip costs less – the hurricane threat – could cause you to lose your shirt if you’re not covered. Shopping around for insurance, however, is another way to save.