5 Steps to Finding the Best Travel Deals
I travel often and get asked even more often, how to find the best travel deals. Recently I booked a $307 round-trip flight to Paris (from the US). Not long after I found myself on multiple calls trying to explain to friends wanting to know exactly what I did to find such a great deal. So lucky you, I decided to share on my blog the 5 steps to finding the best travel deals so more people can learn as well.
Step 1: Alerts and Subscriptions
First off, I have 1 major caveat that I believe helps me get such great deals: Freedom, in the form of flexibility with my schedule. I happen to run my own business in which most of it is virtual, so it tends to be very easy for me to take time off without asking permission. So I do want to be 100% transparent in saying that travel deals are easier to come by when you have flexibility in your timeframe of both when and for how long you can travel for. But the good news is, it’s not impossible to find deals if you don’t have the level of flexibility that I may have.
I normally begin most of my search into deals by first checking out some of the subscriptions that I am a part of. Signing up for email alerts based on the city (or nearby cities) that you’d be flying out of can be extremely helpful. I have a handful of go-to companies that I get free weekly, or daily alerts from, including TravelZoo, KAYAK, and Airfarewatchdog. More recently, I subscribed to Next Vacay, which is a paid service of $25 a year and totally worth it, if you plan on traveling at least 1x a year. Next Vacay will scan all of these travel sites for you and send you the best deals for your home airport(s) within a drivable distance from you. I am not an affiliate of this site but have found it extremely useful in researching.
Step 2: Research
Next, I normally find myself ready to make some travel plans. Sometimes, I know exactly where and when I am going somewhere. Other times, I have more flexibility in figuring out where or when I want to go somewhere, so each search may look different. Sometimes I scan through the above-mentioned email alerts to see if any deal were mentioned in place that I am looking into. When I see which weeks or specific dates seem to be a great deal, I can then begin to set some parameters.
This is when I begin to look into all my travel apps and websites to scan. My go-to’s for this step is hopper.com and google flights. I start by going directly to the locations and weeks that I think maybe the best deals. What I love about these sites is that I can see the entire month at a glance and which specific travel days are lowest.
Step 3: Set up Specific Alerts
Some of these sites also have analytics that will tell you if you should book now or wait, and approximately how much you may save by waiting. Most often, this is when I will set up and save an alert based on the approximate timeframe I am looking to travel. Once the alerts are set up, I begin to get alert emails when prices drop. This one tip allows you to be able to book at the right time, rather than having to figure out the old-school thought of Tuesday nights after 9 pm or when the moon aligns with the stars (kidding).
Step 4: Book It
Once you feel good about when, where and at what price you’d like to travel, you can go ahead and book it without much worry. You will be confident that you are getting a good deal based on the research and analytics tools from the above resources in steps 1-3.
Step 5: Hotels
Depending on the trip, I sometimes prefer to stay at a hotel, while at other times, an Airbnb. For Airbnb, you can look for hosts that may be offering a special weekly deal, or a new host special (since they are looking for people to book and begin to rate and review their property). I have a friend who stays at AirBnB’s in the same city very often. Over time, you begin to build relationships with hosts and can even reach out to them to negotiate a better rate, once they know you.
I also almost never pay full price for a hotel room, either. I typically stick to only 4-5 Star hotels that have more than an 80% rating by reviewers. My go-to resources for booking hotel deals is using the Hotwire Hot Rate hotel choice. I can almost always figure out which hotel will be the mystery hotel based on said ratings, stars, and other stats and I typically save about 30-50% off of regular rates.
Another great hotel resource I use for travel that is last minute (within a week or so) is using the Hotel Tonight app. Hotel Tonight (with rooms in most major cities) specializes in sharing discounted deals to last-minute vacant hotels rooms that would otherwise be unbooked.
Lastly, booking a flight plus hotel package can also save some extra money. I once was able to book a combined deal for 2 people for the same price as our a la carte flights would have cost for the two of us. If you know you are staying at a hotel as well as the area and are ready to book everything, you can get a great discounted package price this way.
Another travel hack that can save money is to be flexible to travel from another nearby airport. I can sometimes save over $300 on my flights to Tel Aviv by traveling from Newark, NJ rather than the Philadelphia Airport (12 mins from me). Again, my research will dictate whether or not it’s worth the additional hour in travel.
So in the end to find the best travel deals, you can see there’s no secret magical tool, but instead just a little research with a side of patiently waiting and a pinch of flexibility.
If you enjoy learning about deals, as well as other travel hacks, I would love to welcome you to my free community group, where we share hacks for so many areas of life like travel, business, beauty, and health. You can join us below!