Throughout the pandemic, we'll keep publishing news to help you navigate the state of travel today (like whether travel insurance covers the coronavirus), as well as stories about places for you to put on your bucket list once it's safe to start going more far-flung.
I book almost all of my travel within a few weeks of actually getting on a plane. While this might make some obsessive planners nervous, the truth is that the best deals tend to pop up within 30 days of your trip. If you use these websites during that killer-value window, you can travel like a pro on a weekend warrior’s budget.
Scoring airfare deals takes a bit of sleuthing. I never book a flight right on the spot; instead, I check with at least two of my other favorite sites as well as the airline’s website and my credit card’s rewards website.
Since the flash-sale sites change minute by minute, it’s a good strategy to check them all within a short time frame to make sure you’re getting the best deal. With most sites, you have a 24-hour grace period that enables you to cancel your flight and get a 100 percent refund. Make sure you check the site to see what the terms are, but this can be a great secret weapon to score the best deal possible.
I always start looking for tickets by doing a Google Flights search to find the cheapest days to travel. With that information, I head over to my three favorite sites to do the detailed search.
This app-slash-search engine shows me a huge array flights to choose from and lets me dial in my search around nearby airports. Its website also features great travel deals that have historically saved me lots of money.
Momondo scans all sorts of discount sites to find you the best price for a flight. One caution: make sure you check the baggage fee verbiage as many flights look like a great deal until you figure out how much you’ll have to pay to check a bag or reserve a seat.
Hopper lets you search for flights, set travel notifications, and monitor certain flight routes for good deals. I’ve found the latter feature particularly useful, enabling me to jump on a flash travel deal as soon as it pops up.
There are all sorts of tricks when it comes to finding travel deals on hotels. Some of my favorites include:
- Use a rewards credit card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Starwood American Express for every purchase. Then pay it off in full and use points for free flights and hotel stays.
- Call the hotel’s front desk before you arrive and ask if there is a better rate than the one you booked through whichever travel site. This trick alone has saved me up to 25 percent on some of my hotel stays.
- Head to Twitter before you stay with a hotel and make sure they know you’re coming. Just by sending a tweet I’ve received free breakfast, free internet, late checkout, and so much more (especially if I take a photo or video of the hotel when I check in).
- At an Airbnb property, always negotiate for a lower rate. The host can set a different fee than the one listed on the site, but you have to ask. I inquire whether the rate they are offering is the best rate possible or if they have any last-minute specials. Most hosts would rather give you a discount a few days before you travel than have their property sit empty.
If you need a good last-minute hotel deal, these three sites are my favorites.
TripAdvisor has been my go-to for years. I love that I can see pictures that people post of what the hotel really looks like. Once you search for a hotel on TripAdvisor, you can confirm the booking prices through numerous other sites.
Hotels.com’s app has great flash hotel deals and coupons, plus you can earn points for each stay. After you stay ten nights, you get a free night.
This site is the OG for me. Its Top 20 Deals is one of the first places I search for hotel deals before I travel. In fact, some of its deals set the course for where we decide to go. You can find vacations and cruises as well, or just get some inspiration for an upcoming trip.