The only way we can afford to travel as much as we do is to find travel deals.
I prefer to call these bargains “Travel Steals” as some of these deals are so good, I almost feel like I’m ripping off the travel companies
This is my secret arsenal and has taken me YEARS to master. It’s not a stagnant list…I add new techniques or tools all the time. I only recommend tools I actually use, so you can trust that I know these tips work. Keep checking back or PIN this article as I update this list all the time. Never miss an AWESOME deal!1. Use Airfare Deal Watch Lists: Hands down Scott’s Cheap Flights has changed my traveling life. Scott and his team scour the internet for cheap and mistake airfare and they do a darn good job of it. He has a free subscription list which is surprisingly inclusive or for $39 a year you can get his full list of airfare deals. You can even get text alerts so you can catch those deals quickly as airfare deals move fast and are often gone very quickly. Follow him of Facebook as well to make sure you always see the current deals. I’ve booked $400ish flights from Dallas to London, Barcelona, Lisbon, and Italy. I also really like Airfare Watchdog. You can enter your “from” city and they automatically email me weekly deals. You can also sign up for Flight Deals found on “The Flight Deal” which has new flight deal and mistake fares listed from many major cities. My best advice if you plan to use any of these services is to be ready to pull the trigger. Fares may disappear at any time- sometimes in seconds. The good news is that most US airlines now have 24-hour refund policies, so when you find an awesome deal, book it and lock in the price. You have 24 hours to see if you can arrange the time off and if your partner can go with you. You can easily cancel within that timeframe if you can’t make the details work.
2. Join Facebook Groups that Track Deals: There are many Facebook groups that track cheap deals. I follow a group called “Cheap DFW” and “Escape Houston” that post great deals from those areas. Research and find groups in your area that are sharing deals. Again, be ready to book as these great deals go fast.
3. Join Weekly Travel Discount Email Lists: My favorite is Travelzoo’s Top 20 Mailing List. I have to admit, I’ve cashed in on many of the deals on Travelzoo’s Top 20 deal list that they send out every Tuesday. I paid $1099 for an 11 night Vietnam trip including airfare, hotels, tours, Ha long Bay Cruise, and many meals. I had my senses blown away in Lisbon and the Azores on a package deal for $699 that included airfare and hotels. And I scored big with a $699 air, hotel, and car drive yourself through Ireland package. There are several other services that track travel deals. I also subscribe to Dunhill Travel Deals and Azores getaways. A new kid on the block that I have not used much but looks really intriguing is Travel Pirates. They scour the internet for deals. They also show you build you packages they’ve created by finding low cost airfare and matching hotels that you can then book yourself. They offer an APP to easily see deals and will send you alerts based on your origin city.
4. Check out Vacations To Go and Cruise Compete– This tip is those of you that like to cruise. Vacations to go offers a 90 day ticker list, that shows you big discounts on cruises in the next 90 days. You can often save 70-80%. I don’t always book the cruise through the site as other sites may have extra benefits (See my post on saving money while cruising) but I often find the deal on this site. When you are ready to book, I highly recommend Cruise Compete. It is a website where you state the cruise and date you want to go on and various travel agents will compete to offer you the best price, deals and benefits. The agents can then go to bat with the cruise line to try to procure you additional benefits. If they have many clients booking the same cruise they can often negotiate additional perks. If you cruise often, the agents can often get additional on-board credits, cash back offers, room upgrades, etc. They also have super cruise specials listed.
5. Learn to use Google Flight Tool or ITA Matrix- I love to use Google flights to look at the cost of airfare on various dates. I can often save big money by changing my dates by a day or two or even looking ahead to see if there are any special deals going on in the future. The Google flights tool lets me easily see the costs of flights on each day of the month and if I have the flexibility, I will take the lower cost flight. Click here for a video tutorial of how to use Google Flights as there are a lot of cool features that may not be obvious upon first glance . If you have mastered Google flights, the ITA Matrix which powers the back end of Google flights has some even more impressive features but is not as fast as Google flights. Here is a summary of how to use the ITA Matrix and all it’s features by Johnny Jet.
6. Look at Credit Card Deal Offers – Many travel type credit cards have special point deals where you can book flights at discounted mile rates. You cash in less miles to book various fights with miles. The discounts often range based on the type of credit you have. American Airlines has this program for various CitiCards. Make sure to follow the deals…you can usually find them by logging in to your credit card account. There are also many cards that offer incredible sign on bonus. See my article on how to save money traveling.
7. Join Airline Email List– Track the deals and specials that the hub airlines in your area offer. I follow American Airlines and Southwest specials as they are two carries based in my area. Find out what carries are based at you local airports and sign up for their loyalty program / subscription list which will often email specials. Also follow them on Facebook to get first grab at special deals. Many carries like American Airlines also offer discounts for redeeming miles so you can cash in a lot less miles for a particular flight. Here is the information to take advantage of that program.
