Getting the Best Price on Travel
In my previous posts I said that even though I am very big on points / miles, most of my travel, be it flights or hotels, is paid travel. With that said, I always get the best deal unless it’s just an emergency or urgent, as most of my travel is for leisure and I am flexible! I either search for specific locations, or surf the blogs and twitter to see good deals and mistake fares. In this post I will do a quick overview on a few ways to find the cheapest and best deals on airfare and hotels. Keep in mind, it’s not always easy, yet sometimes a mistake fare will just fall into your lap. Sometimes you have to search multiple sites, or take extra steps in order to get the best price. test
Searching the Internet
If you know where you want to go, one of the simplest ways to find airfare is a basic internet search. There are many different providers and distributors of airfare, but in general a lot of them use the same distribution system so a lot of the time you will get the same price searching certain sites, but not always. For example, sometimes Kayak will put together mixed flights with different carriers and different tickets that other sites wont do that. Kayak does this by piecing together one-way tickets from different carriers but in the end sometimes this is the best option, while other times it’s not. Keep in mind when you are dealing with separate carriers and separate tickets you lose many protections you would have by having the same ticket. When I say protections I mean if a flight is cancelled or delayed you have several companies to deal with instead of one, also you have to collect and recheck bags with each carrier because most carriers do not transfer your bags to other carriers anymore, so keep these few things in mind when buying piece-meal tickets like this (another post).
As I have mentioned before, I use Google Flights to start out and do most of my searches. Sometimes I have to use other sites because either Google Flights isn’t showing the availability or it isn’t putting together the flights I want. Google Flights is a very simple and great tool! You can put in the city your leaving from , and the date(s) you want to travel, and you can pull up a map to see the prices from your city to destinations all over the world. The benefit of this is if you want to go somewhere but not quite sure where, finding a great deal can help you decide!
If you know your destination but your dates are flexible, then another great part of Google Flights is the price calendar. You put in the city your leaving from, and the city your going and then just click on the date box and a calendar pops up with prices for the next several month. This tool is awesome because it can help you decide to go a few days before or after and potentially save hundreds!
As you can see, by the image to the left, you can change the search in many different ways, and its very easy. You can obviously search one-way, roundtrip, or multiple city. you can change the search to search for economy, premium economy, business or first class, and even the number of people, because there may only be 1 seat left on the flight or at a certain fare class / price, so that way you can search for the number of tickets you need. (I will get into this more on another post, but sometimes its cheaper to buy two separate tickets, if there is one cheap seat left using one site, and another available on another you can buy two separate tickets on two separate sites, but I would have two browser windows open and do it pretty much at the same time just in case). You can also choose what airline or airlines you want to search or even by alliance. This would be handy if you want to earn miles with a certain airline and not flexible when it goes to that. If you select the airline , the dates, and the destination you can look at the price calendar that way as well to find the cheapest fare on that airline or alliance for months out. You can also set it up to track the price, so you will get alerts if the price goes up or down. (Here is a great blog post that was published after I wrote this about Google Flights Flight Tracking). Another aspect of Google Flights that I like is the multiple city search I referenced above. I used this search when booking my inter-India and inter-Egypt flights on my upcoming trip. For example, in India I am traveling from Mumbai to Chennai to New Delhi, so as you can see that’s 3 one-way tickets, but instead of searching for all 3 separately I did a multi city and booked them all as one ticket which gives me extra protections. This can also be used to book open-jaw trips, etc. (more on that another time).
Google flights is a simple tool to use, but it can also get advanced and do amazing things, so I would play around with it and learn what it can do because its one of my most used sites, period.
There are many other sites to search for airfare , and like I mentioned before, a lot of them produce the same results / price, but not all the time, so I will list a few that I use, and I would reference them if you’re searching for a certain price.
Another thing to keep in mind, and a reason to not rush into buying tickets (unless it’s a mistake fare), is that fares change sometimes on a minute by minute basis. Fares are sold in buckets of fare classes, and when all the cheap fares are sold it goes to the next expensive fare class. I am also a firm believer that the day of the week means a lot, I think Thursday and/ or Saturday are the best days to buy tickets. The last ticket I bought last night for my Egypt trip, I was searching for days, and It was $255 USD, then $155 , and last night it was $130 USD (for a roundtrip ticket) so I went ahead and bought it, but my point it the prices change hourly, daily, etc so keep an eye on them before you buy. UPDATE: while writing this I looked again and Business class was just $30 more than the economy ticket I had booked, since I had it on 24 hours hold, I was able to just cancel it and book the business class for $160 round trip, see how things change daily?.. business class yesterday was over $300 USD.
