I've never met a person who bragged "I paid a lot of money for this flight!" Instead, we all like to feel secure knowing we got the most bang for our buck when it comes to travel (and everything else, really). So how does one go about finding cheap travel deals?
Having worked in the travel industry, I can offer the following advice-
For the most part domestic flights are going to cost the same from site to site. What really makes a difference is when you buy your ticket. It is very true that purchasing a ticket 6 weeks in advance makes a very big difference, as does 3 weeks. After 2 weeks chances are slim that a fare will change. But that doesn't mean that they won't! Or that you can't get a good deal!
Personally, my recommendation (when purchasing a ticket less than 6 weeks out) is to go to Sidestep.com and look up flights.
(click to enlarge)
Compare the fares to other sites that do not come up in Sidestep searches (especially CheapOair and Booking.com).
Take the lowest found fare, in this case about $450.
Next, go to the airline site and see how many seats/fares are still available. If there are at least 1/3rd of the seats available on the flight
(Continental airlines in this example)
Go to Priceline.com, bid your own price, and underbid it by at least 30%! (Be brave and bid at 50%! The worst that can happen is it rejects you and you just keep trying!)
This trick works best when trying to get a flight less than 3 weeks out, when an airline is trying to finish filling up a flight. It doesn't work as well around the holidays when an airline is assured that most flights will fill up.
The next trick- watch gas prices!
Allow me to explain why. The cost of an airline seat is simple. There is a basic "rental" of the seat, usually about $30. Next, passengers must pay the necessary fees and fares, which vary from city to city, country to country. Then you have to pay the brand markup, or the overhead the airline charges (this is where airlines make or lose money, as it is the only portion of the fare that goes to them. When you bid on a flight, this is the part you are reducing- the part that goes to the airline.). The final portion of the fare is made up by the cost of the fuel that it takes to fly the plane. When gas prices go down, the cost it takes to put and keep a plane in the air goes down.
When you see fuel prices dip by more than $0.25 a gallon for more than a few days, go watch flight prices!!
On domestic flights it may not make a significant difference. But on international flights a fluctuation of 25 cents or more can mean a $100 fare decrease.
When looking to get a great deal on a hotel room, never underestimate the power of a good email newsletter!
It's true. Signing up for newsletters from major chains or retailers (Travelocity, Expedia, etc) can make all the difference in getting a good deal on a hotel room. This is the fastest and easiest way for hotels to share deals and discounts.
Also, don't forget to do a simple internet search for "coupon codes for hotel rooms" before booking a room. Coupon codes can be found on several affiliate sites and can save $10-$50 off rooms in many major chains with no other strings attached.
When looking for a great deal on a dream vacation (by which I mean, exotic or famous destinations, that include all-inclusive packages) always check out what the major retailers are offering, and also check out offerings from membership dealers like Sam's Club. These are often special deals promoted and exclusively through the retailers and could not be duplicated for less.