- 1 How to find the Best Travel Deals?
- 1.1 Tips for the Best Flight Travel Deals
- 1.2 Online Sites for Flight Searches
- 1.3 Travel Aggregators
- 1.4 Online Travel Agencies
- 1.5 Tips for the Best Car Rental Deals
- 1.6 Online Travel Agencies
- 1.7 Travel Aggregators
- 1.8 Branded Web Sites
- 1.9 Hotel Bookings
- 1.10 Example Hotel Search
How to find the Best Travel Deals?
The internet has changed the world, and we now have ways to comparison shop for the best prices on goods and services that never existed before. When it comes to shopping for the very best travel deals, the World Wide Web is replete with web sites that are going to make your trip considerably more enjoyable knowing that you got the very best deal on your trip!
Almost one half of households with online access will book a trip on the Internet this year. When it comes to commerce on the Web, the very largest component is travel, and that is good news for you because there is a lot of competition out there for your business. We will help you make sense of a number of these sites.
Online Travel Agencies
At the core of the online travel agencies are the big three: Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz. Expedia and Travelocity were founded in 1996, and Orbitz followed in 1999. Orbitz was the airline industry’s response to the growing demand for online travel agencies, particularly to the growing popularity of Travelocity and Expedia. Orbitz was a project put together by Continental Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Airlines, and Northwest Airlines, with American Airlines joining in later. Other Online Travel Agencies include Priceline and Hotwire, as well as a host of others.
Online travel agencies reach agreements with the airlines, hotels, car rental agencies to provide competitive pricing to their customers. Their goal is to have you book directly through them rather than going elsewhere for your bookings. This may sound obvious at first, but it is a different story for the sites that have cropped up over the last several years known as “aggregators”.
These sites sprung into existence to provide a service that searches multiple sites, which can include the online travel agencies as well as the branded sites (the sites of the individual hotel chains, airlines or car rental agencies). They tend to have a broader net that they cast in searching for travel deals. The revenue on these sites comes from advertising, and “click through’s” to the sites that give the best deal rather than from direct bookings. They are in a sense specialized travel search engines.
The home sites for the specific companies such as Hilton, American Airlines, or Hertz all provide their own booking systems, and would like to see you book through them directly. While this may not necessarily be your first stop in you search for the best travel deal available, these sites will definitely be an important part of your search, and could be where you finally make your reservation.
Certain companies such as Southwest Airlines only book through their site, and do not provide information to the online travel agencies.
Tips for the Best Flight Travel Deals
You should search several sites for your flight itinerary. The aggregators are a good place to start, as they will search several online travel agencies and branded sites at the same time, and usually will return the most results.
Compare the results of your initial search to one or more of the online travel agencies.
When narrowing down your choices, go to the brand web sites for the hotels and airlines that you are considering.
Do not forget to go to web sites of the air carriers that may not be listed with the aggregators or the travel agencies, such as Southwest Airlines, JetBlue, Independence Air, or others that may not have been picked up by your prior searches.
You have to compare sites, and cannot accept one as always having the lowest fare. It changes from one site to the next on a regular basis.
Try to get a better deal by putting together a vacation package at one site. You may well make out better overall if you package your flight tickets, hotel room, and transportation together versus getting these independently at different sites.
Join a frequent flier program. This may allow you to earn bonuses such as free flights, cabin upgrades or other bonuses based on miles flown.
Booking through the brand site of the airline may get you more rewards through their frequent flier program. Also you will not have to pay the small transaction fee from the online travel agencies.
If you are traveling through a hub and the weather is questionable, you may want to reserve a room ahead of time as long as you can cancel it if not needed. Stranded passengers will quickly take up all of the available spaces.
The best travel deal may not necessarily be the cheapest. The flight’s itinerary is very important, and poor connections or unnecessarily long trips will quickly make the cheapest ticket not so important in your weary eyes.
Much of the customer’s dissatisfaction with airlines has to do with connecting flight issues. If at all possible, try for nonstop flights.
When flying to Europe, find your best travel deal by searching for the least expensive flights to one of the major cities. Then look at the many less expensive carriers once there to reach you final destination. This can result in considerable savings over running all of your searches to the final destination.
If your travel involves a complicated, foreign trip, you may consider a consolidator. They purchase tickets in a block at a discount, and then sell them to the consumers.
Searching for the best flight travel deal is not difficult, you just have to know how and where to look.
Online Sites for Flight Searches
To get a feel for how some of the online travel deal websites function, here is an example of a search for flights from Orlando International Airport to JFK in New York. The flights searched are from the Friday before Christmas to the day after Christmas, with Christmas falling on a Tuesday. The flights were searched about a month before the trip. Let’s take a look at some of these web sites using this example.
