12 secrets to getting
the best travel deal
never too early to plan a vacation. Travel industry insiders say the best way
to stretch your travel dollars is to research your options and buy as early as
"There are tons of good deals out there
and some new tools to help you find them," says Jon Douglas, senior editor
of SmarterLiving.com, an online travel publishing company.
you're planning this summer's family vacation or next year's cruise, here are
some travel secrets to help you get the most for your travel dollar.
Do your own booking for quick trips
"A simple flight to
see Grandma, you're probably just fine on your own. Trying to get to Greece for
the Olympics, see your travel agent," advises Justin McNaull, a spokesman
for the Automobile Association of America.
Airlines have eliminated
the commissions they used to pay travel agents, explains McNaull. Agents will
typically charge between $20 and $40 per ticket for a service that was once free.
But, if you can bundle up services and buy more than one ticket, often the booking
fee will be waived.
If you are making complicated arrangements
like planning a honeymoon, booking a package tour or finding the right cruise,
travel agents are a wise choice.
"Finding a travel agent
you can trust can give you peace of mind and save you many hours when you're planning
an important or complex trip," suggests Douglas.
Shop and compare online for the lowest air fares
best deals are definitely online and the savvy shopper, given the time and a little
patience, can find them," says Douglas.
you're looking for the one site that always sells the best air fares, you're out
of luck. It doesn't exist. Shop around different Web sites even if you have a
favorite site," he suggests.
To help you compare as you
shop around, there are a few new online tools making it easier. SideStep.com
allow you to see results from multiple sites for convenient comparison shopping.
They're free and quite successful in helping to spot the best deals.
is basically a travel search engine. It scours the Web to find the best deal.
You'll need to download free software to use it, but the process takes literally
seconds. SideStep becomes an icon on your toolbar. BookingBuddy operates much
the same without downloading any software. With each of these tools, you can also
compare auto rental rates and hotel deals.
best to book your travel at the airline site directly rather than using an online
agency such as Orbitz, Travelocity or Expedia. You'll save the booking fee charged
by the online agency and get the frequent flier miles bonus for booking at the
airline's site. Do your research to find the best fare, then go directly to the
airline Web site.
US Airways recently offered a triple-miles
bonus for online booking. For a coast-to-coast round trip, a distance of about
5,000 miles, you could earn 15,000 frequent flier miles, and you'd be more than
halfway to a free ticket (generally 25,000 miles).
the online travel agencies sometimes offer services you won't find at airline
sites, such as air and hotel packaging," Douglas adds.
Play the seasons
Certain destinations are bargains at certain
times of the year.
"It's no secret that Europe is cheaper
in the winter season," says Douglas. "You can also get better rates
during the early spring and late fall. It's most expensive during the summer."
This applies to hotel rooms as well as air fares.
cruises are a better deal in late spring or early fall when the kids are in school.
But, expect chillier weather.
Planning to cruise the Caribbean?
Save a bundle by traveling in September and October when the weather is still
nice, except for those pesky hurricanes, and the fares are lower. If Hawaii is
on your wish list, Douglas says to go in May or September to save on fares and
You can often find off-peak rates even during peak
season, notes AAA's McNaull.
Orlando is a bargain in January
-- Florida's peak season. The theme parks are busy over Christmas and New Year's
and again in February, but business is slower in January. You'll find lower hotel
rates and bargains on car rentals to bring in the traffic, he says.