You may have seen the commercials for popular travel sites that can hook you up with the best online deal on your next vacation. While these top sites can save you some money on hotel rooms, rental cars and flights, they may do little more than offer the best online price that you could have gotten from the destination provider directly. If you're determined to leave no stone unturned in your hunt for a better deal, check out our expert tips for all kinds of destinations. (For more on vacationing, check out 10 Tips For A Cheaper, Better Vacation.)
TUTORIAL: Budgeting Basics
Find Your Niche
While a site like Kayak.com will give you a broad spectrum of pricing for major airline carriers and hotels from well-known chains, some travelers have special requests that won't show up with this common method. Myscha Theriault, seasoned traveler and the voice behind TrekHound.Com, suggests you search for deals based on your very specific interests; PetsWelcome.com, for example, can save you big on the cost of pesky pet fees at major hotels by disclosing these charges upfront. Feeling like a spa retreat is the only way to unwind? Check out Spavelous.com, a site dedicated to the art of relaxation and one of the more comprehensive portals for getting a great deal on your next spa getaway.
Don't Be an Airport Snob
Sure, we all know that there are major differences between Midway and O'Hare, for example, but one of those just may be the price. If you're open to going a bit out of your way, or don't care for the extra amenities that a larger or newer airport offers, you can shave some extra from your plane ticket price by being open to more airport choices. If you don't know where to start, Myscha suggests SmarterTravel.com, a site that lets you simultaneously search all the other aggregate sites, as well as alert you to deals by airport.
Get to Know Your Credit Card
While credit cards can be known for inflating the price of some perks to make them seem like a better deal, some are still very generous about the travel offers they can give to cardholders. "They often have deals and savings for cruises and travel packages negotiated for their card members," reminds Myscha. She also suggests that you use already-accumulated points to help bring the cost down even further. (To learn more about travel rewards, see Best Frequent Flyer Credit Cards For (Almost) Free Travel.)
Get Going, Going Gone
If the thrill of an auction is something you want to try for extra travel savings, there's a site designed to help you get into the fray. SkyAuction.com can save you an average of 60% when you bid against others for that airline ticket, hotel stay or restaurant meal. This option isn't recommended for those with last-minute travel needs, cautions Myscha; planning well in advance is the best way to take advantage of this adventuresome savings method.
The days of travel rewards programs are far from being over, and if you are able to shuffle loyalty cards, remember to claim bonus awards. Even if you don't plan on staying at a certain chain of hotels, it's wise to sign up for their rewards program; you never know when you may find yourself stranded in a layover destination and need to cash in on "member-only" perks.
The Bottom Line
The methods of saving on travel haven't changed much; they've just gotten more high-tech. Most of the sites mentioned above now have Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as access to mobile versions of their offerings; that's good news if you find yourself on the go and need to access discounts quickly! (For more related reading, check out Travel Tips For Keeping You And Your Money Safe.)