As a travel agent, I have all kinds of different clients. But one thing they all have in common is wanting a good deal. So whether it be flights or hotels, I'm always looking for new ways to bring the price down. Here's how I find my deals:
There's quite a few ways to get cheap flights now. You can sign up for email or text notifications through the airline and they'll notify you when the fare drops for the flight you're interested in. The only problem is that you'll need to know where you want to go, which airport you want to leave from, and the dates. And if you already know all of that information, it's in your best interest to check out CheapOAir, which will sift through flight sites to find you the lowest price.
But let's say, hypothetically, that you're like me and you just want to go. Doesn't really matter where. Flexible with dates. You just want an accessible flight under $150 roundtrip. In that case, you might sign up for something like Scott's Cheap Flights, where you'll be notified with any great deals.
You can go on the hunt yourself and rely on Skyscanner, which is similar to CheapOAir. The main difference is that you can search "Everywhere" as a destination and "Cheapest Month" as the dates on Skyscanner. I'll usually head over to Skyscanner, type in my closest international airport, hit "Multiple Airports" to include all the ones nearby, click "Everywhere" and "Cheapest Month". It'll find the best available deals and I'll start to narrow down my search from there. It's by far my favorite starting point for planning a trip. For a tutorial, click here.
If you're booking a cruise, try to get your flights set up through the cruise line. Most cruise companies have contracted air, so it could save you some money. Plus, they'll make sure you get to your port on time, and if not -- they'll catch you up with the cruise. It's a way to save money and take some stress off.
First and foremost, claim your AAA, Costco, or AARP membership. Most people don't realize that these three memberships can get them discounted hotel rates. Just don't forget to bring your membership card and ID to check-in. Otherwise, the hotel may raise the rate back to what it was before the discounts.
One thing that gets mentioned in every single budget blog post ever, is joining the rewards program. And the reason it gets mentioned so often is because it's true. It's typically free to sign up, and since you'll be paying to stay there anyway, you may as well get something in return for it.
Travel agents are still one of the best ways to get a great deal on a hotel. It's usually easiest (and cheapest) to book a flight+hotel (+car if you need one) package through an agent. Because travel agents tend to have good relationships with hotels, they have access to better deals and more benefits. If you use an AAA travel agent, you'll be getting the best rate, plus the discounts because of your membership, plus the discounts from packaging it. And if you use a points credit card, you'll get cashback, which you can use to pay off the trip.
For more tips on cheap travel, check out my book here.
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