Quick Trip Booking: 3 Easy Steps to Finding Travel Deals

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With so many tips out there about trip booking, the task of finding good travel deals could seem overwhelming.

Sure, subscribing to airline and hotel newsletters is great advice when you have a lot of flexibility. But what if your work schedules don’t allow you to take off on a whim whenever there are airline promotions? And what about your poor, flooded inbox? And which newsletter subscriptions? Surely you don’t mean all of them. How much time would you even have to spend each day just to go through all those emails?

If you know when and where you’re going, why not just cut to the chase and save yourself some time?

I follow these three steps whenever I book a trip and always get good value for my money. Most other trip booking tricks can only help when I have some flexibility in the itinerary anyway.

(If I do happen to have flexible dates and feel like spending more time to save a few more bucks, I have other tricks up my sleeve. Check out this post to find out more: How to Take Advantage of Flexibility in Flight Booking.)

Alright, here we go.


Before you do anything…

…clear your browser cookies. 

Why: Travel booking websites store your browsing history. If you perform multiple searches for the same route on the same flight booking site, for example, the website knows that you probably are serious about the purchase and willing to pay a premium for that particular flight.

How: The way to clear your cookies varies depending on your browser. If you do a quick Google search for “clear safari/firefox/chrome cookies”, you should easily get a straightforward answer.


Step 1. Search my favorite travel booking websites

Why: After a lot of research and actual trip-booking experience, I have a few go-to websites that I use. They provide great value and save me a lot of time and energy.

How: Depends on what you want to book.

Flights: My first stop is Vayama, which usually gives me the lowest airfares. If you have the time, check a couple more websites for comparison — here are some other great flight booking sites.

Hotels: Hotelscombined is awesome because it searches thousands of hotel booking sites at once.

Hostels: Hostelworld specializes in hostel booking and usually comes up with the lowest hostel rates. You can also find hotels, apartments, bed & breakfasts and campsites here.

For more great travel booking websites, check out this page.

Save money on travel.

Tip: If you’re booking a flight, always search fares for one passenger first, no matter how many people you travel with. The airline may only have one seat left at the cheapest price point. If there are two passengers, the system will bump both passengers up to the more expensive price level. In other words, the airfare for one passenger may be cheaper.

If this is the case, you may be able to fool the website by searching for one passenger first and then changing the number of passengers after choosing the flight. If that doesn’t work, you can make a separate booking for each passenger.


Step 2. Check out coupon codes

Why: Some websites don’t always show the lowest prices right away. But they may have coupon codes that, combined with their regular prices, give you the best deals online.

How: Here is a page that shows all current coupon codes and promotions that I’m aware of. I update this page multiple times a week, so check back when you’re about to book a trip.

Use coupon codes to get travel deals.


Step 3. Go directly to the company website

Why: Sometimes you can get great deals by dealing directly with the travel company whose services you want to use.

How: The other travel booking sites should have given you details about which particular airline, hotel or hostel has the best deals. Go to the website of this airline, hotel or hostel to check if their online prices are lower than other websites. If you have the time, call them to see if they can beat the prices you’ve found elsewhere.


If you have a credit card with no foreign transaction fee…

…then check how much the total would be, both in the company’s default currency and your own currency, before you make a payment.

Why: Whenever a company converts currencies for you, it’s never a straightforward transaction. If you calculate an airfare in a foreign currency and compare it to the same airfare in your own currency, you may find two dramatically different prices. This is because the company may charge you a fee for the currency conversion and/or take a cut from the bad exchange rate they give you. (Read more about how this works in this Dynamic Currency Conversion article.)

How: At checkout, review the final price in both currencies. For example, if you’re booking a flight with a U.S. credit card on a British website, check both the USD price and the pound sterling price. Then, compare these prices using a website like XE.com.

The two prices will never be exactly the same. If the difference is small enough, you may choose to just pay in your home currency.

But if the price is much better in the foreign currency, then book in the foreign currency and make the payment using a credit card with no foreign transaction fee. This is the time to take advantage of the great exchange rates that credit cards usually offer. (Read this article for fee-free credit card options.)

Tip: If you’re booking through a multinational company with multiple websites, check the prices at the company’s other websites (eg. BritishAirways.com and BritishAirways.co.uk; AirNewZealand.com and AirNew Zealand.co.nz).


