Cash in Before you Take Off
Find the best travel deals, no matter where in the world you're headed.
With more offers and promotions aimed at jetsetters than ever before, shopping for vacation deals can be downright overwhelming. Fortunately, however, some good advice and a little common sense will go a long way when it comes to finding your own golden ticket. Check out these words of wisdom from travel experts for a trip that's memorable for all the right reasons:
Make travel websites work to your advantage
Hundreds of "discount" travel websites promise to make your life easier by offering special packages and last minute deals. The truth is, these companies can make traveling less expensive and less stressful - but only if used correctly. For example, Consumer Reports advises shoppers to "price the packages" before committing to a five-in-one deal online. Find out what the best rates are for airfare, hotel rooms and car rentals individually; then decide whether the package is really worth the price, especially if certain features, such as the hotel room, aren't in your first choice of location. Consumer Reports also reminds deal-seekers to get familiar with rate-tracking features like Bing Travel's "Buy Now" or "Wait" options, which let you compare prices while receiving e-mail alerts for better deals at the same time.
Stay in-step with the seasons
If you've ever been to Disney World during a popular school vacation week, you'll appreciate this tip from CNN's Breeanna Hare: Travel in the fall. The advice applies to worldwide destinations and for a number of reasons as well. Popular European spots will have less crowds, mild weather and major price reductions in autumn. And if you're willing to take your chances against a hurricane, book your trip to Mexico and the Caribbean in the fall for jaw-dropping bargains. Inexpensive trip insurance, which will reimburse you many of your trip costs if weather causes a last-minute cancellation, can make the risk easy to take. Many hotspots offer prices that are more than 50 percent lower than normal rates, so especially if you don't have kids starting school in September, it's practically a no-brainer.
Find out who's catering to you
Several travel agencies and groups specialize in certain demographics and interests such as trips for retirees or adventures for volunteers. STA Travel is one such group, aimed at helping young people, especially students, see the world. They'll advise travelers on accommodation, work and study opportunities, visas, cell phones, scholarships and more. The discounts on airfare, rail and bus tickets will also leave you with some extra cash on your trip. Teachers should check STA Travel, and other travel groups, for discounts, too.
While you're searching for that cheap flight to Philly or the perfect weeklong Mediterranean cruise, it's important to remember that, ultimately, flexibility can be your biggest advantage. Even if your heart is set on a specific getaway plan, consider the benefits of traveling in a different region or negotiating a last-minute hotel room rate. It may take some extra work, but the rewards - financial and otherwise - can make for a more relaxing, guilt-free trip away from home.