Those who know me know that there is one thing I love to do more than any other – Travel! Coming a close second is helping others plan their vacations – I like to think if it as living vicariously through others. It is always fun to shop and spend other people’s money.
Unfortunately, no matter where you go, travel costs money. Sometimes lots of it!
Because I do tend to go away at least twice a year, people always assume I have money to burn, but nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is that I am a hard-core bargain hunter. I am like a dog with a bone – I will not book anything unless I KNOW I am getting the best possible deal.
The secret to finding a great deal is to be flexible and to be willing to spend lots of time researching:
• Make sure your travel agent knows you are on the prowl for a deal. They are constantly receiving notices of sell offs etc. They can also tag you onto a group deal they may be working (wedding etc) and get you the same discounted rates.
• Don’t be afraid to check out sites like Expedia, iTravel2000, Travelocity, Priceline, Cheaptickets, Orbitz, or Hotwire. I booked a trip to Mexico at a 5* All Inclusive resort last year using Expedia. The price was cheaper than both my Travel Agent AND Air Canada Vacations who was the actual provider of the service. There were 6 people in our party and we saved approximately $200 PER PERSON. Same airline, same services.
• If you find a good deal, check out the same flights/vacations on other sites including the official site of the airline/travel company. Quite often, they will actually be cheaper.
• Use the ITA to search multiple airlines at once (matrix.itasoftware.com)
• Sign up for saver emails from the various Air travel providers (Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing in Canada, and the variety of carriers in the US), as well as the internet travel sites (like Expedia). If you do not mind the junk mail, you get notified of some great deals.
• If you don’t mind the drive, both Bangor and Portland airports have discount travel airlines (JetBlue, AirTran, Allegiant) and even the regular airlines are often quite a bit less than the Canadian carriers. Depending on how many are in your party and the amount of savings per person, it may be worth the commute.
Here are some of the sites I use to find deals for hotels, flights, and pre-packaged vacations:
• http://matrix.itasoftware.com (flights only)
If in your search you find a deal on a hotel or resort, but are concerned about the quality, I recommend asking your travel agent, if you have one. They have likely had clients at most of the resorts, and may have even visited themselves. If you aren’t working with an agent, what I like to do it use Tripadvisor.com. Here, you can enter the name of the hotel you are interested in, and it will bring up guest reviews, photos, etc. The photos are great because they are not “official” hotel marketing photos. They are actual vacation photos taken by guests so you will get a sense of what the hotel is really like. Tripadvisor also takes the users’ ratings and ranks the hotels/resorts in each city. If I know what area I want to be in, I often go to Tripadvisor, look up the town, and then find out the ranking of the hotels. THEN I begin my search at the sites above looking for the nicest hotel I can find at the best price.
Make sure if you do visit Tripadvisor that you read as many reviews as possible regarding the hotels. One person’s heaven may be another person’s hell. There can be quite a range of reviews for the same hotel, often during the very same week. You shouldn’t allow one bad review stop you from going somewhere. Likewise, if there is only one good review in a list of 100, chances are you are not going to be pleased if you stay there!
Enjoy your vacation!!!