There are hundreds of so called 'travel deal' sites. I love to travel, and have made it a personal challenge to find travel deals. My family and friends will tell you that I get more of a charge out of the deals than actually taking the trips (its a financial nerd thing). In this article I will share with you my five favorite travel deal sites and how I personally use them to find bargains worldwide. One major point that is central to my travel deal hunting is being flexible. This means that I will consider multiple airports for departure and arrival. It also means that when it comes to a vacation itinerary, I don't get locked into a destination before considering what discounts and deals are out there (of course, when possible).
For example, I surprised my wife on Christmas morning with news of a spring break trip to Italy and Switzerland. She had been saying for years that it was on her 'bucket list' to ski in the Swiss Alps, but never expected my surprise! I started my research by looking at flights directly to Switzerland, but did not find anything but very high priced airfare. We took our first trip to Italy two years ago, and I remembered how easy it was to get around on the trains there, and Italy is right next to Switzerland after all... Long story short, I found a $750 round trip flight (per person) to Rome from Miami (not my usual departure airports of Orlando or Jacksonville). Miami is a four hour drive, but this turned out to be a huge savings and it was also direct flight. Unlike two years ago, we would not have to fly through New York to get to Italy. As it is, the flight is almost ten hours - a wonderful blessing to have a direct flight and save more than four hours of travel time.
This trip (which we are about to leave on in four days) is a perfect example of how flexibility pays off, and can be fun. So, on our upcoming nine day journey we have about three and a half days to spend in Rome. We will also enjoy a beautiful train ride from Rome to Zurich. I used rewards points for a hotel the night before our flight in Miami (what a great way to start the trip with a day at the beach in Miami). For comparison purposes, flights from Orlando to Zurich would have been $1,600 to $2,400 per person round trip. So, if I just employed linear thinking, and did not consider alternate departure and arrival airports, I would be paying up to triple for our flights.
Another 'game' to get into is credit card rewards points. I won't cover the whole rewards points game in this article, but several of my hotel nights on this trip are being completely paid for with rewards points. The top credit card in the travel points niche is the Chase Sapphire Rewards card (what I use). Also, the guru of gurus on travel rewards points is the Points Guy. For more information on using rewards points for free and discounted travel, I recommend this online course.
Most people are somewhat familiar with Google Flights, as it will appear in the search results when using Google to plan a trip. It is an extremely powerful tool, but you have to know how to use it. The video below shows my own method. I have heard from readers around the world that have used the information from this video to save 50 percent and more on flights. The best part of all, it only takes about one minute to use my strategy.
If you are on Groupon's e mail list, I am sure you get travel deals e mailed to you regularly by Groupon Getaways. I have seen these packages for years and was very skeptical, so I thought I would kick the tires. In 2016 we bought a week long Groupon trip to Italy which included airfare, hotel, breakfast each day, and a rental car - all for $1,500 total (and yes that was for two people - just $750 each). Who wouldn't be skeptical of of a deal like that? I can report that we loved the trip, and that the only disappointment was with the rental car company. Although the car was included, insurance was not. I knew this, and weeks before the trip I bought an international auto insurance policy. The rental car agency, however, refused to accept my insurance and forced me to buy their coverage. Ultimately, I disputed the charge and received a refund when I returned home. Everything about the rest of the trip was just perfect, and hotel was very nice as well.
What most people don't know about Groupon Getaways is that you don't have to wait for these travel bargains to show up in your e mail. You can navigate directly to their site and find daily deals on everything from vacation packages to cruises to hotels. It is well worth it to check this site regularly, and be sure to subscribe to the e mail updates. The prices certainly look too good to be true, I will grant you that. But, Groupon has a solid reputation and backs these deals up. Honestly, without the Groupon name behind these travel packages I would not have even considered buying the Italy trip. The first trip listed above looks like the same exact Italy package I bought two years ago. There are a wide variety of deals to be had (not just vacation packages and not just international travel). Just a few examples from today - a two day cruise to the Bahamas for $199, Gatlinburg 4.5 star hotel for $48 a night, 4 star downtown Chicago hotel for $75, or a suite in Branson for only $49.
Hotel tonight is an app that originally only offered same-day hotel deals (booking only after 9 am for the same day). Recently, the app has expanded their booking options to allow reservations several days in advance. I have used this app countless times over the years and I am still surprised how few people know about it. For me, it has been a way to get four and five star hotels for half price or even less. It works especially well in big cities. In Chicago, a four to five star suite will cost $300 to $400, but using the app I pay only $150 to $170. Although Hotel Tonight now lets you book several days in advance, the best prices are still on same-day bookings. Two years ago, when we were in Italy, we took the train to Rome. We already had a hotel for seven days as part of our package (in Central Italy). We expected that our 'day trip' to Rome might end up with an overnight stay, so we packed a change of clothes in our backpacks. That afternoon, using the app, we got a beautiful apartment in the heart of Rome for $50 (U.S. Dollars). It also included breakfast the next morning! Believe me, this is an app to put on your phone and use a lot.
If you use my invitation code JPARIS8 you will get a $25 credit to use on your first booking with Hotel Tonight. The app is available for both iPhone and Android.
This site is new for me, but it comes with a very high recommendation from a relative of mine that is in the travel industry. Although the site offers a wide array of travel deals, I understand that it is most well-known for its seven night vacation rentals (most of which are timeshare resorts). Timeshare is a travel niche, and can be a good thing for the right person at the right price. Unfortunately, thousands of people buy timeshares each year that, for one reason or another, do not make use of them. To offset the annual fees, unused timeshares are listed for rent on SkyAuction. Timeshare properties are much nicer than even four and five star hotels. Most have kitchens, multiple bedrooms, and are typically in sprawling resort complexes with incredible amenities.
Below is a screenshot of some of the deals I found today. I highlighted the Disney area resorts that I know to be very highly rated, and I could not believe the one week price. Consider that an entire week at one of these resorts is about the same price for just one single night at some of the hotels on Disney property.
Here is a great article from the Frugal Travel Guy with much more on how to bid on SkyAuction.
I use Airfare Watchdog as a tool to get real time alerts on airfare deals. The site is very easy to use, and allows you to set alerts on as many itineraries as you like. This is especially useful if you have a regular travel route in mind. For example, when my son was living in New Orleans, I had an Airfare Watchdog alert set for Orlando-New Orleans and Jacksonville-New Orleans. I jumped on these alerts two times over just a few weeks to be able to visit him. One of the alerts was for a $58 round trip flight to New Orleans from Orland0, less than the cost of gas to drive! Not only is this a great site for setting alerts, you can go there any time to get a fresh list of airfare deals from your home airport. Since the alerts are e mailed in real time, you can also cash in on so called mistake fares.
Travel is so much fun, and can be incredibly enriching for your family relationships. Being married for thirty one years now, I can tell you that a great trip with my wife is about as good as life gets (not to mention how much fun it is to share with readers and friends how I was able to cobble together my trip for so little money). You don't have to be rich to travel the world if you learn how to work the system, find deals, use travel points, and stay flexible with your plans.
Helping you make the most of God’s money!
James L. Paris
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