Tag Archives: travelzoo

Cheap Travels

21 Jul

One thing I love even more than traveling is inexpensive traveling.  Spontaneous inexpensive traveling is even better.  I got to spend last weekend in New York with some friends (boyfriend, best friend, and best friend’s boyfriend to be exact).  The idea of NY came up several weeks prior and due to the overpriced ($400+) airfares, was quickly dismissed by all.  All, but myself that is.  Once I get excited about something I won’t let it go until I have 100% proof that all hope is lost.  Luckily, my persistence paid off.  I found roundtrip tickets to NY for $160 (that was $69 each way pre-tax).  Take that, doubters!  The excitement was back on.  Then, to make our lives even better, Chandler’s (the best friend’s boyfriend) mom scored us a free hotel room.  So, the grand total of my travels to the city (excluding the unavoidable shopping, dining, and cabbing expenses) = $160.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

I’m not always so lucky with my travels, but I definitely do my research.  Here are a few resources that I’ve found helpful along the way:

Southwest Airlines.  I heart Southwest.  I really do.  They’re typically my airline of choice when booking in advance (at a minimum of 14 days).  They generally have very reasonable fares (check out their “Wanna Get Away” tickets for the best prices) and the planes, flight crew, etc. are all nice.  I’ve been enrolled in their Rapid Rewards program since I started my relationship with them on my first flight to Las Vegas.  It’s been quite a rewarding relationship.  The benefits of flying SW are numerous; the often joke-cracking and sometimes musical flight attendants, the $0 you are required to pay for bag number one OR two, the free drink coupons that come with your free roundtrip ticket reward,  the peanuts/pretzels that you get no matter how short the flight, and so much more.  It’s just a fun airline who allows their employees to have fun, making the whole experience that much better for the customers.  A couple of things to note about SW; They don’t advertise on other travel websites (Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, etc.) so you have to remember to check the sw website separately when doing your research.  Also, there is no assigned seating and no difference of class.  All seats are basically first-come-first-serve.  Flights are boarded in groups assigned by the order in which you check in (which can be up to 24 hours prior s take-off).  A few recent exceptions to this standard include the “Business Select” tickets (which just give you priority boarding and a free drink) and “early bird Check-in” which allows you to check in ahead of the masses by paying an extra $10-15.

American Airlines.  Although I hate to cheat on my beloved SW, occasionally they leave me no choice.  When I don’t plan my trips enough in advance or I happen to plan a spontaneous getaway, I’ve learned to look at AA.  While the SW fares are guaranteed to increase as the travel date approaches (which totally makes sense in the whole money-making business, but doesn’t encourage last-min travels) I have found in the past that AA will sometimes have ridiculously low fares at the last-minute.  I’m not sure how or why they do this when other airlines are offering the same ticket for close to 3 times as much, but I definitely won’t forget it.  The trick with these tickets is to check back frequently as prices can change daily, and to look at all the dates around your travel… sometimes a day can make all the difference in price.  One note here is that these unusually cheap tickets are non-refundable, and can’t be transferred or exchanged without paying a whopping $150 fee, so make sure you’re 100% before clicking the purchase button.

Travelzoo.  A friend turned me onto this website a couple of years ago and I love it.  This isn’t like Expedia or Travelocity.  Travelzoo doesn’t overwhelm you with every travel destination known to mankind… they simply present you with the best deals of the moment.  You can go on and look at the hotels/flights/packages to a region that are currently being offered at great prices.  They take the best deals from the previously mentioned websites and bring them all to one place so you don’t have to do all the work.  In addition, you can sign up for the Top 20 email alerts.  It’s simple to do and you will receive a weekly email containing the 20 best deals of the week.  There’s some pretty great stuff on there.  If nothing else, it’s a fun reminder of all the great places out there you’ve yet to visit.

Tripadvisor.  After finding a hotel I usually run it through the tripadvisor website to see what I’m really dealing with.  I love reading the reviews and looking at the pictures.  Every hotel is going to put up professionally taken well-lit and perfectly orchestrated pictures of their location, but tripadvisor travelers will show you what it looks like in real-life.  Trust me, it’s good to see.  (Having said all this, I do realize that generally 90% of people who leave reviews on these types of sites are the people who’ve had problems.  People expect a good hotel and good service so don’t feel compelled to leave remarks unless they are seriously disappointed… but something like bedbugs, loud street noise, or dead bodies under the bed- you never know- are definitely things I want to know about beforehand).

Locals.  Locals are an invaluable assets to any traveler, especially when making a trip for the first time.  Ask around.  Ask you friends (both real-life and strictly Facebook), relatives, and complete strangers.  Some of the best suggestions come from the people who know the area the best or have had good experiences before.  Sure, you can go to various websites and look up the top restaurants/bars/shopping/attractions, but that can be so overwhelming sometimes with the abundance of information. So, when in doubt.  Ask a local.

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