The name says it all, Travel Penguin, Travel likes to travel, unfortunately Travel does not have unlimited funds to travel. Travel like a travel bargain. So how do we find them?
The major elements of most trips are airfare, hotel and frequently a rental car.
On airfare, timing is critical starting with when the trip will take place. The more people who want to fly, the higher the price is likely to be. Flying at times of the day that people prefer to fly, will cost more than trips at inconvenient times. A flight leaving at 6:00 AM may sell for $100 less than a flight leaving at 8:00 AM. When you buy can also make a difference, I start shopping early, most airlines will allow you to book 11 to 12 months ahead of time. You won’t necessarily find the lowest price on the earliest booking date, but I would start checking to get a baseline. Check every few days, 2-3 times a week. When you see a price you like, book it and don’t look back. WIth airfare, last minute is generally the most expensive. Last spring I made a last minute trip to Florida for a family emergency, booking on Friday evening and leaving on Sunday morning. I paid nearly twice the price I do for the same trip when I book ahead. WIth airlines you also need to look at total cost. Most airlines charge for checked bags, I get free checked bags on one airline as a benefit of a premium rewards credit card. Flying that airline saves me $50 round trip on checked bag fees, so I can pay a little more and end up with the same net or a lower net cost.
My starting point for hotels is if there is a group rate available. A lot of my travel is work related and I always look at the conference rate, but I don’t stop there. I then do a search on an online travel agency and on the hotel’s corporate vendor site. Sometimes you can get the same hotel, a nicer hotel literally across the street for less. If you don’t look you won’t know. But frequently the conference rate is the best deal. I have visited friends, attending a conference and asked for the conference rate (with full disclosure that I visited someone who was attending the conference) and had hotels give me the conference rate.
If I am not going to a conference, I start with online travel agency sites. Then I cross check to the individual hotel’s website. I am a member of about every frequent traveler plan on the face of the earth. For hotels, you want to search, then log in as a member and search again. If I am not sure on a price, I will book it if it can be cancelled without penalty, and keep checking. (Watch for cancellation fees, just because the online travel agency does not charge a fee, does not mean the hotel won’t, read the policies before you click book. Most hotels ask for a credit card to guarantee a reservation, if you cancel, they may charge a fee, if you no show, they may charge you for the room that is now sitting empty for the night. Always read the details.
The car rental market is wild. There are fewer players in the market than there use to be and some who look like competitors, are actually the same company (Thrifty/Dollar for example.) I subscribe to the email deals from half a dozen rental car companies. As soon as I book airline tickets, I look for a rental car deal. I look both online travel agency sites and the individual rental car company sites. Early on I book the best value - as long as it is cancel-able. But I keep looking. On a recent trip I had three rental car reservations the Friday before, narrowed it down to what I wanted and cancelled the other two. Keep looking down to the last minute, if cars are in short supply prices will go up, if cars are plentiful price can drop down to the day before. I am headed to Florida for a wedding soon. When I first booked airline tickets the best price I could find on a car was $240 (for 3 days.) This morning I booked a car from the same people for $78 total for the same three days. With cars remember that the taxes and fees are going to add significantly to the total cost. Before you leave home, decide how you are going to answer the inevitable rental car insurance questions. I carry special coverage through an outside insurance provider that covers rental cars. Check with your individual car insurance provider, and talk to your credit card companies The coverage that I have is an extra through American Express, I pay a flat fee per rental, for $40,000 in no-deductible primary coverage. Also check with your employer to see if they are reimbursing the rental, do they indemnify the CDL? A few years ago I was traveling in Montana as a contractor for a major national membership organization and a rock hit the windshield. I called the company, they called the rental car company, I filled out a few forms and the company settled with the rental car company. Easy and efficient.