Don’t wait too long

There are all kinds of speculation out there about the right time to book a flight. Some say you should book on a Tuesday, some say five weeks before the trip and yet others say between six to eight weeks before the trip.

The truth is that each flight will be different; there are so many different factors that it’s impossible to come up with a magical formula to perfectly time every single booking.

Airfares do fluctuate and, yes, sometimes they drop. But it’s more likely that they go up as the flight fills up. I’ve had to pay more for my airfares several times because I waited to see if the prices would drop.

So once you find a price you’re willing to pay, I’d recommend that you purchase it right away. There’s a limit to how much you can lower an airfare by doing more research.


Images: 1. Creativity 103 (CC BY 2.0 License); 2. Moyan Brenn (CC BY 2.0 License).

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  1. Some great tips here, especially the first one. I should have know that long before!! I always wondered about it too!
    As for booking hostels. I worked in few different hostels and I can tell you that many don’t put all their beds onto booking website and sometimes it is just way better to just go directly to the hostels website. Never be a ‘Walk-In’ guest in places like Europe. You might be upsaled by a receptionist without knowing it ;)

    • Glad you like them! Thanks for the additional tip. I learned the hard way about being a walk-in guest. I walked all over the red light district looking like a total tourist with my wheelie bag trying to find a bed and not finding much success at it. I always book beforehand now. ;)

  2. Cookies… How I didn’t think about that!! :P Great tips! Thanks!

  3. Great tips! I didn’t know that companies use cookies to charge you premium prices (although I do have a strickt cookies policy enabled in my browsers). I always try to book my accommodation directly with a property owner.

  4. Great tips as usual, Deia! I didn’t think about trying to purchase 1 long haul airline ticket at a time because you could nab the last lower fare.

    In the past I noticed on Ryanair that they would sometimes charge 20 euro more to share a checked bag among 2 people. It seems the smaller checked bag fee is now normally 30 euro roundtrip for 2 people, instead of 50. But perhaps not always. So this is another good reason to try booking plane tickets separately! :)

    • It doesn’t take much time to do, too. :) I didn’t think that would affect checked bag fee, but that’s great news!

  5. Some great tips! I always do step three after I have decided on a place/flight etc using a general travel booking site. Often it’s not cheaper, but a lot of the time it is, and sometimes it can make things more straight forward to book with a place directly.

    I am so paranoid about airlines tracking me, I generally do my shopping around on my home laptop then book on my work one just in case!!

    • Lol! I think clearing the cookies should get rid of any “spies” they put in your computer, but it can get annoying. Booking on the work computer is a good move!

  6. Great tips sweetie. Thanks for mentioning the browser cookies. I never clear it, but now I know I should!

  7. Great post – I’ll definitely check out the coupons. Another search site I use all the time is adioso.com, which allows for flexible search dates. A (slightly more complicated) option similar to the cookies is to use a VPN to “appear” to be logging in from a different country. I find the some flight prices differ depending on the country where you are currently located.

    • I use ITA Matrix for flexible search dates. The only problem is having to book the flight on another website.

      That’s a great tip about the VPN. I’ve never heard that one before, but it makes sense!

  8. Great post. I learned quite a bit. I never know about the cookies, or the one person airfare.

  9. Deia, thanks for sharing some great tips. I also like the one about the cookies! If you don’t want to clear all your log in information etc, a good option is to open an ‘incognito’ session of Chrome – it automatically does not keep any cookies or other browsing data.

  10. I had no idea about the clearing of the cookies thing! I will definitely start doing that from now on. I have also started going directly to airline websites, instead of booking from flight searching websites. I find that they’re cheaper sometimes, and have no booking fees. Great tips :) I will have to check out those coupons next time I book a trip!

  11. I also had no idea that the sites will give you higher prices if you don’t clear your cookies first. I’ll definitely take that tip next time I look for a flight. I also agree with your tip about not waiting for too long. I saw a really good priced flight back from our honeymoon, but held off to wait to get vacation approval. Hours later when I went back to check on the flight, it had been sold at that price. So frustrating!

  12. Didn’t know about the cookies either! Thanks for the tip! :D

  13. Wow, the tip about cookies is really good – I had no idea

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