Tips for booking your trip on the cheap

Read on for my tips about how to book a holiday cheaply:

First and foremost, let me go over the tools you will need to complete this mission:

1. Comparison websites for flights and hotels

Comparison websites are my holy grail. Skyscanner and google flights both offer functionality to compare multiple dates or across a whole month using graphs and and colour codes to show you the cheapest time to fly.

Both let you set alerts, so if you know you might want to book something, they will track the prices and let you know if they change

2. Hotel booking

My top tips for hotel bookings is to do my own comparison search across several sites depending on what you are looking for:

  • booking.com
  • hotels.com
  • lastminute.com (not as good as it used to be)
  • expedia.com
  • tripadvisor.com – put your dates and they will list all prices for all their ranked hotels in the area.
  • AirBnB

Once you have these bookmarked, you are good to go! Now for the tips on how to actually book cheaply:

1.Flexibility on where you want to go and when

I’ve managed to see many places in Europe due to being flexible about where I want to go. This means you can often go after the best deal.

Skyscanner offers an ‘everywhere’ function and will give you a list of the cheapest flights on your chosen dates ANYWHERE in the world. This means if you have a list of places in mind, you can choose the cheapest one and then cross it off!

Skyscanner also offers a ‘Cheapest Month’ function where it will search for the cheapest time to go either a) everywhere or b) a chosen location. Fab!

For bank holidays and school holidays you need to book ahead as soon as possible for the best deals.

Be flexible about who you want to fly with as well – airlines will often code share – e.g. Virgin and Delta. So check both sites as one will often sell it cheaper than the other, but you will be on the same flight. Cheeky right?

Lastly, returning to and from different airports can often be cheaper. However, always bare in mind how you plan to get to and from the airport and whether you need to park or use public transport. Sometime parking really is cheaper, especially if there are a few of you going together! Stansted and Gatwick often have parking deals if you book ahead. E.g. I have parked in Stansted short stay for £41 for 5 nights, split between me and my partner. That is cheaper than two train tickets at a peak time in the UK, even if accounting for petrol!

Being in the know about flash sales/ deals 

My friends joke that I am an absolute sucker for marketing emails but it’s all about being in the know. Short term = a lot of inbox spam but the long term gains to be had are huge! If you aren’t already, sign yourself up to flight newsletters. These will let you know when a flash sale is going on – Ryanair do them particularly often and you can get some amazing deals. My best so far is London to Sofia, Bulgaria for £15 return. It’s always worth having a look when the email comes in! Make sure you have liked all the companies on Facebook and Twitter – for example Norwegian often does flash sales on flights to the USA and puts these on Facebook but doesn’t tend to email.

Another tip is Jack’s Flight Club, especially for on haul flights. They offer both a premium paid for service with 4 – 6 emails a week or a free service with 1 or 2. They often email if there are any particularly cheap deals or fare glitches.

Look out for good package deals –  Expedia is particularly good for doing money off when you book certain flights and hotels. For instance, we went to New York, stayed in a 4* Hilton Doubletree and got an early morning and late night return Virgin Flights for two people over Christmas, returning on New Years Eve for £1200.

If you are willing to be flexible on hotels and times, you’ll be able to get much more for your dosh.

Get the best deal on hotels or AirBnB

It is definitely worth your time sitting down and making a list of non-negotiables. Do you want location over luxury? Shared bathrooms? Private bathrooms?  For me, location generally wins, and I don’t like staying in hostels unless I am alone or with friends. If I travel with my partner we generally want privacy,

The key here is to realise in some cities you may have to compromise. E.g. in Seattle there isn’t many hotels and me and my partner stayed in a hostel but got a private room and compromised on the bathroom. The same in Vancouver; private bathrooms can be pricey so we opted to share one with next door, It was all fine in the end and it saved us a pretty penny!

I tend to go with AirBnB more often than not but it is always worth checking their reviews, the location  (you want to save money by not having to use transport right?!) and whether you will need to be leaving cases with your host etc.

Loyalty schemes on airlines AND hotel sites. 

The first thing to always do is scour the internet for discount codes, which can often be easily found on voucher sites. If you pop it in and it works, great, if it doesn’t, no harm done!

Does anyone you know have a discount code? e.g. airBnB have referral codes which give both parties money off.

Always be aware of loyalty schemes, especially if flying long haul. Airlines often share schemes, so for  example you get Avios with British Airways which also can be claimed with partners. The same goes for Virgin and their flying club –  you can also get points on Delta, SAS etc. Hotels also do these, especially more luxurious places like Novotel or Hilton. Even if you can’t acquire enough for an entire flight, you might be able to get a much cheaper upgrade!

Loyalty schemes go for hotel booking sites too: If you book with hotels.com you can often get free nights with participating hotels. With booking.com you get points to become a genius which gives you access to free perks, like late check out, 10% off, free breakfast and so on. Therefore it is always worth checking the price and then comparing to see if you are due any offers from any sites you use!

Once you’re booked – check out my post on how to save while you are there: thepotteringpanda.wordpress.com/pottering-on-the-cheap/before-you-go/

Do you have any tips? Please let me know!

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