Many of us love to travel, but with prices on just about every aspect of travel rising to levels unseen before, the subject of cheap travel has never been more hotter. Some people give up traveling altogether if their dream trip seems out of reach, but that isn’t necessary if you know how to go about finding great deals.
This site is filled with the advice from many travel pros who spend their professional lives figuring out how to travel cheaply, so you’ve come to the right place. This is a huge subject and specific portions of it will be covered extensively throughout this site, but just to get things started we’ll offer some basic tips on cheap travel that everyone should be aware of before they book their next vacation.
If you have one specific “dream vacation” in mind then you are exactly the sort of person that travel companies make most of their profits on. It’s a mistake to decide exactly where you want to go and when you want to go there before you start shopping. Travel is a little like items in your grocery store. If you want to buy bananas then there is a small chance they will be on sale, but if you want to buy the fruit that is offered at the best deal you can always save money. Especially if you haven’t traveled extensively yet, you might feel impatient to go to your top choice first, but again, this will often cost you much more than visiting different places based on where the best deals are when you are ready to book.
Consider last-minute deals
Let’s say you have a week off in early June. If you book a trip in January, you are booking at the time prices tend to be highest for summer travel. Airlines and hotels know that people who book a big yearly trip this far in advance usually don’t have many sales to compare their prices to, so they charge their highest rates.
But if you wait until early May to book your early June trip, you can see which places have too many empty rooms, and which flights have too many empty seats. This is particularly true of high-end hotels. Someone who booked early in the year might have locked in their “rack rate”, but with one month to go some hotels will still have many unreserved rooms and they will start slashing their prices to fill them up.
There’s no guarantee that your first-choice hotel will do this, but some hotels in your desired city, or in a similar city, will have great last-minute deals. You can have a $2,000 trip for $1,200 or so if you wait until a few weeks before you leave to book a place.
The best websites to book cheap travel
Kayak and SideStep are identical, and the best choices for cheap airfare alone, but they also have hotel rooms and packages available. Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity have great deals on cheap travel packages and last-minute deals, but they aren’t great for booking airfare alone. Priceline and Hotwire have special cheap travel deals that work a bit different from the others, although you can book normal flights and hotels through them as well. These last two sites also offer deals where you can book without knowing all the specifics about your hotel or flight time, but the savings are almost always worth it if you are a bit flexible.