07 March 2008

How to get the best price for travel

How do I get the best price for travel? To get the best price you have to break down the costs into component parts, then aggressively go after sales and offers.
Airlines are constantly posting seat sales. It is worth becoming a member of your usual airline’s loyalty programme. Then sign up for their internet email notices. These usually have the best available prices. I just bought an Air Canada one month pass covering all of eastern North America for the price of a single ticket from Ottawa to Halifax. I will be making four round-trips for a total of $625, or $155 per city, including a trip to Texas!
Another way of cutting airline ticket costs is to search internet travel sites. These prices are based on what airlines offer, so the price is usually the same or a few dollars more than any airline. But the advantage is being able to see all the prices at once.
For long-haul flights one of the best ways to cut prices is to visit your local ethnic travel agency. Say you are going to Asia: visit some Chinatown travel agencies to canvas the bulk prices to various Asian destinations. This works well with agencies which specialize in travel to one specific region. I have found region-specific agencies can often substantially undercut even the airline price. My agent in Chinatown cut nearly 50% off the Cathay Pacific internet price. No website could even come close to this final price.
The other way to lower your airline costs is to fly off-season and to fly on low-volume days of the week. Airlines want to fill the aircraft, so prices are lower on days when the plane will fly partly empty.
A hotel bed which is empty at eight in the evening will be lost revenue to the hotel. They will never make back the lost money. The lesson here is if you can wait until the very last minute, you will be surprised at how low a front desk manager is willing to go to get you into a bed and to thus bring in something rather than nothing for that otherwise empty room.
The big travel websites boast low prices, but are not always great deals. My experience is that hotel websites themselves, run by the company which owns the individual hotel, offer the best prices. So check the hotel’s own website for the best and most current prices. I have used this to get a presidential suite in Paris for a small fraction of the rack rate of $3500 per night, and I have used it to get an acceptable room for $35 when necessary.
The only real upside to the big travel websites is they allow you to see all the hotel prices at once, and to follow the pricing as it moves up and down as your travel date approaches. Use this information to then go directly to the hotel’s own website for bookings.
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