Be it from friends, family or co-workers, this is a question I find myself answering all too often. In all honesty, there are a few tricks I have that help with this. These by no means are the be all and end all solution to helping you achieve your travel goals, but they may help you along your journeys in future.
1. Watching Airfares
Once I get a trip idea in my head, I head over to Skyscanner or Kayak and start a price alert for my selected route. Kayak is wonderful in that it will advise you whether or not to buy now – using historical trends to predict the future to help you get the best deal possible. If prices are a little out of your price range, look for alternate airports close to either your origin or destination cities as these may bring the prices down. For example, on a recent trip I noticed it was cheaper for me to fly from London, ON to Calgary than it was from Toronto to Calgary. While there weren’t as many options from London, prices were a few hundred dollars cheaper and I was able to save this money for another trip.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Forgo the Frills
While airlines like Ryanair and Wow Air do get a bad rap for making you pay for literally everything they aren’t as bad as everyone would have you believe. When you can save hundreds of dollars on your vacation that you can spend on a hotel, or on an unforgettable experience – the fact that you didn’t have a movie on your flight makes it all worthwhile.
3. Be Loyal
I know this is probably the first tip your Mom gave you about relationships, but trust me it applies to travel too. Most airlines and hotels offer some sort of loyalty program and over time these can be super beneficial. While it may take time for you to earn some sort of status with an airline or with a hotel chain, they even provide perks at the most basic level. A top tip from me would be to pick one airline and one hotel chain that you travel with the most and start there. For example, I’ve started to collect Air Canada Aeroplan points and Marriott Rewards points because these are what I use most when I travel and Aeroplan points can be collected at other places too (ie. Gas Stations) making this a good deal for me. Check out http://www.onemileatatime.com for more information on loyalty programs.
4. Get a Good Credit Card
Pretty much everyone has some sort of perk associated with their credit cards – mine happens to be that I collect points that can be converted into dollars off of travel. While this card does have an associated annual fee ($19), the money that I save when it comes to travel make this absolutely worth it. Sometimes, your rewards points from #3 can be associated with a credit card – for example, Marriott Rewards has an excellent credit card that can be used to collect points that can be converted into free night stays. While the fee is a little steep the perks absolutely make up for it!
5. Don’t Be Afraid of Wholesalers
While I do all of my airline bookings either through the airline directly or through my travel agent (see bonus tip #6), I tend to have little allegiance when I book my hotels. A friend tipped me off to booking.com for my Southeast Asia trip, I found that the deals that I was able to get with that website just kept me coming back. In fact, I only used this when I booked my Iceland trip. What this website and (ones like it) do, is that they take rooms that hotels can’t sell and sell them at a discounted rate saving you lots of money.
One thing I love about Booking.com is that you get free cancellation which allows you to play the booking.com game – on a recent trip I booked a hotel through them and sporadically checked back on prices. I ended up finding a way cheaper deal and booked that and cancelled the other reservation. While this did take a little bit more time, the fact that I saved about a hundred dollars made up for it. One word of caution, sometimes the cheapest rate displayed does not have free cancellation, so just pay attention to what’s included in the rate.
Fun fact: If you stay 10 nights in places you’ve booked through booking.com, you get a 10% discount and other perks like free wifi (so it pays to stay loyal!).
Bonus fact #6: Get a Travel Agent
Years ago, my family wanted to go on a Caribbean cruise. We were incredibly daunted by the abundance of options available to us so we stopped into a local travel agency and have never looked back. Having a travel agent that you know and trust is absolutely critical to the process because it saves you time. Their job is travel, so they know how to get the best deals out there and can be the best asset in your arsenal. Even when you think you know what you’re doing and are getting the best possible deal – your travel agent can deftly outsmart you! On a trip to Buenos Aires, our travel agent found us an incredible hotel (that I for sure would not have been able to find!) and I shall be forever indebted to her.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list of tips, these are by far the tips that have served me the best and I hope they can help you in your travels!