Want to plan an amazing vacation without paying full price? Follow these easy tips to score flights, hotels, and more at rock-bottom rates.
If you want to book a flight or hotel yourself, monitoring the price can help you determine if what you’re seeing is really a deal or not. Have you ever walked into a place to buy something to find it conveniently on sale? Businesses are always running a “sale,” but is that sale really a good deal? The only way to know if you’re getting a good deal is to know your prices. Keep an eye on the average price of hotels and flights to help you realize when costs drop.
Flexible With Your Destination? Use the Explore Function in Google Flights, Skyscanner, or Momondo
When you’re looking for somewhere to go and just want a deal, you can use the explore function on Google Flights, Skyscanner, or Momondo to find the best prices on airfare. You can search with no destination in mind, or narrow it down to a region like Europe.
Flexible With Your Dates? Use the Calendar Search
If you can be a little flexible with the time you take your vacation, you’ll be rewarded with very low fares and prices for the travel you want to do. Prices vary widely from day to day and the calendar search on Google Flights allows you to see which days are the cheapest to fly or book a hotel room.
You can find the calendar search in the same place you found the Explore function. After selecting a destination (or not–there’s capability for that, too), simply leave the date fields blank.
Just be sure the routing you pick works for your schedule and use filters to narrow down your trip based on number of stops, arrival time, or departure time. There’s nothing worse than buying a $300 ticket to Paris that requires multiple transfers and 27 hours of travel time.
Sign Up for Marketing Materials From Your Favorite Travel Companies
Your favorite travel brands love to advertise to you. Every now and then, they’ll send incredible deals for their email list subscribers. These are different from the run-of-the-mill “We’re having a sale!” emails. You’ll get those, too. But if you’re checking prices to your desired destination often, you’ll know when a sale is much, much better than normal.
This is how I booked two tickets to Tahiti this past summer. I clicked on an email from United Airlines advertising a fare sale using points. I tried some dates and destinations, and found an incredible points sale to Tahiti at about 40% off. I booked it immediately, knowing I could cancel within 24 hours without penalty. We ended up taking that vacation and saved a lot of money in the process. It never hurts to check prices when you receive those marketing emails!
Getting these promotions is easy. If you love the airline Southwest, for example, you would want to sign up for their email list from a button on their website. When you’re on the email list, you get the information about a sale first. Southwest recently had a 40% off sale and you would know about it sooner than everyone else if you were on their email list.
Pay Attention to the News
This bit of advice might be unique to this year, but you’ve probably heard about woes the travel industry has encountered as travel returns to pre-pandemic levels. Sometimes, negative news can drive down the price of a plane ticket or a hotel room.
I’m writing this article the weekend after Southwest canceled thousands of flights because of operational issues. Yet, on their website, I’m seeing very compelling fares. Spring break in Hawaii for a couple hundred bucks from my home airport? You bet. And if you’re still worried about COVID-19, you can make changes with Southwest’s generous refund policy. If the pandemic takes a turn for the worse, it’s easy to change dates. Southwest has been a reliable airline for decades. They will work out their issues. Meanwhile, take advantage of the price break!
Set Fare Alerts
If you’re looking at a particular destination and a specific time, slide over the button in Google Flights to track the price. If you’re signed into your Google account, you can get these fare alerts automatically when you do this. When the price changes significantly (either up or down), you’ll get an email from Google about the change in price. A flight to Italy I was looking at started around $800. I set my Google alert and got an email when the price dropped to $307.
Let Someone Else Find the Deals for You
There are countless services that work to find deals for you. They eliminate the need to sit at your computer and see if that email you received has really good deals or is just another marketing tactic you need to wade through.
Some examples include:
- Travelzoo, an aggregator of travel deals with stellar prices
- Airfarewatchdog (SmarterTravel’s sister site), which sends out low fare email alerts to subscribers. NextVacay, Scott’s Cheap Flights, and others fall into this category
- Facebook groups focused on travel
- Online travel agencies, such as Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, Cheap Caribbean, Kayak, or Funjet Vacation.
- Warehouse travel agencies, such as Costco or Sam’s Club
- Travel agents
There are a lot of different ways to find a deal this fall. Just keep your ear to the ground and pay attention to your prices. You’ll be surprised just how good it is to plan future travel in the fall.
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