Savvy travellers know tips and tricks to get the best deals possible. From knowing the best time to book flights to exploring alternatives to pricey hotels, these 14 tips can help you save some serious coin on your next vacation.
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Explore last-minute deals
While the best deals on airfare are typically found by booking well in advance, you can also find some pretty sweet deals by waiting until the last minute. As the departure date gets closer, tour operators will sometimes drop prices drastically in order to avoid having empty rooms at the resort. The best bet is to search sites specializing in last-minute travel (such as Redflagdeals.com or Selloffvacations.com) a few weeks before the date on which you'd like to depart; once you see a deal that will work for you, grab it fast, since these deals typically don't last long.
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Everyone loves Paris in the springtime, or lounging on a Maui beach in December, but if weather isn't that much of a concern you can snap up some amazing deals by booking a trip outside of peak travel times. Sure, Paris will be colder if you visit in November, but you'll make out like a bandit by travelling to places when everyone else doesn't. Sometimes it pays to zig when others zag.
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European river cruise
If you're looking to visit Europe, think about a river cruise. Since most European cities are built along waterways, these mini-cruise ships (far smaller than ocean liners but no less luxurious) are geared toward seasoned travellers who want to experience different European cities during one trip. Deals are typically cheaper in off season, between January and May.
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Enable private browsing
Have you ever searched for a flight online, found one you liked and returned to book a few hours later only to discover the price had risen by a few hundred bucks? That's because many travel-booking websites store your web browsing info, maintaining records of the searches you make as to when and where you want to travel. This information can't be compiled if you enable private browsing in your browser settings, which could save you money in the long run.
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Search airline websites
In addition to searching well-known sites such as Expedia and Kayak, sometimes the best deals can only be found on the websites of the airlines themselves. Also, you can sometimes pick up two one-way flights for cheaper than a return flight if you don't mind flying on one airline on the way to your destination and another on your way home.
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Beware of hidden fees
Hands up if this has ever happened to you: you find a great deal on a flight and pull out your credit card to book, and just as you're about to press ENTER you realize the flight is WAY more expensive than it was before, thanks to all sorts of hidden fees, taxes and whatnot that have been tacked on right at the end of the booking process. Be on the lookout for this; there's nothing worse than not paying attention and later seeing a far bigger amount on your credit card statement than what you thought you had paid.
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Investigate hotel alternatives
With the rising popularity of Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway and other sites, more and more travellers are discovering you can save some big bucks by renting someone's home as opposed to checking into a hotel. An even better deal can be a home exchange, with numerous websites set up to put people from different parts of the world in touch with each other so they can essentially swap houses. While the logistics are a bit more complicated, you can't beat the price!
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Know when to book
The best time to purchase a ticket, say experts, is Wednesday at 1am, one hour after Tuesday midnight (note: this time is for the time zone of the city in which that particular airline is based). The reason for this is that most low airfares always seem to pop up between Sunday night and Monday night, with people given 24 hours to book. Any flights not purchased will come flooding back into the system at midnight on Tuesday. Note: this can't be done online, you actually have to call the airline to book.
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Follow the news
Did the locale you want to visit recently suffer a natural disaster? Economic instability? A terrorist attack? Things of this nature are usually enough to make most people steer clear, meaning those who aren't so concerned with that kind of stuff may be able to pick up some great deals to places that most people are avoiding.
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Travel mid-week, off hours
If you have a flexible travel schedule, look for flights in the middle of the week, which are invariably less expensive than those on the weekend and surrounding days. You can also save money by travelling in off hours, such as overnight "red eye" flights during times when most people prefer not to travel.
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Look for at-par deals
Given the low performance of the Canadian dollar, that U.S. exchange rate can be rough. That's why if you can find any tour operators offering deals at-par, the awful exchange rate ensures you'll be getting a sweet deal by paying in Canadian dollars.
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Look at different airports
Depending on where you're located and where you're planning to travel, you might be able to find a far better deal by flying out of a different airport. For example, if you live in Vancouver and don't mind making the drive across the border to Seattle, you can often find flights for hundreds less than you'd pay flying out of YVR, while nearby Bellilngham hosts a small airport where a single budget airline flies to a few select locations (including Las Vegas and Palm Springs) at ridiculously low rates. Flexibility and creativity win again!
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Sign up for email alerts and wait for deals to come to you
When visiting travel-booking websites and those of airlines, sign up to have email alerts on flight deals sent to your inbox. Sure, you'll have more emails to delete on a daily basis, but you'll also receive info on special discount travel deals — one of which might wind up being just what you're looking for.
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Take a repositioning cruise
Cruise ships are like migratory birds, heading south for the winter and north during the summer. When cruise ships change locations, these repositioning cruises can represent some crazy inexpensive deals for travellers. The drawback, of course, is you won't be stopping at various ports the way you would on a traditional cruise and will spend most of the time on the open sea — but you'll still enjoy all the luxurious cruise-ship amenities, at a fraction of the price.