7 Strategies to Help You Save Money on Your Next Vacation

October 15, 2014 by: Donna Parshall

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The Internet allows anyone to be a publisher, a moviemaker, a retailer, and more. And when spending so much time online stresses you out, you can even become a travel agent and plan a vacation right from the Internet-accessible device of your choice. We’ve rounded up seven strategies to help you harness the power of the web for an affordable, enjoyable getaway.

1. Use third-party websites wisely
Sites like Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, Travel Zoo and the like can save quite a bit of time as they offer “one-stop shopping” from multiple hotels, airlines, and rent-a-car companies. The problem is, they don’t always find the very best deals. If you have some time, it’s often better to go to individual company websites to book the best deal. A review site like Trip Advisor can help you zero in on your best prospects. Keep in mind, too, that the risk of finding out your flight or hotel is overbooked increases with third-party providers. The middleman’s software isn’t immune to system errors, so always call the hotel or airline to make sure your booking was processed.

2. Use alternate airports and discount airlines
Driving a few hours to a lesser-used airport can save you quite a bit. Discount airlines often prefer these types of airports because they’re cheaper to operate from. The downside: the number of flights is limited. If there’s a delay or cancellation, you may have to wait longer to get to your destination. Also, discount airlines traditionally have fewer frills like in-flight meals and complimentary beverages. Space is often tight as well, as the airline tries to jam as many passengers as possible into its planes.

3. Don’t wait until the last minute
Last minute travel isn’t what it used to be. You’ll generally find the best rates on hotels, airfare, and rental cars about six weeks ahead of your travel date. It certainly doesn’t hurt to check sooner, in case you find a really great deal. That being said, last-minute travel can be a real money saver if you’re able to be really flexible. In other words, if you want to get away but aren’t picky about exact departure times or even your destination, you can save a few bucks. Of course you’ll also have to book a hotel at the last minute as well, unless you happen to have family or friends in the area who can provide you with a free place to stay.

4. Don’t book everything through one site
Sometimes the packages offered by third-party travel sites are good, and sometimes they’re not. It can pay to compare the cost of a package to the cost of “unbundled” travel arrangements. You can often save more money by booking your airfare, hotel, and rental car separately.

5. Know when to fly
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday are the cheapest days to fly. That’s because fewer people travel on these days. That brings the added benefit of smaller crowds at the airport and on aircraft. Flying very early or very late (on the so-called red-eye) is also cheaper.

6. Weigh service and price
If you book through a third-party travel site, the airline or hotel may be less friendly when it comes to handling any concerns or problems you may encounter. If you’re willing to go with the flow and sacrifice VIP service for better prices, the savings could offset the inconvenience.

7. Don’t rule out the advantages of using a travel agent<a
While it may seem like the Internet has made traditional travel agents redundant, it turns out they still have a few tricks up their sleeves. There are still many deals out there that are available only to travel agents. A recent study by the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) showed that even with paying a fee to your travel agent, you can still save quite a bit of money when you use one. Money savings aside, a travel agent can be a lifesaver if something should go wrong during your trip – especially overseas.

Yes, there are travel deals to be found online. But when it comes to planning your next vacation, be sure to weigh the money you’ll savedepends on the complexity of your journey and your overall travel experience. For many, the Internet, with a little astute digging, can be a real money saver when planning a vacation or business trip. For those who like to take the guesswork out of the process, a travel agent might be a better route.