Money & Career

How to find the best travel deals

By: Signe Langford

Author: Canadian Living

Money & Career

How to find the best travel deals

By: Signe Langford
"I'm outta here!" We're done with winter. Every year it seems to drag on and on, somehow longer than it did the year before. So, starved for sun or just sick of the grind, we search for our escape. Ready to go? We've done some searching for you and rounded up the best ways to score the greatest deals on getting out of town.

Where not to look for travel deals

First, the bad news: Standby ain't what it used to be. It used to mean, if you were willing to hang out at the gate in the hopes of a last-minute vacant seat, the airline would hook you up with a ticket at bargain prices.

Well, not anymore. Oh, you're still welcome to hang out and wait should you need to get on the next plane to Albuquerque, but don't expect a break on the cost. Standby tickets aren't any cheaper anymore. Why? Because airlines don't like standby: it messes with their costs and careful planning, so they don't want to encourage it.

As for sales, don't be fooled by those incredible-looking flight prices in the newspaper. That little asterisk beside the unbelievable "$99" can add up to hundreds in taxes and add-on fees. The same is true for hotels and resorts. Read the small print and look for penalties and extra costs.

Where to find good prices for flights

There are still a few ways to score travel deals. Mostly it comes down to an open playing field. Competition between sellers drives prices down for buyers. For instance, a service such as this one -- Flight Centre -- promises to beat the lowest price you've found.  Even though flying standby isn't the great deal it once was, there's still the Last Minute Club. Here members and non-members can find great deals through auctions, promotions and advance bookings. Members do save more, but anyone can benefit from the site's specials.

Check and see if your flight allows for online check-in. If it does, it may waive the standard check-in fee charged for airport in-person check-in.

Also check into charter flights, which are often listed for sale on sites such as Here's the 101: A charter flight means that a single purchaser -- say, a tour company -- has chartered a plane through a charter airline and purchased all the seats. Now, that tour company is very motivated to sell each and every seat and that means deep discounts for you when they sell some flights outside of their package deals. 

Page 1 of 3 - Page 2 will teach you how to save money on flights and acccommodations
When you travel -- the day of the week -- can also make a difference to the bottom line. Plan to head out on a less popular, and therefore cheaper, day of the week: say, Tuesday as opposed to Sunday. 

Try to travel lightly -- don't pack every possible outfit in your wardrobe. The airline companies are charging more and more for less and less baggage, some now charging for even a single checked bag. If you can get things down to one carry-on suitcase, you may not have to pay for baggage at all. 

Save money by not flying
Flying is expensive -- fast, but expensive. Consider other, slower, less-expensive ways to get there: driving, rail or bus. Bonus: not only do you save time by not having to get to the airport early, you get to skip the, um, massage by security personnel. 

Dreaming of a long weekend in a nearby hot spot? Why not car-pool and share the cost of gas? Check out sites like Craigslist or Kijiji for like-minded folks to share the drive. 

Do your research to get great deals
Use the web to hunt for deals. There are countless sites dedicated to finding the best bargains in getting there and staying there, such as: 



Save money on accommodations
Unless it's your honeymoon, consider getting together with a group of friends for a holiday. This way you can share many of the costs, especially accommodation. For further savings, stay just outside of a fancy resort, rather than within it. And to save even more cash on food, rent a house or apartment and do your own cooking. Not eating out three times a day will save you a bundle and it's a great way to get out into the local markets and really experience a place and its cuisine. 

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Also look for deals on accommodations. On, for instance, pick your destination and desired star rating to search for the best prices. You do have to commit before knowing exactly what hotel you'll be staying at, but they tell you the neighbourhood -- and think of it as just one more adventure as part of your trip. 

Spend less by timing your trip wisely 
Plan ahead if you can. While flexibility and spur-of-the-moment travel can save you cash, often the greatest deals are found 30 to 60 days in advance, especially during the high season. Booking flights and making all extra payments online, well in advance, can also net you savings. And yes, some charges will be more at the gate than if purchased in advance online. Also, if you hold a credit card that offers reward miles from a specific airline, shopping with that card and that airline may save you some fees. Ask before you buy. 

Also remember that high season -- roughly, when kids aren't in school -- is always the most expensive time to travel. If you can, try travelling in shoulder or off seasons. You'll enjoy more space, less tourists, quiet beaches and a chance to mingle with more locals as well as great deals on rooms, flights, car rentals, activities and attractions. 

When picking a destination, remember to look into local festivals and events that may be taking place right when you want to go. These can drive up the cost of getting there and staying there. Just try booking a room in Park City, Utah during Sundance or in Toronto during TIFF. (On the plus side, local festivals often mean free or cheap entertainment and activities.) 

The best deal of all: can you make it half work and half play? This lets you write off some or much of the costs. 

There's a lot to think about when looking for travel deals. Here's the bottom line for your bottom line: shop around, book ahead, go in the off season, be flexible and look out for seat sales.

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Money & Career

How to find the best travel deals