Tips for finding travel deals

It is becoming more and more difficult to find a travel offer.

Just ask Tracy Hayes, who recently wanted to fly from Little Rock to St. Louis. “The cheapest flight I could find was around $375,” she says. “That was the one-way fare.”

Hayes, a Little Rock notary public, checked the usual suspects – Booking.com, Expedia and a few airline sites – but was ruled out. Either she paid $375 or she wasn’t going.

She is not alone. Travelers, accustomed to the generous deals offered during the early days of the pandemic, are waking up to a cold reality. Travel is expensive. These days it’s really Dear.

Offers no longer fall on your hands. You have to go out and look for them. Hayes thought of other ways to get from Little Rock to St. Louis. How about by train? She checked the Amtrak site, which offered a one-way ticket for just $52. She could relax with plenty of leg room and WiFi on board. But instead of an hour, it would take him about seven to get there.

“I think with these fares, I will take the train a lot more,” she says.

You still have to work for a deal even if you take the train. This summer, I knew I wanted to take the Eurostar from Paris to London to avoid the madness at Heathrow Airport. But at the height of the summer travel season, Eurostar’s website was offering one-way tickets for $279. I shopped around and found the same tickets on Rail Europe for $249. Still too high, but better.

How do you find a good travel deal now? After you’ve had your moment where you can’t believe it when you see the shocking initial price, you’ll need to exercise patience, a bit of stubbornness, and a lot of counter-intuitiveness.

There are some proven sites and apps that can help you find the lowest rate or hotel rate. For example, companies like Google Flights and Hopper will tell you the best times to book. Hopper even has a color-coded calendar to identify the lowest fares. And Kayak will alert you when a price drops. You can monitor the airfare for a specific date range, destination or price.

The moment of an agreement is delicate. Cornelius Fichtner says the dynamic of finding chords has changed for him. He used to access discounts by booking months before his trip. But now that is no longer the case.

“Booking in advance doesn’t work anymore,” says Fichtner, president of an educational software company in California. “Better to wait a few weeks before your trip.”

He is not alone. Industry insiders say their customers started booking trips at the last minute at the start of the pandemic due to travel uncertainty.

They still do, forcing vendors to adjust how they set their prices. In other words: Don’t worry if you can’t find a good deal months before your trip. Your patience may reward you with a lower price – eventually. But don’t wait too long.

Going against the grain can also result in deep discounts. For example, if you’re looking for a discounted cruise or vacation package, a big box store probably isn’t the first place that comes to mind. Maybe it should be. Wholesale stores such as Sam’s Club and Costco have gained a reputation for offering deep discounts, especially during the pandemic, according to deal experts.

“The deals posted on their website tend to be 10-30% lower,” says Andrea Woroch, a budget travel expert based in Bakersfield, Calif.

Price hunters had to adapt to the new travel environment. Ashley Lands goes through different stages to find the best price. Lands, who runs a digital marketing agency in New York, checks Google Flights early Monday or Tuesday morning. She noticed lower prices on flights from New York to Orlando, in one case up to $250 for a holiday weekend.

“And when you find a low price,” she adds, “don’t wait. I can’t overstate how important this is.

She recently hesitated for a few hours, only to find the rate had gone up by $700. Procrastination effectively killed her trip.

One last thing: when traveling, a deal isn’t always a deal. It can be easy to opt for the lowest price. But you might be following the wrong instinct, says Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst at DealNews.

“The truth is, just because they’re the cheapest on the surface doesn’t mean they’re actually so cheap in the long run,” she says.

For example, a low-cost airline may appear to have the lowest fare. But once you factor in other costs and have to pay for extras such as a bottle of water on your flight or your checked or carry-on baggage, you may end up paying the same (or more) than the regular rate of a former carrier. . Also, tickets can be more restrictive, so if you need a refund, you’re out of luck.

So what should a traveler do? Experts tell me that at a time like this, they’ve seen too many people rush to book a “deal”, only to find it’s too restrictive – or too good to be true.

The bottom line: When you strike a deal (and you will), don’t rush the process, but don’t procrastinate either. Find that sweet spot in your timing. Read the terms of your purchase, paying particular attention to cancellation information and other restrictions.

Then, if it still sounds good, jump on it.

Prospective travelers should consider local and national public health guidelines regarding the pandemic before planning any travel. Information on travel health advisories can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s interactive map showing travel recommendations by destination and on the CDC’s travel health advisories webpage.