When researching cheap ways to travel online, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. With all of the travel sites out there picking the most affordable one can be a daunting task, and how can one person manage to compare all of these sites? When is the best time to start looking? There are many questions that can come up when planning a trip, making the whole process potentially very stressful. Don’t let the vastness of the internet get to you.
Know the Source
That said, how do you manage to make your trip easy, and fit it in your budget? The first place we all start is a travel aggregator like Kayak. Kayak is a great tool that has a proven record of providing an easy booking experience. It searches for the best prices from hundreds of airlines and travel sites. You can also include a rental car and hotel room in your search and find package deals. Kayak, trip Advisor, Momondo, and Hipmunk are some well-reviewed sites that you can choose to use for comparison. Knowing of a few reliable sites will prevent you from getting distracted by the huge number of other sites, prevent you from getting scammed, and keep you focused in your planning process.
Always Check Reviews
When it comes to booking accommodations let reviews be your guide. True, they are anecdotal, but if it is generally rated well, chances are in your favor. Keep in mind what you want from the hotel; do you want a place with a lot of amenities? Or is this just a place to rest your head? Having a list of amenities you want will be a great way for you to weed out the places you definitely don’t want. The above sites can help with comparing prices, and Trip Advisor generally has reviews from past guests that you can use at your discretion. Of course there are alternatives to staying in a hotel, hostels are great for young travellers, and again reviews are your friend. Another fun new site is Airbnb. With this site you rent an apartment, room, or even a houseboat from a local host. This puts you right in with the locals and gives you a new experience of a city. With 34,000 cities around the world to choose from, it is fun for those who seek to get off the beaten path.
Timing is Key
When to buy is as important as knowing where to look. For example, did you know that most airlines offer sales on Tuesdays? This is a great day to buy tickets! You can also use Bing Price Predictor if you want to know when your flight will be cheapest – this resource will tell you what date is the best to buy. In addition, being flexible with dates and airport locations can actually save you money as well. Flying in and out of secondary airports can mean a significant change in price, for example it is cheaper to fly in to the airport at Long Beach than into LAX. Being flexible with times can also be a big money saver since most people don’t want to take late night or early morning flights. Of course, sometimes this can’t be helped, but its best to keep this in mind when you are making travel plans.
Budget and Plan Ahead
Make sure that you have a [reasonable] price in mind while you are searching for your ideal travel deal, and if you see it, don’t hesitate! These sites often record the number of visits you’ve had, and while you wait, prices could go up. If you plan ahead and are smart with your search, you will find that perfect price. And while flexibility is key in finding cheap prices, planning will ensure that you pay the price you want. Optimally you want to beginning planning when you know you intended date of departure, since prices fluctuate so much. By giving yourself enough time and planning ahead you can stay on top of your search and prevent scrambling to makes plans at the last minute.
Angie Picardo is a staff writer for NerdWallet. Her mission is to help travelers stay financially savvy, and save some money for their next trip with the best bank savings rates.