Going about your travel plans systematically and strategically will help you save loads of money. Want to start saving but don’t know how?
Booking a trip smartly can save you time, money, and tons of stress. By knowing what’s out there when it comes to online booking and travel sites, you can make the best decisions—whether it’s for a family vacation to Hawaii, or a business trip to London.
COVID-19 has had a major impact on travel. Many have called off their vacations entirely and opted for staying at home. However, there are those whose jobs, families, and other obligations necessitate travel, and these people have been left wondering how safe it is to stay in hotels during the pandemic.
As the Center for Disease Control and Prevention notes, the best way to minimize your risks is to stay at home. However, if you do find yourself traveling and booking hotels and other accommodations, the World Health Organization’s FAQ page on hotel safety during COVID has information and tips for making your stay as safe as possible.
It’s also a good idea to check the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s (AHLA) Safe Stay initiative, which includes best-practice guidelines for hotels to follow during COVID-19. You can then make sure that the hotel you’re considering follows guidelines outlined there. During your stay, the AHLA’s guest safety checklist can also be a helpful resource.
Of course, the situation is constantly evolving and it’s recommended that you regularly check sites like the CDC and WHO as well as city, state, and national guidelines for updates before and while you travel.
1. Plan Well
The key to travelling smart is planning ahead. Generally the closer you are to your traveling day, the more you pay. Traditionally this has been due to business travellers booking meetings at the last minute and then paying a premium to fly as quickly as possible after the booking date. We suggest booking at least 3 weeks in advance, and preferably even more than that if possible.
It also doesn’t pay to choose an airline and book directly through their website, even though “going direct” sounds like it would save you money. Even checking a few airlines against each other for your dates will end up taking you hours, and you still might not get the best deal. Price comparison websites do the hard work for you, by comparing thousands of deals across hundreds of airlines, travel sites and hotel booking platforms, to bring you the best results tailor-made for you.
There are a few big price comparison websites out there that search hundreds of other sites for the very best deals. Two of the best-known and most trusted are Booking.com, and Kayak. Kayak includes cruises, guides, a travel planner, and the unique “Price Forecast” feature, that lets you predict prices and know if you’re getting a good deal. It also has integrations with Facebook Messenger, Slack bots, and Alexa. Booking.com also offers flights, hotels, car rentals and even airport taxis, allowing you to book your whole trip from one platform. With over 150 million reviews from real guests, you can make sure that the reality matches up to your expectations, and the “sea view” doesn’t require leaning over a balcony with binoculars. Other aggregator sites that offers excellent value are Trivago and Travelocity, which offers a “Price Match guarantee.” If you find a cheaper, identical trip within 24 hours of booking, Travelocity will refund the difference, and give you a Travelocity travel coupon worth $50. For some great travel inspiration, follow Travelocity’s @roaminggnome on Instagram.
Another big question is when to book for. Flying on Saturdays is often cheaper for local flights, and mid-week flights are usually cheaper than Mondays or Thursdays and Fridays. If you’re flexible with your dates, you’re likely to save even more. Choose to see available bookings for a particular month, and you’ll be able to choose dates that work for you and offer the best value. You can also change other filters such as flight duration and number of stops, depending on your personal preferences.
2. Get Rewarded
If you’re going to be spending on a trip, who says you shouldn’t also get something back? There are some great rewards programs out there, so make sure you take advantage of these when planning your travels. Expedia offers a range of Rewards Credit Cards from Citi, which offers really good rewards and savings. In addition to this, the Expedia platform offers “Things To Do,” which is a great way to get the most out of your destination, and you will not pay Expedia cancellation fees to change or cancel almost any hotel reservation. Another excellent rewards program is the Priceline Rewards Visa Card, which offers bonus points for joining, and up to 5x points on qualifying purchases.
Hotels.com has a great offer in which you collect 1 night free for every 10 nights you book through the platform. Look out for its Secret Prices on selected hotels, which give you even better deals than those advertised elsewhere. Orbitz, a popular aggregator platform, lets you earn “Orbucks” on flights and hotels, which you can redeem on over 200,000 hotels worldwide. Other benefits include hotel perks and TSA Pre-Check. Before you book, always make sure that your purchases are eligible for rewards, and to sign up for exclusive offers by email. These are often not yet advertised on the sites themselves, and offer huge potential savings.
3. Be Different
If you’re looking for something slightly different, we’ve got you covered! Try the HotelTonight app. The concept is really smart: hotels give HotelTonight their unsold rooms, and the app shows you each day’s best deals. There are massive discounts available if you choose this route for hotel bookings. Hotwire is another fantastic concept. Its Hot Rate Hotels offer significant discounts if you book before learning the name of the hotel. You’ll still know the basics, such as location and other critical information, but the actual hotel is only revealed to you after you’ve booked – at a deep discount, of course. Its Hot Rate Flight works in a similar way, so you won’t know the airline or the exact flight times until after you book, but you will receive huge discounts on the price of your tickets.
Being different also helps when it comes to airports. Often flights into alternative airports—like Luton instead of London Heathrow, or Long Beach instead of LAX—offer big savings. You’ll also experience less traffic, shorter lines, and even cheaper rental cars.
Booking a trip doesn’t have to be stressful or complicated. In fact, by using some of these sites, you can save money and enjoy a great experience. The key is to think ahead and decide if you want the safety and savings of an early booking, or the last-minute thrills and deals that come with bookings made just before you travel.
Start planning now, and enjoy the excitement, adventure and special memories that travel brings.