Travel and Planning Guide
My FIRST TRAVEL RULE: Find a great airline deal or an affordable destination – then find a reason to go there! Eventually you will see the world at a fraction of the normal price!
To help you plan almost every part of your trip, here are some recommendations to get you on your way!
DOMESTIC AERONAUTICAL TICKETS
Flexibility is the key to landing a lot! First, try not to “fit” the specifications when searching for air tickets. For example, you will pay much more for your trip if you insist on traveling to a specific destination – and on specific dates. Even the choice of departure and return times on drop-down websites can make a difference in what you pay. For example, if you choose an exit at 1:00 PM for your flight and a return at 5:00 PM, you may be missing out on seats with discounts still available for early morning departure and a return to midday. Again, there is no way to know this until you modify your time and / or date preferences – several times. “Boxing” a trip will leave you few opportunities to take advantage of airfare sales.
When you have firm travel plans, start collecting airline quotes several weeks before, but resist making a purchase until you know the rate patterns between two cities, or until you reach an agreement that is too difficult to pass.
So let’s start with these websites that allow you to search for flexible dates.
BEST CHOICE: Google Flights offers a number of better rate search options. Enter the FROM / TO city pairs, or click on the Multi-city tab if you plan to fly from a city other than your destination or when you plan to visit more than one destination. It may also include alternative airports (eg, DCA, IAD, BWI). Once you start selecting travel dates, the monthly calendars will show the rates for each day. You will begin to see a pattern of air fare rates as you search each 30-day period. Tickets can not be purchased on this website, but it directs users to the chosen company. Over time you will discover more ways to adjust your entries for better results.
When you need inspiration and are motivated by the price, visit Google Flight Explorer. You can enter a destination as general as “Europe” and start to see how the rates change according to the travel season. Passing above the table shows the low air fares for each date. Clicking on an agreement will take you to Google’s regular flight service for a complete list of airline tickets.
Flexible date searches on Kayak (part of the Priceline group) allow users to choose a choice of +/- 3 days to a preferred departure date. The results show an airfares calendar. When you find a rate you like, you will be directly linked to the provider to finalize your reservation. This helps avoid booking charges and allows you to use and accumulate frequent travel points / frequent flyer miles.
Need a bit of inspiration? I love the Kayak tool exploring. Plug in your hometown and see a world map showing the latest prices. Narrow on an area of the map to see a wider range of prices. You can easily limit your search by price ranges, terms and more. Try it!
When you’re flexible with travel dates, try the Southwest Shortcut to see results on monthly rate schedules.
Enter your city pairs, choose a month of departure, the duration of the trip and the option “My dates are flexible” at United Airlines. Results are displayed in that calendar month, or skip backward or forward months (up to 330 days in advance) to look for lower rates. You can also easily change the duration of the trip to get even more results.
Cheapair.com, an online travel agency (OTA) allows air travel searches up to 330 days in advance.
Frontier, JetBlue and Virgin America allow users to move week to week to see alternative rates. For best results, look for one-way details (open another browser window for a one-way search).
Delta Air Lines, Hotwire and Orbitz only allow a +/- 3 day search option.
We do not allow flexible date searches on American / USAirways.
It is worth noting: When “The best price, shortest flight time and the most distant Layovers” are important to you, visit Hipmunk. Although it takes a bit of getting used to it, its only button AGONY looks for this combination of requirements and lists in a graphic that the airline marks all those boxes. Be careful: the main operators listed may not offer the lowest price.
One drawback of meta-search websites is that certain airlines will miss out on the results. Airlines like Southwest or Allegiant sell directly on their websites (Airfarewatchdog.com includes Southwest and Allegiant Air flights). In addition, third-party websites do not have exclusivity for all airline inventories. Airlines usually book the lowest rates and exclusive private sales for their own website. In a nutshell? Check online travel agencies (and individual airline websites for the best range of price results.) An online travel agency (OTA) such as Expedia or Travelocity might offer the lowest airfare by suggesting a Itinerary using an outgoing airline and another for return. A price search on Delta.com suggests you fly home on a cheaper Southwest flight?
If you have to travel at the last minute (less than 7 days advance notice), consider using the “Name Your Own Price” feature on Priceline. One caveat: you can not control which airline will travel or flight times. However, savings can be significantly less than the purchase of a full fare ticket directly from an airline. Another idea would be to consider flying one of the low budget airlines that you might not consider (Spirit, for example).
FRENZY fee! Airline fares can and often exceed the cost of your ticket. Many of these “extras” can be avoided on shorter flights, but baggage rates remain the “gotcha” category for airlines.
Bankrate.com has combed the websites of these national carriers to help you compare airline fares: American, Alaska, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, USAirways and United. Just below the introduction, you will see a blue boxes box that can be individually selected to learn details about fees (or benefits) in these categories:
- Luggage Fees
- Military Discounts
- Loyalty program
- Credit card pauses
- Priority boarding
- Menu options
- Blanket pillow
- Change ticket costs
- Advantages of the package
Do you think you’ve overpaid for a plane ticket? Airlines offering refunds for any drop in price include Alaska, JetBlue and Southwest. Virgin America offers rebates for price declines of $ 75 or more; Hawaiian for price declines of $ 100 or more, and American / USAirways, Delta and United for $200 or more. However, airlines may charge a booking change fee that could erase any savings. Get all the details before you pursue a refund!
For best sales and deals, check out Clark’s travel deals in Atlanta – and – Clark’s national travel deals, updated every day of the week.
Almost all branded hotel chains now guarantee consumers the absolute lowest prices by booking directly on specific sites of the brand. You should still buy several general travel websites and compare the rates of the brand website.
Caution! There are an estimated 480 hotel bookings online per minute. As more and more consumers book online, the American Hotel & Lodging Association and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are sending a warning about dubious hotel reservation sites. Beware of misleading sellers when making your reservation!
When you are ready to book a hotel, start by booking a refundable stay through one of these popular sites:
Once you have secured a refundable hotel, see if you can exceed that price on one of the bidding sites:
- Hot wire
But do not start bidding on either site until you understand how the process works. These two forums share ideas for effective deals on Priceline and Hotwire:
If you do not want to enter the bidding arena and want a specific hotel for your stay, try a free Tingo service. Tingo registers the price of the hotel booked and if the price drops, it will automatically re-book your room at the lowest rate (it does not work if you have booked a non-refundable rate). The site keeps the price check drops until the day of your arrival or until the rate becomes non refundable (usually 24-48 hours before arrival). Every time the rate drops, Tingo sends you an email with a new reservation number at the lowest price. The refund is made directly to your credit card. Tingo works with virtually all hotel groups and thousands of independent properties.
Need a hotel in the last minute? Try these application-based markets:
HotelTonight: Sells last minute rooms that would otherwise remain empty
RoomerTravel: Search and book hotel rooms from people who are stuck in a hotel reservation they no longer need. It also works the other way. Do you have a prepaid room that you can not use? Sell your reservation in Roomer.
I have obsessive compulsive disorder when it comes to saving on hotels – and they have even more tips to share about how to score a hotel deal!
If you need several bedrooms, prefer to have your own kitchen, or if you plan to stay more than a couple of nights at a destination, you will often get a much better deal by renting an apartment, home or condo than a private owner. To avoid surprises, look for accommodations that already have a lot of comments. Also, be sure to discuss cancellation policies, house rules, deposits and methods of payment in advance with the owner. Check your options on this website:
- AirBnB: Private houses, apartments and more
- VRBO: Private houses, apartments and more
- HomeAway: Private Homes, Apartments and more
- Venere: International B & Bs, guest houses, country houses and more
- Holiday Rentals in SlowTrav: apartments, cottages, villas to rent direct
- Reids Guides: Accommodation in castles, a monastery – even an Amish farm
- UniversityRooms: Rent a room at Oxford University, a bedroom in Rome and more
- Agritourism World: Stays in country or country homes in the United States and Europe
A car is a car. Repeat. Buy car rental rates on many websites. Start a general search on carrentals.com and hotwire.com. Then make an offer with a lower price on Priceline.com (accepted offers are not refundable). Priceline car rentals will take you wheels from the brand names you trust.
If only one or two people are going to use the rental, opt for an economy sized economy vehicle. It is likely that you will be upgraded to a larger vehicle at no cost if there are none available upon arrival. Just do not fall for the agent who encourages you to upgrade for an extra charge per day. Insist on its original cost.
More than one driver? Avoid the dreaded additional charges for an additional driver. Avis, Budget and Enterprise allows a spouse or domestic partner as an additional driver at no additional cost. The waiver also applies to business colleagues. Alamo, Dollar, Hertz and Thrifty charge between $ 9.99 and $ 13.50 per additional day. National charges for additional drivers, but waive the fee for members of the Emerald Club (free to join). The additional driver’s fee can sometimes be avoided by booking through Costco, or by using membership numbers for AAA, AARP or USAA.
Autoslash is a site that will keep track of your car rental and re-book automatically if the price goes down before you pick up the car. In addition, Autoslash will apply any eligible discount coupon code, which may further reduce its cost.
Are you a member of Costco or Sam’s Club? Exclusive rates are available by booking in the online vacation divisions. Both retailers scan coupons, codes, and applicable discounts to find the best available price.
BUS & RAIL (national and international)
Wanderu.com is the easiest way to find and book intercity buses (including Greyhound) and travel by train between two points in the United States and Canada. Enter your places and departure and arrival dates and Wanderu looks for hundreds of schedules, routes and operators to get you where you need to go. Results are given for travel no more than two months in advance (it is because most bus companies do not release the schedules of the last two months).
Routes International offers links to bus lines operating around the world.
UK-based International Rail specializes in railway tickets and passes worldwide. You can book 66,000 point-to-point routes in Europe, including Eurostar, French TGV, German ICE, InterCity, EuroCity, Thalys, Thello, Trenitalia and Spanish high speed trains. Train reservations for other countries include Australia, New Zealand, Asia and South Africa.
Use GoEuro.com to compare prices for air, bus and rail travel within and between the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, BeNeLux countries and Switzerland.
PACKAGES AND TRIPS
Are you getting the best vacation deal by booking each component separately? Double check You can find a cheaper price when booking a package getaway. For example, Bookit.com offers a calendar that shows the total travel prices for the packages included, including airfare, a hotel stay and a car rental.
Maybe your trip is a bit complicated and you need professional help? Appeal to the American Society of Travel Agents, or ASTA – the leading advocate for the travel industry and the traveling public. Find a travel agent or travel specialist (more than 37 languages are represented) for each destination and style. Some agents charge a fee for their experience, but the cost may be worth it – especially if you are traveling to destinations outside the beaten tourist routes.
Ready to take your first cruise? Sit down with a local cruise expert in your neighborhood. Find one at CLIA – the official trade organization of the North American cruise industry. The website is also a great guide for researching specific cruise lines and their services. Another source for last minute cruise deals is on Cruise Critic.
Travel Tip: Always pay for cruise and tour deposits and final payments for a real credit card and never by debit card or check.
See the FAQ section below for information on travel insurance.
INTERNATIONAL RESERVATIONS AND PLANNING
The first is the first. Is your passport updated (or can you even find it)? Get information on prices and forms needed to renew or apply for a new passport. Once you have all the necessary documents in order, complete the application process at a local authorized office near you.
Plan a trip to Europe during the shoulder seasons (April-May, October) and the off-season months (November to March) when air fares are very cheap! That can be a great sacrifice, but you will save huge dollars if you are flexible enough to visit cities ONLY when you offer deep reductions, such as when you announce a new service to a city with introductory prices. They call it high season for a reason! The air fares offered from June to early September and again from mid-December to Christmas are the highest published of the year. Wait! As a particular season is about to end – by the end of October, for example – airlines can often mimic large retailers, offering liquidation sales with ultra-deep reductions and lifting early purchase requirements.
Many airlines only offer the deepest discounts on their own websites. Three of them are Aer Lingus (Ireland), Iberia (Spain) and Qantas (Australia, New Zealand). Rates can be up to $ 400 less than rates found in OTAs.
Also, consider lesser known beginners and carriers: XL Airways (to France); ArkeFly (Florida to Amsterdam ) and Norwegian Air Shuttle (cities selected from the United States to Europe).
Ready to buy an international agreement? Start at your preferred airline’s website, then try these expanded options:
PlanetAmex has consolidation contracts with more than 70 airlines for international and first class discounts.
To travel within the European continent, check what budget to see who flies where. Searches include 340 airlines in 210 countries.
Does your school schedule prevent you from taking advantage of low season specials? Teachers, students and other full-time students can find decent summer airline tickets and special offers on these websites:
- STA Travel
- Student city
Finally, be sure to read my overseas travel guide: money, mobile and banking before your international travels. It has everything you need to know about how to use cell phones, mobiles and WiFi abroad, and the best ways to exchange and manage money.
Do I need a travel agent?
If you have trouble finding the best deals you hear me suggest, know that the lowest rates are often only offered in a certain number of seats – not every day of the week. If you see a rate that seems too good to be true, call a travel agent immediately (find one in your neighborhood in ASTA). Travel agents have access to a professional database. The limited number of sales seats is sold before they are posted on online reservation sites – or even on the airline’s own website. Calling the airline directly may be the least effective way to get a deal. It is not in their interest to make these specials easy to find, and they are often not even visible to airline agents.
The best way to find a good travel agent is to ask your friends, neighbors, co-workers or people who brag about your fabulous vacation to refer you to their agent. Yes, travel agents charge fares ranging from a percentage of air fares to a fixed fare, but their final savings could put you on the positive side – especially if you are traveling to destinations off the beaten tourist routes. Enter your ZIP code in ASTA to find an agent in your neighborhood.
Maybe your trip is a bit complicated and you need professional help? Appeal to the American Society of Travel Agents, or ASTA – the leading advocate for the travel industry and the traveling public. Find a travel specialist (more than 37 languages are represented) for each destination and style.
Ready to take your first cruise? Sit down with a local cruise expert in your area. Find one at CLIA – the official trade organization of the North American cruise industry. The website is also a great guide for researching specific cruise lines and their services.
Travel Tip: Always pay deposits and final payments for a real credit card and never by debit card or check.
See the FAQ section below for information on travel insurance.
When is the best time to book a cheap plane ticket?
No one has a crystal ball – although some claim to have researched the subject scientifically. A study by CheapAir.com states that the magic number is 54 days in advance (7.5 weeks). The conclusion was reached after the airline’s reservation website monitored 4,191,533 trips last year, based on reservations made 320 to 1 day in advance.
What is the best answer? If you buy tickets too far in advance you may end up paying too much. If possible, start looking for rates 120 days in advance. Booking with 90 days in advance should also work for the budget traveler (five to six months for international travel). That being said, if you are flying during peak vacation seasons or during spring break to hot spots like Cancun, Orlando or higher ski resorts – booking six months out probably score the discounted seats.
Do I need travel insurance?
Travel insurance policies are designed to protect consumers by reimbursing them in case of sickness to the traveler or the immediate family member, or to provide a refund in case of breach of company, tour operator or airline.
Purchase a policy when taking a cruise, a trip or traveling on a trip that requires pre-payment of thousands of dollars. Just be sure to purchase an independent cruise, tour or vacation planner policy. Never purchase the trip organizer’s travel protection plan. These types of policies are designed to protect only the business and not the consumer!
A policy can be expected to cost approximately 6 percent of the total cost of the trip. Of course, it is possible to run that number up.
InsureMyTrip travel insurance comparison store.
AirCare’s new $ 25 national airline travel insurance product will give an air passenger $ 1,000 if an airplane sits on the runway – with you on it – for more than two hours. The $ 1,000 is automatically transferred to a PayPal account. AirCare tracks your travel in real time, so you do not have to file a claim to receive a payment. The policy also pays for missed connections due to flight delays and baggage delays.
For more information on travel insurance, see the Clark guide.
When should I use my frequent flyer miles?
Do not exchange mileage for domestic trips that fall under $ 400. Instead, save and continue to accumulate miles for off-season trips to Europe or Asia (approximately 50,000-60,000 miles). Another way to use points is to upgrade your International Economy Class ticket to an Executive Class seat.
When you simply do not have enough mile point for a full ticket redemption, some airlines (like Delta Air Lines) will allow you to apply as little as 10,000 miles to reduce the total cost of the ticket by $ 100. Apply $ 40,000 for a $ 400 reduction (Usually $ 100 for 10,000 miles).
Whatever you do, do not let those hard earned miles expire. If you can not use them before the deadline – gift them. Each airline will accept donations of miles by various charitable organizations.
TRAVEL PLANNING TOOLS
Internet is the best tool of a traveler to research and plan a trip. Try this when you’re looking for places to stay and what attractions you should not miss: Pick up one of your favorite search engines, like Google, Bing, or others. Enter the name of the city you wish to obtain more information about the addition of the keywords – Official Tourism. This will eliminate sites that want to sell you something.
Get real advice and opinions from other travelers to help you decide on the best accommodations or attractions. Read good and bad reviews to get the picture clearer. For hotels and resorts, consider how (and if) the address responds to reviews to get an idea of the customer service you will experience. Check out the traveler’s photos and see how they compare with the advertised images.
How do I learn about special airlines and sales?
Register on multiple websites to receive email promotions, sales notifications or reductions for your desired city pair. This search will give you a price pattern for comparison.
These websites offer automatic email alerts of price reductions:
Airfarewatchdog: The only website that includes Southwest Airlines and Allegiant
Sign up at frequent flyer programs from several airlines. Members receive promotions via email and special sales notifications. Another way to learn in quick time about special offers is to “follow” airlines and travel on Twitter. And, follow Clark on Twitter @Clark_Travel and Clark Smart Travel Deals on Facebook.
Airlines and airports information:
Flight-tracking Live: FlightAware
Current information / conditions at United States and Canada airports: FlightStats
Delays at the World Airport and Airport Status: FlightAware.
Finally, get help from your fellow travelers and share your travel information on the Travel Message Board. Happy travels!