6 Secrets for Finding Travel Steals and Deals
Bookmark these sites to help you stay on top of all the best travel promotions.
Bottom line: Travelers familiar with the marketplace will score the best deal.(Getty Images)
Finding a great vacation deal can lead to hundreds of dollars in savings, which is why travelers spend so much time tracking vacation promotions and scouring coupon sites. But where are the top spots to keep tabs on money-saving trip offers? Before planning your next trip, bookmark these sites, social media accounts and email subscriptions to help you stay on top of all the deals.
1. Travel booking sites
You're probably already doing this step, but if you're not, checking multiple booking sites like trivago, Kayak, TripAdvisor, Travelzoo and Expedia can help you gauge the marketplace. Many also offer tools to track money-saving promotions for you, meaning scoring a deal could be as easy as signing up for an email newsletter.
Here are some specific sites to check to learn about upcoming hotel and destination discounts:
Expedia: Check the "Bundle Deals" tab to find the latest travel package promotions.
Booking.com: This site features top daily deals on hotels, with some rates advertised for more than 30 percent off.
Kayak: Sign up for email alerts to get information on the best rates for hotels, flights and car rentals based on recent searches.
Travelzoo: The website homepage features the best deals of the day from hotels around the world.
2. Local coupon sites
You can find flash sales by checking out sites like Groupon, Amazon Local and LivingSocial. Even better, download the corresponding smartphone apps for easy mobile use.
RetailMeNot is another site to check out. Although geared toward a retail audience, the coupon site does occasionally feature online coupons for discounts on hotels and car rentals.
These resources are worth taking a look at, especially if you're looking for a spur-of-the-moment trip or local adventure.
How it usually works: Hotels looking to fill rooms, especially during low season, will turn to sites like Groupon to advertise rates at a hefty discount. Using these sites is a great way to find a deal, but this method does come with a few caveats. For one, you should always read the fine print before booking, and make sure the advertised rate actually corresponds with your travel dates. I once found a room rate for 50 percent off at a popular family resort in Finger Lakes, New York, but the coupon expired before my vacation. If you're a member of a hotel brand's loyalty program, you'll also have to forfeit your point-earning potential, as most programs don't count stays booked through third-party sites. Also, read up on the cancellation policy and whether taxes and other fees are included in the final price.
Subscribing to a hotel or resort email list is an effective way to keep track of upcoming promotions and events. Most hotel chains now offer optional email newsletters to stay engaged with customers (found via a "newsletter sign up" link on most hotel websites). For example, families looking to plan a vacation to Walt Disney World Resort can monitor upcoming travel deals and events by signing up for the "Disney Insider" email on the Disney website. Subscribers are also able to tailor communication, meaning you can limit the frequency of emails to only weekly or monthly updates.
4. Loyalty programs
Hotel loyalty programs are something to consider -- especially if you prefer to stay at the same resort or hotel chain.
Top entertainment resorts like Atlantis in Paradise Island, Bahamas, or Mohegan Sun in Connecticut are often recognized for more generous loyalty programs. These programs (often based on casino play) offer guests the opportunity to score exclusive hotel offers, entertainment tickets and free casino slot play.
Social media is sometimes the best way to get first dibs on travel coupons and deals. And lucky for you, airlines are now turning to Twitter to entice last-minute fliers with deep discounts. Accounts like @JetBlueCheeps, @AlaskaAir and @SpiritAirlines advertise discounts and frequent flier program promotions. Meanwhile, @hopper highlights discounts on a variety of airlines based on the flight research tool's data.
6. Credit card sites
More and more credit card companies are luring consumers with travel incentives and perks, meaning you don't have to be a longtime loyalty member to capitalize on some great deals. New customers can take advantage of sign-up bonuses to generate enough hotel points or frequent flier miles for an international flight or a stay at a high-end hotel.
Bottom line: Travelers familiar with the marketplace will score the best deal. By researching average prices at hotels and travel destinations ahead of time, you can easily spot a truly great deal and make that next dream vacation come true.
About En Route
Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.
Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.
Edited by Liz Weiss.