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I don’t know about you, but I am crazy jealous of those people who can hop in a private jet which whisks them away to some exotic locale–direct. Sadly, most of us will never even get the chance to see a private plane up close, which leaves us with the option of scouring the internet or ads in the newspaper for travel deals. The good news is that there are very few places in the world that cost a king’s ransom to get to–it just takes a little luck, know-how and good timing.
Hands-down, the easiest way to save money on your vacation is to go when no one else is.
That means avoiding peak travel periods like school breaks and holidays. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing: think less crowds, more attentive staff and availability. Visiting a destination during the shoulder season (in many places it’s September-November, and March-May) can also save you a bundle.
I visited the Maldives in early November which can be right at the end of rainy season, so that was a bit of a risk. But not only did we save hundreds of dollars compared to the cost of booking around Christmas, but the weather was absolute perfection the whole time. Alternatively, I went to Barbados for a family trip in May, which is supposed to be the driest month there–and it poured most of the week. That just shows that you can never place too much stock in what the weather is ‘supposed to’ be.
Keeping track of current events can also help your bottom line. For example, Egypt saw a sharp decrease in tourism following the Arab Spring, which caused great unrest in the country. Those who went to Egypt when the situation calmed down reported no lineups at famous sites, which are traditionally overrun by sightseers. The price of hotel rooms also dropped, in hopes of luring what few tourists were there.
While it’s never a good idea to visit a foreign country that is in the midst of war or unrest, visiting a place after the situation has diffused can be a real money saver.
Sadly, it is really just not that easy to book a flight these days. Sure great deals pop up here and there, but they seem to disappear as soon as you go to book them or have a crazy amount of layovers. The best plan of action is to either book either five months or two months in advance to get the flight you want, or be extremely flexible with dates and hope for a sweet last-minute deal.
Book your flight for a Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday, which are usually the cheapest days to fly, and avoid leaving on Thursday or Friday and coming back Sunday. You will pay a premium for those.
Also consider which airport you’re flying in to, as certain hubs have higher taxes than others. When I was booking a flight to Asia, my flight through Dubai ended up being $200 cheaper than a similar flight that had a layover in Qatar. Airports like Barcelona are also cheaper to fly into than the larger Charles de Gaulle in Paris, or London’s Heathrow.
Budget airlines are also your friend, especially in saturated travel markets like Europe and Asia. The Low Cost Airline Guide can help you sort out which carriers fly where, meaning you won’t have to book a ticket that’s five times the price on a larger airline.
Finally, become ‘friends’ with an airline. Like them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter or sign-up via e-mail so they can bombard your inbox with travel deals. They’re usually just ads, but you may get lucky and find out that flight to Peru you’ve been eyeing is the subject of a one-day sale–and you’ll be the first to find out about it.
Ever heard of the Best Rate Guarantee? This is one of the easiest ways to save on your hotel bill. Many chains including Hilton and Starwood properties offer savvy travellers 10 per cent off their room rate or $50 off, if they find a lower price posted somewhere else. I pulled this one off once after booking at the Radisson Hotel in Ottawa, Canada and discovering a cheaper rate on another website. It takes a bit of digging, but you can save a bundle if you’re lucky.
An easier way to get a deal is to negotiate the rate of your room up front.
This is tough to pull off at major hotels and resorts, but works well at bed and breakfasts. Start by zoning in on a couple of places you’re interested in, then send each manager a nice e-mail asking if they can match or beat a lower rate posted at a similar property. I’ve done this in pricey Rome, and couldn’t have been more pleased with the results.
Keep in mind that many places also offer perks like 10 per cent off, upgrades or free breakfast if you book well in advance. Some hotels also offer complimentary shuttle service, which can be a big help during the morning rush to catch a flight.
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