I spoke about this in previous posts, but following the various bloggers on their sites, Twitter and Facebook is a main way to find great deals on travel. There are many excellent bloggers out there, ones that inspired me to start a blog, ones that are professional bloggers, unlike me. I follow many bloggers and sites on twitter and have particular ones set up where I get a text message deal alert they post. Sometimes you have a matter of minutes to act on deals and error fares, so its good to get the notifications right away. Most of the time its stuff that is of no interest to you but the times it is, its well worth weeding through all the messages. If an airline posts a fare the incorrect way , these bloggers catch it a lot of times and send out an alert, and if you book before the airline fixes it, most of the time you are allowed to keep it. The Government has rules regarding this, and most of the time your safe. If you can, when you book a mistake fare, wait a few days to book any other plans, like hotels, etc.
Here are some of the bloggers and pages I follow
- The Flight Deal
- The Points Guy
- View From the Wing
- Frequent Miler
- Point me to the Plane
- Secret Flying
- Boarding Area (A site where many of these and other travel bloggers are)
Check these people out. Follow some of them on Twitter and especially Secret Flying and The Flight Deal I would set up text alerts for.
You don’t see a lot of mistake prices on hotels like you do with airfare, but sometimes you do, and the previous mentioned bloggers and sites put these out as well!
You can search the sites like Kayak, Hotels.com and others to find hotels, but I RARELY do! Unless you book direct with the hotel, you don’t get credit for elite qualification, earn points or get elite benefits. Since I am so loyal to SPG, I will adjust my plans sometimes to fit my SPG goals in order to stay at certain hotels on certain days, or in order to meet certain promotion goals. There are times that you have to book on a 3rd party booking site, say if SPG or Hyatt doesn’t have hotels, or availability in a certain city, then I will usually search Hotels.com. Hotels.com has a loyalty program of sorts. for every 10 stays you get a free night worth the average price you spent on those 10 nights, which isn’t bad, and its a good backup plan, but I always prefer to book direct and get credit.
Speaking about sites like kayak and Hotels, if you book a room on Spg.com, for example, and find a cheaper price on the same room, same night etc on another site, then you can file a Best Rate Guarantee claim. With SPG if its accepted they give you either 2,000 SPG points or 20% off the cheaper rate. SO I ALWAYS search before and after I book a room direct with a hotel. If I find it before I book, I go ahead and book then file the claim. I have even searched several hotels direct with SPG.com and then on travel sites trying to find a cheaper fare, and if I did find one, which I have, this determines the hotel I choose, I would book it and file a claim in order to get either the points or 20% off. If it’s a cheap one night stay I would take the 2,000 points for sure, but one time I used it was in Hawaii last year for Sheraton Princess in Waikiki , I filed a claim for 5 nights on a $250 a night stay , I obviously selected the 20% off, because that saved me well over $50 a night. So always keep this in mind when searching or booking hotel rooms. I will list a few of the main hotel companies that offer this type of guarantee. Look at the rules for each program before you commit to anything because each program is different.
- SPG – Best Rate Guarantee
- Hilton – Best Price Guarantee
- Hyatt – Best Rate Guarantee
- IHG – Best Rate Guarantee
- Marriott – Best Rate Guarantee
This is a little known thing that can save you lots of money!
Another thing that can save you money when booking hotels is discount codes. Discount codes include the likes of AAA, AARP, and employee discount codes. I am a member of AAA, but I have NEVER been asked to see my AAA card if I book a AAA fare, but your supposed to be able to prove your membership if asked. AARP also offers discounts, I am not a member even though they changed to almost anyone can join now, on a side note AARP has great airline discounts with British Airways and others.
When you are searching certain hotel sites, select special rates and select AAA before you search, sometimes its cheaper other times its higher, it just depends. There are many options on the various hotel websites that allow you to select a few options to search, and you should play around with it to see what prices come up.
Also many big employers have negotiated rates with the bigger hotel companies that allow you to get a discount or special negotiated amenities at the hotel (Like free shuttle to office , etc), so check with your employer to find out if your company does. People have also been known to use the discount codes for large companies that they find online, even though they don’t work for that company. I don’t advocate this nor will I admit or deny doing it, but keep in mind, hotels are more apt to check ID for this code before they do AAA, and if you cannot prove you work for that company you will probably be charged a much higher rate. Some of these rates are MUCH MUCH cheaper with special add-ons, like double points, free breakfast and other stuff, so use this information as you see fit, I am not advocating anyone to be dishonest, just passing on what others do.
Promotions and Sales
Several Hotel company’s have weekly, monthly, or quarterly sales that list specific properties. This is a way to get good deals. Sign up for promotional emails with the hotel companies and you’ll probably get an email letting you know when they come out. I also check the sites periodically, and like I said, at times you can find great deals. Here are a few,
Hotels have Flash Sales also, so keep an eye on your email for this as well.
These are just a few ways to search for and save money when paying cash for flights or hotels. This , by no means is a complete list, but it gives you some ideas to play around with. If you take anything away from this post, I would suggest you bookmark Google Flights, and use it. Always check the best price / rate guarantee policy and price hotels on several sites before / after buying. And when buying ANYTHING, especially something travel related, use a travel credit card. Earn points / miles for everything you spend, and like I said in my last post, certain cards offer bonus miles for travel related or special company charges.
Thanks for reading!