Kayak has a nice easy to use interface, with quick impressive results returned. It shows you the sites it searched, including Southwest, though they do not fly into JFK at the time of this search. When Southwest does fly the route, it gives you the flight itinerary, but you have to go to their site for pricing information.
On the results page, you have the option to select a “matrix” tab that quickly shows you the carriers with nonstop flights. Another tab entitled “chart” provides graphical data on the rise and fall of prices over the prior 90 days, and the best fare trend for the month. This is very cool information that can help you nail down the best travel deal!
Kayak’s best price was $239 from Delta. (Interestingly, when I refreshed the data about 30 minutes following the initial search, the price jumped from $219 to $239. This is a fluid environment, and prices can change just like that!)
Nextag has an easy to use interface, and list the sites that it searches simultaneously. In this example, it searched seven web sites, and shows you the carriers and stops in the flight as well. It returned the lowest price from cheaptickets.com at $243 (Delta).
SideStep has a nice, easy to use interface, with nonstop flights readily visible. It also has an easy to use SmartSort section to sort the results. It also features a fare tracker that can keep you abreast of price changes and low fares of your selected route. The lowest price in this example was $239 from Delta.
At Cheapflights, you initially enter the route that you are interested in, and it takes you to a page showing the best flight deals on that route, but not specific to your particular date. This page gives you the rock bottom price for the route, and can serve as a baseline for your results.
From there, you have to click on “search by date” to refine your search. Once your dates on entered, you do not get results, rather you get links to eight other sites to follow (in this example – Kayak, JetBlue, Expedia, Orbitz, CheapTickets, Ultimate Fares, Priceline, CheapAir). Clicking the link inputs all of your information, and the results on those sites appear. This is a useful way to quickly check several aggregators from one location.
Again, Mobissimo provides an easy to use interface that pulls up a lot of results. The results are returned with the lowest price first, and can be quickly be filtered for the nonstop flights. The lowest fare show was $222 from CheapTickets, but when clicking through the taxes and fees were shown on the CheapTickets site bringing the price of this ticket to $242.
Farechase.com by Yahoo
Another nice and easy to use interface that shows you the sites searched on the results page (in this example, 10 other sites). The lowest fare listed was $202, but it was into Newark. This can save you a little time in checking other nearby airports, but to scan down to the JFK airport, we find the lowest fare is $238 from Delta’s site.
Qixo searches 28 sites for fares, again with an easy to use interface. Because of the numerous sites searched, results take a little longer to appear than comparable sites. Qixo’s lowest fare was the Delta flight at $243, but Qixo’s charge is a non refundable $20.
Online Travel Agencies
A very easy to use web site, and returned the same Delta flight at $243. With Orbitz, the flight is booked with them rather than being redirected to another site. A “shortest flight” tab is available, which can be very useful particularly for the flights with layovers.
Another very easy and complete web site to use, it returned the same Delta flight at $243. A fare comparison calendar is available to see what the recent price trends are for this route, and may help you plan your trip for a better travel deal if your dates are flexible.
Travelocity has a very easy to use interface, and shows nonstop flights in a grid. The grid also lists the price, but the total price is in smaller print in this grid. Not a big deal really, but the base price is not the price to compare to other sites. By creating an account, you can sign on to FareWatcher Plus, which will track the ticket prices of up to ten destinations. Travelocity returned the same Delta flight as the lowest cost, at $245.
Summary – all sites returned essentially the same lowest price flight at nearly the identical price. The interfaces are easy to use, and some provide different features than other that you may find more useful or interesting. Finding the few that work well for you will give you the sites to quickly crosscheck for pricing differences across a broad range of ticket prices out there on the web. You don’t have to go to all, or even that many of these sites to find the best travel deals available for airline tickets.
Tips for the Best Car Rental Deals
Car rental rates change quickly, and with added on fees and taxes the final rate can be considerably above the base rates. Make sure you account for all of these extra fees by when comparing.
Begin your search on an aggregator or online travel agency to collect information from a variety of sources, then go directly to the car rental company (online or by telephone) to negotiate a cheaper rate.
Get the telephone number of the local agency where you plan to rent the car, and see if you can negotiate an even lower rate than from their toll free reservation system.
Price is a more important consideration than the company you are renting from when it comes to car rentals. The company you are dealing with is a more important factor when looking for airline tickets or hotel reservations.
If renting from a site other than an airport is an option, you might find a lower rate.
A smaller car is better to rent if you can accept that. If that is not available when you arrive, you should be upgraded at no additional charge.
