Booking flights, rental cars and hotels for your next vacation can add up quickly, but with a few simple tips you can save big when booking your next trip.
I just recently spent the last two months planning and booking my family’s vacation to Germany and Italy. With three couples, I wanted to plan a trip that satisfied all parties…while also sticking within everyone’s budget. I used all of these cost-saving tips over the last month while booking our trip to Heidelberg and the Amalfi Coast. Our total savings were over $2,500.
Here are a few of my best tips and tricks that allow you to book your best vacation, while not breaking the bank.
I start my trip planning months in advance to capitalize on the best travel deals. For this particular trip, I had three couples (6 people total). I start by planning an itinerary document that lists out options for hotels and tours. I gave all parties three hotel options for our destinations all ranging from a budget friendly to a luxury hotel. For some areas, we decided to splurge on a luxury option while we saved on cities where we felt like the hotel was just a spot to rest our heads. Each party voted on the hotels based on their budgets for the two-week trip.
Here is a link to our full itinerary to get a feel on how I organize for large groups.
Call the Hotel Directly for the Best Prices
It is easy to book through Orbitz and Expedia, but for international travel I highly recommend reaching out to the hotel directly. We are visiting the Amalfi coast in Italy and making a three-night stop in Positano. Since the town is so small, and we are visiting during peak travel months, the lodging was very pricey. After narrowing down our options, which also included sleeping on a boat, I reached out directly to the preferred hotel. We decided on the Villa Magia, because the owner gave us a third night in a three-bedroom suite for the same cost as a one bedroom. It was a deal, and I snagged it!
You can always work directly with B&B options and VRBO to ask for a discount on your room.
Fly on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday
Like any other industry, airline flight prices depend on supply and demand. Prices are cheaper when there’s less demand, and that’s typically during the week. Online tools like Yapta, Hopper and Google Flights allow you to search for flights, then keep track of them through email alerts. If a flight drops or increases in price, you’ll get a notification.
We are departing on Wednesday night, which saved us almost $500 in airline fees compared to leaving on a weekend.
Negotiate Car Rental Upgrades
I mentioned we are traveling with six people for this trip. All of the over-sized vehicle rentals were very expensive. I was able to find a deal through Costco on a free rental car upgrade. I paid for a compact vehicle, but will have a six passenger van when we arrive in Germany. Membership programs like AAA, AARP and Costco often come with a handful of travel discounts that are easy to overlook. If you already pay for any kind of monthly membership, look into possible discounts that come with that membership.
Research and Book in Incognito Mode
If you are like me, then you are constantly checking for travel deals throughout the day…and airlines know you are looking too. When you surf the web in incognito mode (or your browser’s equivalent), your browser doesn’t collect cookies – the bits of data that identify you to the websites you visit. Without the ability to track your movements around the web, travel sites have a harder time guessing your intentions, and can’t raise prices accordingly when it’s clear you’re targeting a particular hotel, itinerary, or date.
This happened to me when booking this trip. I was looking at the same flight for many days in a row. The price shot up after day three. I waited a few weeks and the flight went back down to the original price. Always go incognito when travel planning. Remember to clear your internet cookies along the way.
Use a Rewards Credit Card When You Book
I don’t love credit cards, but I do love the points. If you are able to pay off your card before interest hits, then I definitely recommend booking your trip on a travel card. You can earn rewards, like cash back, while also earning miles for your next trip. I prefer the Delta AMEX to get travel points back. My husband and I have flown for free internationally five times through this option.
Embrace Free Continental Breakfast
I only book hotels with free breakfast options. This saves us so much money during the trip. We usually can last most of the day off our free breakfast. We only spend money on food at dinner. It is a great way to save during the trip, and I love the convenience of eating in the morning before a long day of tours.
Book Tours through the Same Agency
I love Viator. I booked all of our tours through the website and got a 10% off coupon code for each booking. This saved us over $800. We booked Yacht tours in the Amalfi coast, Sistine Chapel tours, and private guided tours for all of our stops and got 10% off each tour by booking through the same agency. Wait for the coupon code in your inbox after making your first purchase, then they will come with your reservation after each booking.
Blog and Share your Experiences
I have learned in my last year of blogging that you have to put yourself out there to be successful. Hotels and restaurants love getting good reviews. Reach out to hotels and see if you can feature them on your platforms. They may let you stay for free if you highlight them through social media and your blog.