Nothing combats day-to-day stress quite like a relaxing vacation. That being said, scouring the internet for travel providers, booking sites and vacation package deals can be an exasperating ordeal – especially with little or no guidance. After all, personal situations will vary, and there is no sure-fire way to find the best deals out there.
Fortunately, a little time and effort – paired with the proper advice – can go a long way. Addressing the who, what, when, where, and whys of affordable travel is much easier with a bit of know-how.
Consider these useful tips for getting the best deals on your next trip:
Analyze your situation
Consider the five W’s mentioned above. What type of trip are you planning? Are you after a package deal or just a flight? Where are you going? Will you be traveling extensively in one region? When are you leaving? Are dates flexible or set in stone? Who is coming with you?
And last but not least…why is all this important? Because knowing in advance what you are working with will help you pick the moat applicable sites, and help narrow those parameters when searching. As a rule of thumb, the more flexible you are, the more you will save.
Timing is everything
Booking dates in advance can be a gamble. The earlier you book a flight can mean cheap tickets, although holding out until the last minute often lands you a sweet deal. If your dates are NOT flexible, plan to book flights several months in advance–especially with international flights.
If your when and wheres are a little more flexible, check out sites such as LastMinute.com or LastMinuteTravel.com. These sites often list cancellations, cheap flights and vacation package deals. You can either narrow the search to fit your needs or browse to see what’s out there. CheapCaribbean.com lists last-minute flights and packages to the Caribbean, while American Airlines does the same for flights around the US. For additional last-minute deals, check specific airline websites.
A destination’s peak tourist season is generally pricier, although flying on major holidays can save you a bundle. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays are the cheapest days to fly. Also, the day you actually book your flight is worth taking into account. Statistics suggest that the lowest fares are offered between midnight and 1 a.m. on Wednesday and after 3 p.m. on Tuesday.
Start with a travel provider
Travel providers such as Travelocity, Expedia or CheapTickets.com can all give you a great frame of reference – even if you don’t book through them. Play around with these sites to get an idea of airlines, rates, restrictions and airport locations. Once you know exactly what you are looking for, check airline websites for specific flights. This will save you a fee when booking. TripAdvisor.com is a useful website that offers free travel advice based on your specific needs.
Focus on a region
Narrowing your search to region-specific airlines often lands you the best deals, which aren’t always listed with the major travel advisors. Airlines such as Spirit Air, Ryanair, or Southwest often dish up last-minute deals. If you know where you want to go, check the smaller, regional airlines first.
Consider an air pass. If you plan on traveling extensively in one country or region, many airlines offer air passes for multiple flights around the area. It’s worth looking into if you plan on puddle-jumping around.
Flying to and from major airports will usually be cheaper, and often worth a drive. Play around on travel provider sites- comparing similar flights from different airports.
Avoid the popular
That’s right…you can often score cheap tickets to countries or regions that have recently received bad publicity. While this is not always a great idea, the particular news or situation might not affect your trip at all. Do a bit of research and see for yourself.
Track your fare before AND after you purchase
Several sites offer fare histories and predictions, so you can see the upward or downward trend of a flight’s price before you purchase a ticket. Kayak.com is one such site and might be useful when looking for such trends.
Unbeknownst to most, many airlines actually offer refunds if you have purchased a ticket but find a cheaper fare before you fly. Not all airlines do this, but it’s still worth an inquiry. Flights booked through Orbitz.com will give refunds if the price goes down. Be sure to track your fare even after you buy a ticket.
Let the deals come to you
Let’s face it: we all lead busy lives. That’s why we are looking for vacation deals in the first place. That being said, why not let the cheap deals come to you? Most sites offer email notifications of flights fitting your own set of criteria. All you have to do is sit back and let them do all the legwork.
When planning a vacation, take your time. Shop around, know what resources are available to help you, and consider the five W’s of travel planning – even after a flight is booked. Remember, every airline has a different set of policies and restrictions. Read the fine print. You are only a few clicks away form a sandy beach and a margarita.
About the Author:
Diana Gomez is the Marketing Coordinator at Lyoness America, where she is instrumental in the implementation of marketing and social media strategies for USA and Canada. Lyoness is an international shopping community and travel loyalty rewards program, where businesses and consumers benefit with cash back on airline, hotel, and many other types of purchases. Check out Lyoness on Facebook.