Paying for the extras is not generally worth it. If you really need a GPS unit, then go ahead and pay for it. You will be offered car insurance, but you are probably covered under your own carrier. Check with your agent or company to be sure that any drivers of the rental are insured with your personal policy.
Always ask for the best discount, including AAA, AARP, discount clubs, or other associations that you may be long too. When you throw that advertising flyer away that is in your monthly bill for some of these associations, keep the car rental company that gives you a discount in the back of your mind.
As always, remember the usual advice to carefully inspect your vehicle before you touch it, and mark down prior damage. Also, return it with the proper amount of gas or it will be costly to have them fill it. Be sure to return it on time to avoid expensive late fees.
Double check you price at the time of booking, to make sure you are aware of the costly miscellaneous expenses.
With the rental of your car for your trip, go with the best deal as long as the company is reputable. With other deals in your travel the brand of the company may be an important factor to you, but with cars it should not be as important.
Online Travel Agencies
Online travel agencies are dominated by the big three agencies of Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity, it also includes many others notably Hotwire and Priceline. They all allow you to seek the lowest prices for your flights, hotels, car rentals, vacation packages, and book them online. Comparison shopping here will help you identify the best prices available.
Following the emergence of online travel agencies, and the airlines’ response by the formation of Orbitz by five airlines that dominated the U.S. airline industry, Orbitz fell under the intense scrutiny of an antitrust investigation. Competitors felt that Orbitz’s agreements with the airlines to obtain the lowest fares could give them an unfair advantage in the marketplace, and harm the consumers. As time evolved, the Justice Department concluded that were no antitrust violations, and that Orbitz did not have an unfair advantage. The other travel agencies have been able to reach agreements with the airlines providing access to the lowest fares as well. Orbitz had the unique technology to succeed, and is a major player in the market.
Orbitz has an easy to use interface, and states on their web site that their inventory includes “hundreds of airlines, more than 80,000 hotels worldwide, and 13 rental car brands”.
Travelocity was founded in 1996, and was the first web site to allow consumers to directly search their reservation system, and make the bookings themselves without a travel agent. It uses the Sabre Global Distribution System to search flight information and book reservations on over 400 airlines.
Founded initially in 1996 as a division of Microsoft, it was spun of in 1999. Expedia uses the Sabre computer system as well as Worldspan for their reservation system, and state that they are the largest of the online travel agencies.
Expedia is a complete online travel agencies with travel deals for flights, hotels, cars, vacation packages, cruises, and other activities packaged in an easy to use interface.
Priceline and Hotwire
Priceline and Hotwire offer travel deals that can be great, but are “opaque”. In other words, you do not actually see all of the details up front. Priceline now has not only a “name your own price” feature, which is the opaque version of bidding on your travel arrangements, but also now a “buy it now” retail product which does show you the details.
Both have been very successful, and can provide you with a great deal if you are comfortable with this bidding system. If your plans are firm, this can be a great way to go. If the inventory is available, you should get a great price. It really depends on how many rooms are available for the stay. Once your bid is accepted, it is non refundable. Hotwire is owned by Expedia.
Aggregator web sites have begun showing up over the last several years as a way to simultaneously search several sources for the best travel deals that the Web has to offer. They are sites that gather information. Once you input your search data into the aggregator site, it will check reservation info at numerous brand sites (the individual company’s own reservation systems), as well as one or more of the online travel agencies. Some may even be able to search sites of low cost, no frills airlines that do not share information with the online travel agencies.
This offers a great way to quickly survey a large relevant section of the Internet for available travel deals. This type of information is very powerful, and will be an invaluable asset in your search for the very best that is available for your travel needs.
Once you have collected the information, you can either act on that information by clicking through to the web site that the aggregator has found, or use the information for further comparison shopping. The information collected will as a minimum give you the range of prices that are out there for your particular destination and dates. These sites are mostly information gatherers rather than direct booking agencies, and make their revenue from advertising on their sites, as well as from customers clicking through to the actual booking sites.
Some of the major players in these travel aggregators are Kayak.com, SideStep.com, Cheapflights.com, Mobissimo.com, Farechase.com (Yahoo), and Qixo.com. Travelaxe.com and hotelscombined.com are aggregators that specialize in collecting hotel pricing information.
Branded Web Sites
Branded strictly speaking refers to “carrying the brand or trademark of a manufacturer”. In our case, we are referring to those sites owned by the brand name businesses themselves, such as the Southwest Airlines Web site, or the Hyatt Web site These are important sites to visit during your search for the best travel deals, particularly once you have a good handle on the going rate for the item you are looking to purchase.
