Sometimes a holiday can be a carefully planned affair and sometimes if you let it, you can have a Spontaneous Travel Experience. Luckily for everyone, there is a travel deal out there no matter your preference!
As someone who usually has more time than money I often place a huge emphasis on finding the best deal that I can to make sure my dollar goes further. This can mean 10+ hour flights on super budget airlines, sleeping in hostel dorm rooms and often opting for the 3 stopovers over the direct flight. This kind of travel is definitely not for everyone! Sometimes when I travel with friends or family, I've found I can relax my frugal ways a bit and indulge in hotels, direct flights and full-service airlines but still find a great deal to help me save.
I’ve compiled below a full list of all the travel deal resources that I refer to no matter what type of trip I’m planning and there are a couple of luxury options in there as well! This list is part of The Ultimate Guide to Booking Affordable Travel On Your Own series and you should definitely couple these sites with my list of Top Travel Websites and Top Travel Apps to help when booking your next holiday.
First things first is an explanation on one of the most exciting things to happen in travel in recent years - the ability to widely share a magical fare called an Error Fare. What is an error fare exactly? Well, an error fare (aka mistake fare or glitch fare) is basically a pricing error that has occurred when issuing the ticket. It’s interesting to note that the error in pricing usually comes down to human error. Simply missing a zero on the end of a number can cause a pricey business class fare to cost as little as an economy one.
This is a great article from Secret Flying on What Causes An Error Fare for those that want to get into the details of how it works.
There are three golden rules when it comes to booking an error fare:
- Book it as soon as possible!
- Do NOT book anything else
- Do NOT contact the airline
An error fare can get shut down as quickly as an hour after being made public. Once the airline figures out that there is an unusually large amount of interest in their Washington to London flight in December and hang on, why is it being bought for only $200 RT??? They put a stop to our fun pretty quickly! Do not think about it too hard. If it kind of works then just book it.
Even though it’s not likely, some airlines have been known to not honour their error fares and will cancel your ticket. Don't worry, they'll always refund you your money. It is just very important that you do not book any accommodation or other flights until your ticket is issued.
Even more important: Do not contact the airline! You will ruin it for everyone else who is yet to book this juicy deal. In the past people have been known to call the airline to check if the deal was for real or to find out when tickets would be issued and this is the quickest way to make sure the deal is discovered.
For those who are happy to let the deal come to them and plan their holidays around whatever flights tickle their fancy. You can get notified of specials through your favourite medium: Twitter, Facebook, emails and even set up app notifications for the truly obsessed. The best thing is that all of these services are completely free and you as the saying goes, it doesn’t cost anything to just take a look!
I've split my recommendations into three levels to make it easier for you to choose how involved you would like to be and how high your comfort level is booking your deals online.
Level 1 - The deals nicely packaged for you
These are usually my recommendation for people just starting out who might be used to booking holidays through travel agents or like packaged deals.
Travelzoo was my first dip into the travel aggregator world. They are best known for their weekly "Top 20" compilation of travel deals which include flights, hotels and package deals. Sitting in my office dreaming about the places I wanted to go, I would drop everything when their Top 20 email came into my mailbox every Wednesday filled with so many possibilities.
Now that I'm more knowledgable about finding these deals for myself I might not regularly read my weekly Travelzoo newsletter but I still subscribe and will have a quick look if I'm in need of some inspiration. They're also a great company to deal with. They are very quick to act if I've ever had any questions or needed to change anything.
SoloTraveler is a similar service with a focus on travel deals for single travelers. This is important when you start looking at package deals and realise that they are all priced for couple or group travelers. That deal which would have been amazing for a couple is not so great for a single person.
Solo Traveler looks for deals that are beneficial for just one person including cruise trips and groups tours when you would usually be expected to pay a single traveler supplement.
This includes websites like Groupon and LivingSocial. These could be a great option for a long weekend or shorter trips away. It often includes a full package with flights, accommodation and sometimes car hire and activities. The one thing to be careful about with these is to make sure you really are a getting a good deal. A midweek break (Tuesday - Thursday) is sometimes your only option or the hotel may not be the pick of the litter once you check the visitor reviews.
I did book an awesome weekend break in Niagara for $40 (including breakfast!) with my cousin through Groupon where we got a further 50% off an already significantly reduced deal. It was only one night so we didn’t really care about the 3-star ratings and the hotel was actually quite nice. Just make sure you manage your expectations and these deals can be a great saving.
Tip: Look for "first timer" type deals If it's your first time using the website. Sometimes you can save as much as 50%!
Level 2 - A bit of effort involved in piecing together your own trip
Secret Flying is everyone’s favourite travel deal website. They regularly post deals that they find on their Facebook and Twitter pages and you can even receive an email newsletter to make sure you don’t miss out on anything. It's a very easy way to stay abreast of travel deals and even better, you can tailor your email notifications to just the locations you are looking to travel to or flights out of your home country.
The Flight Deal focuses on mostly US deals but is great for travel in and from the states and also includes some hotel deals.
This is my top "luxury travel" deal website. If I want to go somewhere nicer than the usual, maybe for a girls weekend or a family holiday, then this is a great option with deals for 5* resorts and hotels, some with fights included.
Airfare Watchdog is a good option if you really just want to be notified about great prices to locations that you're interested in. You choose your desired destination and it gives you some cool stats on cheapest times to travel and the option to be notified of significant price drops.
This is a great website if you’re located in Canada. They compile specific deals for travel out of Canadian cities so you could really just ignore the other websites. Lucky Canadians :D
Level 3 - Only for the travel obsessed!
Traveldealtree is not for everyone. Firstly, it's only available on Twitter so you'll need an account to be able to follow and access the deals. You need to request to Follow the account as the tweets are protected. Once you've been allowed access you will first see how overwhelming the feed can be. They estimate that they auto-tweet 60 flight deals every 15 minutes so there is a lot of information to sort through!
These deals come from all over the internet and you might see some deals from some of the websites I've mentioned above and even from some foreign language websites. My biggest suggestion is to log in occasionally (every day if you're me!) and do a search for either your home airport or the location that you'd like to visit. You do this by typing "from:traveldealtree searchterm" and replace searchterm with the city that you want to search for. So if I want to find flights from my home city of Brisbane I would search with "from:traveldealtree Brisbane" or "from:traveldealtree Australia".
If you're extra techy, you can even set up an IFTT recipe for airport alerts or glitch fares so you can be one of the first to be notified of those all important error fares. Here's one that I've amended and that works pretty well:
Remember that you can still search for flights and accommodation the old fashion way and still save some money. Check out my post on Top Travel Websites For Planning A Trip for some of the best ones out there.
That's all for now but I'll definitely keep adding to this list as I find more excellent ways to be in the know for the best travel deals. Everyone has their go-to travel websites to find great deals, these are just mine! What are your favourites?