International borders are finally re-opening, and we can’t wait to travel to exciting destinations despite many countries seeing tough economic times. Money may be tighter, but people are determined to go further than the corner pub for their holidays this year!
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We have six insider tips on finding the best holiday deals. In days gone by, the first tip would have been to shop around for the best holiday prices. However, nowadays, you first have to take a few precautions before you hit the internet to avoid getting bombarded with travel adverts that follow you around the web before you’re ready to commit.
It’s no secret that Google and Facebook – in cahoots with a vast conglomerate of advertising companies – track your every online move. When you start searching for travel deals, they have a vested interest in putting the ads of the highest-bidding travel suppliers on your screen. So, avoid the pressure from that targeted advertising and protect your privacy before you start searching for great travel deals: Don’t sign into your Google or Facebook account while you browse. Clear your cookies regularly, and use a VPN that can hide your location to help you get spectacular savings.
Do initial research on booking platforms to scope the landscape
Sites like Expedia, Booking.com, and Tripadvisor have been around for twenty years and know what tourists want. They’ve long since branched out from just offering hotel bookings. They now provide insider information on destinations and a wide range of bookable services. And those candid 1st party user reviews make for fascinating reading at 1 a.m.!
Don’t be tempted to snap up the first deals that come your way, even if it looks like it may be your absolute last chance. Advertisers rely heavily on FOMO to get you to click on their deals.
Try out different travel dates
Once you have a destination in mind, start experimenting with different dates (and times if you’re booking flights). You’ll increase your chances of getting a sweet deal if your dates are flexible for three reasons:
- Seasonal changes: The destination’s climate usually determines high and low seasons, but not always. And, in travel, there is something called ‘shoulder season.
- Local customs: If you choose one weekend during the Up Helly Aa Viking fire festival to visit the Shetland islands, you can expect to pay more for your trip, just as some disappointment will be coming your way if you can only visit Stonehenge during the official summer or winter solstice celebrations.
- Everybody loves a weekend getaway: Beach destinations will always be more popular – and expensive – on Friday and Saturday nights. Instead, try to visit prime spots during the week or even arrive at a hotel on a Sunday rather than a Saturday.
Try a VPN for better prices
Most travel websites are set up to display different prices based on the user’s location, and they use that insider information to charge what they believe the market will bear. These price variations work on the principle that visitors from affluent countries can pay more. This is where your VPN will come into its own as a cost-saving tool with two simple steps:
- Clear your browser cookies (and sign out of your Google or Facebook account!)
- Connect to a VPN server in a different country
- Navigate to the travel website.
A good VPN won’t leak your real location; you should see the rates as if you are a native of the country where your VPN server is based. Repeat these steps to compare the prices from different countries until you find the best holiday deals.
Plan ahead for discounted bookings
It’s possible to get incredibly lucky and score a fantastic last-minute deal to some popular destination, but the odds are against it. Generally, travel booking rates work on an inverse sliding scale between risk and price. The lower the price, the higher the risk. For example, the cheapest airfares cannot be changed or refunded under almost any circumstance. However, if you pay a higher fare, you can change, cancel, or refund without (hefty) penalties. It is best to weigh that risk before clicking on that tempting low-low-price offer!
But still, you can generally get much lower rates and discounts if you book early. So start searching for your air ticket about six months before your travel date, and firm up your hotel bookings around three months before you go.
Subscribe to special offers and price alerts
If you’re shopping around for an all-in-one hotel and flight package deal or a cruise, you could bag a neat discount by requesting a quotation during the weekend, then wait before you book. Travel suppliers use algorithms to drop and raise prices in reaction to the demand, and prices tend to fluctuate significantly. So if you don’t book immediately, you’ll soon get emails with special offers!
Protect your privacy by using a one-time email address to sign up for price alerts, but steer clear of mobile phone booking apps. Mobile phone apps gather information about everything you do on your phone. They will definitely result in a barrage of travel-related apps every time you go on the internet. You can also protect yourself with the best mobile VPN against snooping and hacking.
Book direct or through a local specialist
Once you’ve thoroughly explored the price landscape and have an idea of what’s on offer, we suggest you visit the website of your preferred hotel, tour guide, or sightseeing trip company rather than book through an agent or booking platform. That’s particularly important if it is a smaller, non-mainstream supplier. Why? Because travel suppliers pay a hefty commission for each booking made via an agent or booking service.
Direct hotel websites like Hammersmith Rooms offer extra discounts over the big hotel websites. You can also try local specialist companies, for example if booking a hotel in London then TravelStay.com features direct hotel prices as a local London hotel discount specialist.
A final word of caution: Be prepared for unexpected circumstances
Once you’ve sorted your destination, tickets, and hotels, take a moment to reflect on that time when gates, doors, and borders slammed shut without a word of warning at the start of the COVID pandemic. It was unprecedented and shocking when it happened in 2020 – and something similar may happen again.
Most countries still have testing and vaccine-related restrictions. And things can change in an instant. So, weigh the risks between paying more for flexible tickets and bookings and retaining the option to change or cancel at the last minute, then even out the risk by buying travel insurance that covers unforeseen circumstances.