8. Find Discount Package Carriers– There are many specialty discount travel package firms. Some even charter their own flights which can allow them to offer great deals. For example Apple vacations, Cheap Caribbean, Funjet, World Spree, Sun Country. There are many out there and some specialize in specific destination or from specific hubs. If you are not familiar with the firm, make sure to do your research…read reviews, look at better business bureau, etc.
9. Use Hotel Price Comparison Tools– There are several sites out there that do a good job of comparing prices on hotel rooms. TripAdvisor and Kayak are two that I use to compare cost of hotels. They will show me what the same room costs on Expedia, Booking.com, Hotels.com and others on one screen. I can then go book at the cheapest site- they are not always the same.
10. Don’t be Afraid of Discount Airline- Europe has some amazing discount airlines and the US is beginning to catch up. Airlines such as Easyjet and Ryanair sometimes get a bad name but they are a great deal if you know ahead of time about potential extra costs such as luggage and seat assignment. This is now becoming more mainstream in the airline industry. These discount airlines often have the cheapest airfare to various destinations in Europe. I’ll book a ticket to anywhere in Europe that is the best deal and then I use one of the discount airlines to get to my final destination. I found cheap airfare to Pisa in April and spent a mere $29 to get from there to Crete. $420 got me to Barcelona in March, and it only took $47 to get from there to Morocco. New airlines are entering the space all the time (Spirit, WOW) so take advantage to the cheap deals. Again, make sure you understand their baggage and seat reservation costs before booking as these fees can easily make a cheap fair a bad deal. Spirit charges for both carry on and check baggage and they are hefty fees. Here is a list of most of the discount airlines worldwide
11. Maximize Hotel Discounts: My experience has been there is a lot of variation on hotel sites for the same hotel on the same date. I typically use Trip Advisor as it automatically compares various sites but there are several other tools that also do this. A few newer tools that also perform this kind of multi-site searching are Travel Pony and Hotels Combined. The only problem with any of the sites is that they are not always accurate. I’ve often clicked through to a hotel and found it is more expensive or even cheaper than the prices listed on the site. While not perfect, I like the perks of Hotels.com – they give you one free night for every 10 you stay. They average the cost of those 10 nights and give you an equivalent credit. They often also have the best prices as well. I think Booking.com has better service and a better selection of hotels and alternative lodging if you are going somewhere not as mainstream. Many larger chains also have a price matching program that will match the rate and give you an additional discount. Know the matching requirements up front as there are often strict requirement and timeframes upon which you must adhere. Hilton, Marriott, and Choice Hotels are a few that have this policy and if you are a loyalty member you’ll earn points and get perks by booking direct. Hotels.com and Booking.com also have price matching programs, but again, you need to know the exact rules upfront.
14. Consider Last Minute Deals: There are many travel companies that offer last minute deals on vacations where they still have availability and need to fill the empty seats. The term “last minute” may vary but typically mean travel within the next three months but can vary by company. You can save big $$$ by booking these trips. I’m sure there are many more, but here are some that I know of and have used.
- Hotels Tonight: An app that shows you great deals from various hotels for check-in within the next three days.
- Funjet Last minute deals : Last minute deals on Mexico, the Caribbean, and Hawaii
- Go Last Minute: They specialize in finding last minute package deals
- Apple Vacations: Discounts on package deals in North, Central, and South America.
- Intrepid Last Minute Deals: Last minute deals on tour vacations around the world
- Groupon Last Minute Travel Deals: Various last minute travel deals. Make sure to combine with my tips on using Ebates for Groupons. See my guide on saving money on travel.
- Vacations To Go 90 Day Ticker: 90 Day listing of current cruise discounts
- Overseas Adventure Travel Last Minute Package Deals: Deals on last minute tour group deals. Never more than 16 people on tours.
- Grand Circle Travel Last Minute Deals: Last minute deals on small ship, river and land based tours around the world.
15. Create IF This, Then That (IFTTT) Triggers: This is for those of you who are little more advanced technically and REALLY want to get word of the BEST travel deals immediately. There is a service called If This, Then That which will allow you to create specific triggers that will alert you in various ways based on your preference. So basically you can create triggers based on the airports you are interested in for mistake fares or deals and be automatically notified (i.e, email, text, etc) This is a bit more complex but not to fear as they have some premade applets made that will allow you to easy get deal alerts. So first sign up for a free account a www.IFTTT.com . Once you’ve signed up, go to the search field and type in “Flight”. You’ll see several applets from “The Flight Deal” to sign up for notifications of flight deals found by RSS or Tweet that you can customize for your city. There are other more advanced options also available from IFTTT that I’ll be writing about soon. If you are interested in deals out of Dallas, Houston, Austin, Boston, New York or Los Angles you can follow us on Facebook as we post the latest deals for you.
16. Maximize Your Award (Mile) Programs: Our friends at The Earth Awaits have created a nifty little Award Search tool that allows you to enter your destination and where you want to go. It then searches 18 award programs to tell you how many miles you would have to cash in for tickets so you could pick the program that takes the least amount of miles. It also tell you the transfer ratios if you wanted to convert your miles into a different program that offers a better deal to your destination.
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