It is important to note that many businesses do not share their data with online travel agencies or travel aggregators, and reservations can be made only through their own sites. Southwest Airlines in particular is this way, and other low cost no frills airlines like JetBlue and Independence Air may also be overlooked unless you go to their site. JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Midwest Airlines, Aloha Airlines, and Hawaiian Airlines have all done very well in building a reputation for providing customer satisfaction. If they fly the routes you are looking for it is worth your time to visit their web sites to gain additional information or pricing.
Purchasing a flight ticket directly with the carrier may get you additional frequent flier miles. You can also avoid the transaction fees charged by Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz which currently vary between $4 and $12.
Consumers seeking hotel bookings are either frequent travelers, or the occasional traveler looking to make that one summer trip. Hotels have been more successful marketing to the frequent business traveler than the once in a while traveler, while the online travel agents have branded themselves as the place to book if you are the occasional traveler. The competition is very strong for the consumer’s business, as referral fees that hotels have to pay aggregators and online travel agents amount to hundreds of millions of dollars.
In the past, consumers have felt they could obtain a better price through the online travel sites versus directly through the hotel, but this has been changing recently. Both leisure and business travel has been up, vacancies down, and so rates have climbed lately. Hotel chains have been fighting back with less favorable deals that they make with the online booking sites. They have also improved their software to allow them to better track room availability at the last minute, and therefore can make better last minute adjustments.
This all adds up to fewer empty rooms for the hotels. Empty rooms translate to the best deals for the consumers, so it is harder to find great deals than it has been in the past. There has been a leveling off of discrepancies between the rates that you could find through an online aggregator or travel agency and directly through the hotels.
Still, more and more people are booking online, and the online sites need to be checked for comparison, even if the booking is made directly with the hotel. By tying the hotel stay into a package including the flight, you may come out ahead versus getting your bookings independently. There you can also read reviews, though a better description of the property will be found at the hotel brand web site. Checking also with the area’s Chamber of Commerce or Visitor’s Bureau may give you vital information about the area in which your hotel is located.
Best rate guarantees are found both in the independent hotel sites, and with the online travel agencies. They can be a little confusing or complicated and will require documentation. In general you will find that with the best rates, most of the time they are prepaid and non refundable. Depending on your circumstances, this may or may not be most suitable for your needs.
Example Hotel Search
In this example, we are going to look at just a few hotel booking sites, and use a four night stay during the Christmas holiday season in New York City, booked about a month in advance. Several of the travel aggregators and online travel agencies are commented on in our Example Flight Search page, so we will just do a few here.
Hotelscombined specializes in hotels, and does not have the other searches such as flight and car rentals. They were established in 2005, and are headquartered in Sydney Australia. Their system searches over 700,000 hotels deals from around the world, and have over 2 million reviews and 2.4 million hotel pictures.
An easy to use web site, it collects information, and refers you to the booking site. You can sort the results by items such as price, hotel name, star ratings, or input a price range. In our example, it found a total of 414 hotels, with pricing information on 284 hotels. The prices in this example ranged from $26 a night to $1361 a night.
Travelaxe is another site that specializes in hotels. It is easy to input your data for your search, and the 196 results with pricing information in this example came up on one page in an easy to follow table format. Clicking on the headers of any column sorted the column for quick review.
This site has the added feature of booking the room directly for you, like an online travel agency does. Maps, reviews, and other information on the hotels are available. In out example, hotels were listed from $95 a night to $2000 a night. The pricing column does not list nightly rate, but rather the price for the total stay.
This site is easy to input your data, and returns the results ten at a time sorted by Tripadvisor’s popularity index. To find out prices, it opens multiple browser windows at other online travel agencies.
If you want to search hotels in a large city by a popularity score, this site may work well for you. But to quickly get the overall scope of what is available, and what the prices are, this site is somewhat unwieldy. The site seems to be better at providing information and giving advice about the area you intend to visit.
This is a travel aggregator with the full arsenal of options travel deals to search for, including hotels, flights, cars and cruises. The data for your hotel is input in one place, and then you choose the site you want to check from a large list (i.e. Orbitz, Kayak, Hotwire etc…). It does not run multiple searches simultaneously, and this is a disadvantage. But if you want to handpick your searches after inputting your information in just one place, this site could work well for you.
There are many good sites for finding travel deals on motels out there, but the differences between them are more striking than the sites used for seeking information on flights. For sites specializing in hotels, hotelscombined.com and travelaxe.com are very easy to use and understand while providing a lot of options. Some of the web sites mentioned on the Example Flight Search page such as Kayak do a great job as well.