The first post in this series helped you plan the basics of your international trip – where to go, when to go, what to see, where to stay, and where to eat. But how do you do these things for the best price? This post will guide you through how to use online travel websites to compare prices and book your trip.
Use Online Websites to Compare Pricing and Book Your Trip
- Get a general sense of prices.
Before you just click “book” and send over your credit card number, you want to ensure that the price you’re getting is a good one. Whether you’re searching for hotels, airfare, or rental cars, you should first get a general sense of prices so you’ll know what is a good deal.
- Start by typing what you’re looking for into Expedia; Travelocity; and/or Orbitz. I find that Orbitz and Expedia tend to have better information for multi-destination flights (e.g. Chicago to DC to Rome to Chicago) but other than that the sites are quite similar.
- Vayama.com , Skypicker, and Momondo specialize in international airfare and have expanded to hotels and car rental. Type what you’re looking for into these sites and see if you get a better price than you found elsewhere.
After you’ve looked at some of the sites in step one, you’ll have a better sense of prices and be ready to book a good deal when you see it. For example, if hotels in Rome are generally around $300 a night for a 4 star hotel on Expedia and in subsequent searching you see a 4 star hotel for $200 a night, you’ll know it’s a good price to book.
- Use Kayak to compare airfares, hotels, and rental cars. Kayak is considered a search “aggregator” – which means that it compiles information for a lot of sites into one search. It’s one of the best places to find cheap flights and hotel rooms.
- Use Trivago for hotel search. Trivago is a newer site, but specializes in hotel rooms and compares prices from Expedia, Travelocity, and Hotels.com all in one place.
- If you’re traveling by train, don’t miss Seat61. Seat61 tells you everything you need to know about traveling by train and ferry including where to sit and how to score the best deal.
3. Try Priceline.
Now that you have a sense of pricing and you know what a good price is, give Priceline a try. Priceline allows you to bid on hotel rooms, flights, and rental cars. Here are my best tips for using Priceline.
- Make sure you’re using the “bidding” feature. Priceline has traditional search features just like all of the sites listed above; but their real specialty is bidding and that’s what you should use it for. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on either hotels, rental cars, or flights where it says “bid now.”
- Priceline is best for rental cars and hotels rooms. Sometimes you’ll get a good last?minute flight, but you generally won’t save as much with flights.
- Start with a really low bid. Even if you’re willing to spend $200 a night for a room in Rome, don’t start with that as your bid. Start with $100. Priceline will reject your price and give you a new suggested price. Take this suggested price and bid even below that. This will likely be the best price.
- Priceline is best for 4 and 5 star hotels. You’ll then know that you’re staying at someplace safe and nice.
- If bidding on Airfare, use the Airline Statistics feature to see which flights are the current top saving flights for bidding on airfare. Then, if you’re choosing one of these routes, you can calculate a good bid by taking the percentage savings off what you’ve seen as typical flights in non-bidding searches. For example, if you searched the same route on Kayak.com and it was $300 and Priceline statistics are telling you the price is 60% savings, you can start your bidding at $180
- Be patient. It’s best to start months in advance of your trip and have a backup plan. With hotels and rental cars, you can book through the regular process described in steps 1 and 2 above; make sure your room and car are cancelable and fully refundable. This way you have a backup plan if you can’t get a better price on Priceline. But if Priceline does give you a great price, you can cancel the original reservations you made.
With these simple tips you can save thousands of dollars on your next vacation. Have a great time!
Elizabeth Lang is an avid traveler and freelance writer.