Find Good Travel Deals Even in a Bum Economy/ June 29th, 2009
If you're like most Americans, you're thinking about ways to cut back on expenses—and vacations often are first on the chopping block. An early 2009 USA Today Gallup Poll revealed that nearly three of five Americans who normally take a vacation say they'll either shrink their 2009 vacation spending or not go at all. For example, some are opting for "staycations"—staying home and going on short trips near home. But along with the tough economy comes travel opportunity. There are good reasons to still consider heading to a vacation destination. While finding good deals is a challenge, with a little research and flexibility there are good travel bargains to be had—if you have the money to spend. In fact, in some ways consumers are in the driver's seat. That's because, thanks to cutbacks due to the economy, business travel is slumping. And that means travel operators are doing more to lure consumers to fly and stay with them. Hotels especially are vulnerable, as their inventory grows because properties, planned several years ago and now built, need to be filled. Hotel and motel managers are working to place vacation travelers in their rooms. "Everybody's trying to do something to entice you to do business with them," says Tim Leffel, Nashville, Tenn., travel expert and author of
Credit union credit and debit cards, and savings plans and loans, can make your vacation a hit no matter your destination.
Flexibility is keyIn today's travel environment, if you're flexible, you'll do better. One example: In one week in early 2009, for 15 minutes each day the Web site LastMinuteTravel.com sold rooms at more than 15,000 hotels around the world for $1 a night. "There's no reason why you need to plan more than two or three weeks out to get a decent deal," says Leffel. "Sometimes waiting until the last minute will give you the best deal of all. It depends on supply and demand." For example, if frolicking in popular Key West for spring break is your idea of fun, plan well in advance. But generally, you can coast a bit. "Most places aren't packed at any time of the year," Leffel says.
In today's travel environment, flexibility is your key to savings.If you're loose about your destination for a getaway or vacation that will help, too. If your heart's set on Disney World, there's not a lot of give and take as far as making last-minute plans. But if you're a couple that simply wants to get away or take your family on a vacation somewhere, you can find better deals. Sites such as Airfarewatchdog.com, Travelocity.com, lastminute.com, and hotwire.com post deals for last minute bookings. And if one main airline serves your airport, subscribe to its e-mail newsletter for specials.
Consumers are in the driver's seat as travel demand weakens.
Searching for bargainsWith that said, popular places such as Disney are offering bargains, for example free hotel stays and meals for young children when an adult books a stay. With the Internet making travel information available at your fingertips, you're in control. "It's pretty easy to set things up to your preferences," says Leffel. "There's no need to spend hours surfing and trying to find things. Let notices come to you." For example, if you have lots of frequent flier miles with an airline, subscribe to its e-mail notifications for deals. Travel search sites are becoming more sophisticated and more powerful. In February 2009, for example, TripAdvisor.com launched a search engine that pulls flight and fare data from multiple airlines and online travel agencies. A fee estimator allows you to figure the cost of checking bags and buying food and headphones into your cost comparisons. Search sites also feature customer reviews of vacation sites. There are plenty of good sites, so be careful not to spend too much time on just one.
More families are conducting celebration vacations.Cruises are another place to find bargains. "The ships aren't any more full than hotels," says Leffel. "They're discounting as well." Because cruise ships sail whether full or not, prices may be cut drastically on certain routes, especially longer cruises to more exotic destinations, and sometimes at the last minute. Cruises are becoming more popular because, in the current economic climate, consumers don't want to be surprised—they like a cruise vacation's all-inclusive fare.