12 Ways to Find the Biggest Travel Bargains
Each week, the Travel section's deals specialist, Carol Sottili, scours travel providers to come up with the What's the Deal? column, a roundup of the best travel bargains around the globe by land, sea and air. But if you'd like to assemble your own personalized travel deals, here's an updated tipsheet on how to find the best bargains.
Important: The key to finding a true travel deal is comparison shopping, especially when buying a package. Whether you buy from a travel agent, third-party booking site or vacation discounter, always price the components through the originating airline, hotel, rental car firm, etc., to make sure it really is a deal.
1. Check sites that compile travel deals. Well-researched sites include Smarter Travel (http:/
2. Check with the so-called big three travel booking sites. Expedia (http:/
3. Sign up for airline and hotel loyalty programs. Many travel providers are trying to lure customers to buy direct by offering exclusive deals. Even if you haven't earned miles or points, the companies will send you e-mails about their special offers.
4. Check discount tour operators. They frequently offer deals on air-and-hotel packages. These include Go-Today.com (http:/
5. Check cruise discounters and cruise specialists. Cruise lines have taken strong control of their inventories, which means there are fewer deep discounts from third-party brokers. But many discounters are fighting back by throwing in extras, such as free shore excursions, shipboard credits and bottles of wine. Icruise.com (http:/
6. Consult a travel agent, especially if you're interested in an air-and-hotel package or if you're considering a popular resort during peak season. Companies such as Liberty Travel (http:/
7. Download software onto your computer that notifies you about sales to specific destinations. These include Southwest Airlines' Ding (http:/
8. Check individual airline sites. Many airlines offer special deals to the destinations they fly to, especially in the offseason. Cathay Pacific, for example, offers a Deal of the Month available only through its Web site (http:/
9. Check with so-called opaque sites, such as Priceline (http:/
1. 0Consider renting vacation lodging directly from owners. Rates frequently are cheaper than at hotels, and since the properties usually have kitchens, you can save money on meals. Sites include CyberRentals (http:/
11. Work backward. Instead of trying to find sale fares to your destination of choice, consider places not on your radar screen that pop up on airline sales. Sites such as http:/
12. Be flexible. Be willing to travel in the offseason, to fly out of any of the three Washington area airports and to change the dates of your trip to catch a sale. If you want to ski Vail over Christmas, you'll spend a lot more than you would in March. Best days for cheap airfares usually are Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday.