While one can look at the glass half empty, one with a creative mind might look at it half full. Traveling has never been cheaper and more affordable. From 5 star palaces offering 3rd, 4th and 5th night for free to airlines making more award seats and lower class fares available, the possibilities are endless.
As some of you may know, I am done with selling travel. However, during my 10 years as a travel agent and tour operator, I was fighting online automated travel website using the argument that hiring the services of a travel agent was always a better route. Not always actually. Most travel agents have not even experienced the destinations they pretend to know best. They have rarely left their agency (there are some exceptions of course) and may not really be able to point you in the right direction. However, free travel advice websites have multiplied. Most are ran by travel enthusiasts collecting data from other travelers. From the rating of a hotel to tips regarding certain destinations and what books or travel agents don’t tell you, there are millions of people out there on the WWW that are offering amazing tips for you to prepare your next trip.
And lately, even official hotel and airline websites have been offering amazing incentives and deals travel agents could never compete with. Delta and Northwest are currently running specials that would make commission-hungry travel agents blush. If you do not mind making your own travel arrangements to save a bundle, here are the steps I would recommend:
1- Select your destination. Don’t do so based on your budget. It would be a major “faux-pas” as you should enjoy your vacation, not take it just for the sake of it.
2- Google the name of your destination and read what others have to say. Don’t fall into the trap of “fake” websites. Read from websites that are ran by actual travel enthusiasts. Other websites such as www.travelchannel.com can be useful when you have a few destinations to chose from and can hardly decide which one to focus on.
3- Contact 4 and 5 star hotels and ask for their best rates. Don’t hesitate to negotiate. You may also need to stay an extra night at one establishment to get a better rate. It is OK! Map your trip well and if you play your cards well, you may not even have to move every day. The longer you stay, the better the rate will be. Don’t settle for 2 or 3 star hotel if that is going to affect the quality for your vacation. Look for smaller chains or boutique hotels.
4- Check out multiple websites such as expedia.com, hotwire.com to see if they offer better rates on the hotels you have settled with.
5- Use your miles wisely. If your airline ticket is less than $1,000/pers, don’t use miles. You have to look at it on a per mile cost. A round trip to Africa may be a better way to use your miles than one to Paris or London with more airlines serving those destinations and more competitive fares
6- Be flexible. Select a departure date that would be outside of the high season for the selected destinations. Europe in April and May or even September and October is as good if not better as July and August. If you have a choice, travel outside of the busy seasons.
7- If you want to use a travel agent (again, some are actually very professional), don’t settle for their sole opinion. You have to take interest in your own trip as well and without having to spend days reading books, you can spend a few hours checking out online what others think of your travel agent’s itinerary. If you do not want to bother with designing your own trip, then hire a travel consultant (they get a flat fee, not a commission. So they have your full satisfaction at heart). Their ongoing rates are $150 to $500 depending on the budget, length of your stay and destination. Keep in mind it is a one time fee that could save you HUNDREDS if not THOUSANDS by just having a professional do the work for you.
For last minute travel deals, I recommend Cheapoair.com: Click Here to check it out. I used them for my clients when I had the travel agency and always found amazing last minute deals.