As you know, planning a trip is sometimes no easy task. Whether it be a solo adventure or a family getaway, there is a myriad of aspects to traveling that can be headache-inducing, one of which is quite possibly the most important detail: buying tickets.
With advertisements from sites like Trivago, Kayak, and Priceline all promising the best deals and lowest prices, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the amount of choices. So let’s dissect a few of the sites and try to ferret out which ones might actually get you the best bang for your buck. While we are at it, let’s cover some common trip-booking pitfalls.
Kayak: With its ample branding and advertisements, Kayak is a travel site that almost immediately jumps to mind. Kayak searches other sites, such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, and Priceline in order to compare different prices. Whether it be hotels, flights, or rental cars, Kayak will have you covered. Want to know some of the things customers had to stay about their experiences with Kayak? ConsumerAffairs has the inside scoop on Kayak as well as every other site listed below.
Trivago: In spite of having one of the most annoying pitchmen on the planet, Trivago is solid at hotel comparisons. With over 1.8 million different hotels listed on the site, you’ll be pretty likely to find a spot to stay at a good place for a good price. Trivago doesn’t offer flight prices. However, their help and support center is focused solely on hotels, so you know you’ll get specialized advice. However, with any bargain comes setbacks. If you want to see what some customers thought about their experience with Trivago, check out their reviews on ConsumerAffairs.
Priceline: Priceline is similar to Kayak in that it combines hotels, flights, rental cars, and combo prices all in one comparison site. It also includes cruise pricing. Priceline has an application, which makes it easy for users to find deals on the go. However, while Priceline may have the convenience factor and cruise deals, according to ConsumerAffairs, Priceline ranked lower than Trivago on the satisfaction scale.
Orbitz: Orbitz, shows users flights, hotels, cars, and cruise prices. In addition to the normal comparison prices, Orbitz also frequently offers special deals depending on the time of year. Another cool aspect about Orbitz is their “Activities” tab. The “Activities” feature enables you to see top-rated things to do in the area, rated by people like you!
Groupon: I have not personally used Groupon to book a trip. However, you would be surprised at the amount of hotel, flight, and destination deals that are available on this popular discount website. But be careful, as most of the deals are cheap because they are only available within a certain date range, and flights oftentimes only fly out of specific airports. Be sure to contact the resort and clarify the details before you book.
Using these standard sites does have some downfalls. Travel sites including those listed above are made for simplicity: It’s easy to plug in your destination and price point, and the site will match you with any flights and package deals within your budget. These sites are ideal for those who want to find the cheapest and simplest option. If you really want to find the best deals, however, you’ll have to dig a little deeper. Seth Kugel, guest columnist for the Frugal Traveler column in the New York Times, reveals some of the best sites (most of which I’ve never even heard of before) and how their deals compare, so this source is worth checking out as well.
Pro Tip: Don’t Forget to Read the Fine Print…
As if hunting down the best deal for tickets isn’t enough of a stressor, don’t forget to analyze more than just the price tag. If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. Here are a few worthwhile reminders:
Make sure to check the bag regulations. When you first look at transportation prices (flights in particular), before you make a hasty decision to buy the ticket with the lowest price, check the baggage rules. Some airlines (such as Spirit) will only let you bring a personal item (such as a purse or laptop bag) for free, and any additional carry-on items will set you back a pretty penny. The airlines make a fortune on baggage fees, priority boarding, priority seating, etc. etc. Once you add these costs to your base ticket price your ticket might not look so cheap. The antidote to add ons…Southwest Airlines. They don’t charge for baggage or a seat and most importantly, they don’t gouge you if you have to change your travel plans.
Triple check flight timing. This is especially important if your trip will require more than one flight to get to your destination. A low price may seem great, but it’s not worth saving $50 if you’ll spend seven hours hanging out in the terminal in between flights, or your connections are so close you have to run through the airport and run the risk of missing your flight and spending the night at the no-tell-motel next to the airport.
Be careful with credit cards. Many airlines will tempt you with free miles or rewards if you open a credit card. While the promise of free miles/trips may sound great, keep in mind that the more credit cards you open, the more it could affect your credit score. However, if you really feel you want to get an airline credit card, consider JT Genter, community editor of The Points Guy. They have co-branded credit cards that partner with airlines, and they will get you great deals if you’re a frequent traveler, without throwing off your credit reputation.
Timing is everything. When planning your trip, think carefully about when you actually purchase your tickets. Prices fluctuate daily, so nailing down the prime time to buy is key for getting the best deals. Read up here for more details on research-backed times for buying the cheapest flights.
The time-consuming task of ticket hunting can’t easily be sugarcoated, but by doing some research and double-checking the fine print, you just might be able to score yourself some pretty sweet travel deals. Bon Voyage!
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