Travelers want a good deal. Scratch that. They want a GREAT deal.
When planning a big trip, the deals that offer good discounts and freebies, like wifi and breakfast are also a plus.
But how do you know the difference between a mediocre deal and a value for money deal? Because let’s face it, there is a massive difference!
I recently planned a 3 month trip for January beginning in London, heading throughout Europe and various currencies there; then making my way to New York to travel around the States and Canada before flying home to Melbourne via Honolulu after 18 months away. To say I needed great deals was an understatement! Luckily for me, I have amazing friends who I am catching up and staying with or going 50-50 in hotels, allowing me to save money so I could do all of this for so long!
BUT, when it came to booking things on my own…well, it took me months to work out an itinerary and weeks to book things like hotels, air bnbs, tours, and rentals. When you are dealing with Pounds, Euros, Aussie Dollars and US Dollars to name just a few…it really gets quite complicated!
The Positives Of Travel Research
One site that may assist you with working out good deals is Tripadvisor. I love this site. More so because I know when I am reading a legitimate review and when someone is just having a whinge (who cares if the milk was in the way of the orange juice in the breakfast room-it’s free dammit!) I myself am a religious Tripadvisor reviewer with almost 100 hotel reviews to my name. (Kinda crazy right?!) BUT this site is good for working out what you can afford and what perks you get when selecting your accommodation.
Usually, my go-to hotels are Best Western. They offer all the amenities I need: free wifi, free car parking mostly, free hot breakfast and you get reward points for stays which lead to free nights. I really rate them. But if I am looking for a cheaper deal, especially in the States and I am in the middle of nowhere and not in a major city then Choice Hotels (Sleep Inn, Comfort Inn etc) are also very GOOD value and nice enough too.
However, depending on where you are, you may not have any of these chains to choose from. This is where Tripadvisor really helps you decide between the choices you have and which is the best one for you; AND sometimes they even offer extra deals like free breakfast or parking as well. It all depends on what you are looking for.
Can you 100% trust all the reviews on there? Hell NO! (Be wary of any 1 review only members). But you can gauge a good place from a bad one, and if you do your homework you can see if this is the best choice you could be making, OR whether the place up the street is a little better for the same price.
I have planned a week long roadtrip around the midwest states of the US starting in St. Louis and driving through Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Arkansas to name a few. As I have a car I have the choice of how much driving I do per day, and therefore where I should plan to stop for the night. I ended up finding really cheap deals with Choice Hotels primarily, with some stays costing me $60 per night, including parking, breakfast and wifi. Tripadvisor helped me when I was deciding where to stay (and where not to!) when it came down to what I needed for a night on the road. I could have ended up in some doozies! But after looking at their locations, reviews and the price, I am pretty happy with all of the accommodation I have chosen on this trip.
It is pretty safe to say I have found some pretty awesome deals right here! Everyone loves freebies!
The Dangers That Can Occur When Travel Planning
While there are so many websites out there to help you plan…there are some dangers with trusting only one site to do your research.
Skyscanner, is a good site to use to get an idea of multiple airlines flying to and from one place, or many! It shows you which airlines are flying between two desired cities which is good in reducing the time you waste looking at airlines who do not fly where you are going.
However, there is a downside to this site, which I discovered when planning my flights around the US. I first and foremost fly Southwest, purely because they are value for money, they fly almost everywhere, and they offer 2 FREE BAGS! If you want a good seat on the flight, you can pay extra and automatically get the seat you desire. OR you can check in 24 hours before your flight (right on the dot!) and you’ll usually be in the first 30 people boarding. If you aren’t fussed, then check in anytime and sit anywhere. But the point is, you already save $25 on baggage at least. It is a good deal!
As I was working out where to go, I realised I am lucky I know all the airlines in this country pretty well having traveled here 7 times already. But I really wasn’t sure who to book with as there are so many options! I had to decide what city to fly out of on the West Coast of the US to fly to Honolulu, which is where I am flying home from. My parents and grandma are meeting me there for 9 nights so it will really be a great end to my trip!
Skyscanner did help me track down who I should look at of course; but what surprised me was the difference in price here than what was on some airlines websites. Even today as I write this, the flight I booked is still not showing the cheapest price, even though it is still at a reduced price booking direct.
I was initially thinking Seattle would be the best place to fly from as I have done it before and will be coming from Vancouver so it is a straight bus ride across the border. But just in case, I considered Portland, Las Vegas, San Fran and LA as other options depending on the price they were too. After a little digging, I began with Hawaiian Airlines (why wouldn’t you?), even though they were not even in the first page of results on Skyscanner; United were and it wasn’t even direct!
I quickly found that Seattle and Portland were the cheapest by almost $200US so I made my choice to stick with Seattle for a $231 flight. But i did check United, Delta, US Airways and American just because; and they were in the results as choices. What I found hilarious was that the Hawaiian flight was not coming up at $231 on this site. It was in fact coming up at $320 for the exact flight I had just booked on the official site!
Isn’t Skyscanner supposed to help you find good deals? You never expect it to be identical to direct sites, but this is a HUGE difference!
Based on this knowledge, I won’t ever be using Skyscanner as an indicator on cheap flights because with all the searching I have done with flights around the world; they never were the cheapest and I found better prices myself looking at individual airline websites. It only helped point out which airlines I could fly with.
So what is the lesson here? ALWAYS dig a little deeper in your search when planning your holiday. NEVER take the first site you come across as gospel and REMEMBER-if you are looking for a GREAT deal, do the leg work yourself. Usually, you will always find a better option and at a much cheaper rate!
It is after all, your wallet and spending money.
So why waste any of it by not shopping around?
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