You don't have to be a travel agent to be a pro at finding great travel deals. As travel becomes more expensive, finding hotel specials and cheap airfares can become top priority. If you are a savvy planner, however, you can still find discounts that will fit almost any budget.
People who aren't very comfortable using the computer are often hesitant to search for deals online. Instead, they spend time calling hotels seeking out the cheapest prices. The problem with this strategy is quite simple. Often, when a potential customer calls a hotel and asks for a room rate, the standard rate is quoted, unless that customer has a AAA membership or corporate business code. However, that same hotel may be reserved for as much as half or even more of the standard rate if the customer makes a reservation online. What many people don't realize is that there are hundreds of hotel rooms available every night, so it only makes sense that hotels want to fill those rooms.
- You can go to sites like Travelocity, Expedia, UpTake hotels or Hotels.com, look at the prices, take virtual tours of the hotel, and read what others have to say about the hotel's condition and amenities. These are great sites to use whether you are staying in large cities, like New York City or Washington DC or visiting smaller villages in places like Mexico.
- You can also comparison shop at sites, such as SideStep or Kayak. These sites will list the lowest prices for your travel dates and give you the website that offers that price as well.
- If you don't mind not knowing the name of your hotel until you commit to purchase, you can bid for hotels at sites like Priceline or Hotwire. While you can choose a particularly area of the city and the star rating preference, you can't see the actual hotel you've chosen until after your bid has been accepted. If you have specific accommodations needs, however, such as two double beds, you may not want to use Priceline. They will not guarantee that you'll get the bed size or number of beds you'll need, especially in larger cities like New York City.
- Once you've looked at some deals online, you can still contact the hotel directly if you prefer. Be sure and ask if they are offering any deals. If you've found a cheaper rate somewhere else, ask them if they'll match it.
- Don't overlook renting a condo or house especially if you are visiting an area for several days. In many cases, you can find beautiful, fully equipped condos or houses for not much more than a hotel room. One of the best sites to visit for this option is VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner).
If finding great travel deals includes searching for airfare, you've got several options as well. While some people rely on their frequent flyer miles or they earn airline points through a major credit card, others search for airfares the traditional way. You can always contact the airlines directly, but if you are looking for bargains, you'll also need to surf the Web. Sites like CheapTickets and BestFares allow you to search for airfare deals. You can also check particular airline sites for their online deals. Some of the best ones to check out include Southwest Airlines, JetBlue, and Spirit Airlines. Everyone always ask when the best time to purchase a airline ticket might be. There is no definitive answer. Basically, if you find a deal, you'd better grab it. If a better price comes along later, however, it never hurts to call the airlines and see if they'll honor that price instead. Overall, purchasing tickets at least two weeks in advance will often give you the best rates, but this certainly isn't always the case.
Sometimes the best deals to be had are package deals. Hotel specials are sometimes advertised as hotel packages, which include rental cars and/or airfare as well. Before you commit to buy, however, search for each item separately. In other words, look for rental car deals, hotel specials, and airfare deals. Then decide if a package will actually save you money.
Finally, if you simply want to get away, and you're not really sure where you want to go, there are several sites that you can visit periodically. Last Minute Deals lets you search for airfare, hotel rooms, and package deals that are available within the next couple of weeks. Two other popular sites that list deals all over the world are Travel Zoo and Travel Flea Market. The deals are out there, so now all you have to do is find them!
Read more Travel Deal Articles.