Booking Travel Cheaply

I don’t travel a lot or consider myself very “daring.” The times where I have booked hotel rooms I sometimes dabble with the thought of trying Priceline, (similar to dipping your toes into the water just to see how cold it is), and then I chicken out – pick the hotel I want to stay at and pay fees that cause you to shake your head. But, if Mary Hunt of can do it – so can I. Mary’s a great inspiration to change your ways and look for opportunities to save.

How I Book Really Cheap Travel
Written by: Mary hunt

I’m on my way out the door, headed for Denver. What could have been a very expensive trip is going to be so cheap, even I am amazed.

I’m going there as the Speaker for the Dept. of Interior Employee Book Forum, and a radio interview with one of the local stations in Denver. I had plenty of notice, and booked travel, hotel and car well in advance.

FLIGHT: My first choice in airlines is America. I try to keep them all with the same airline to build up my frequent flier miles and usually that works pretty well. I’ve found that in most cases, AA is very competitive. The cheapest roundtrip fare for flights that fit my schedule for this trip: $755. Wow. I knew air travel has been going up gradually, that that number made me “start over.” I was pretty sure I’d made a mistake. But no, that’s the AA best price. I put the reservation on “hold” to give me time to shop around. Most airlines will do this for 24 hours.

I went straight to Kayak and input the very same information. Within 30 seconds it returned many options for the same date, time and destination. The cheapest: $196 roundtrip including all fees and tax on United with one small twist. I would have to depart from LAX (Los Angeles) but return to SNA (Orange County). That’s perfect for me given that I work closer to LAX but live closer to SNA. Realizing I was about to NOT SPEND $559, I booked it immediately, knowing that the AA ticket on hold would simply expire if I did nothing.

HOTEL: I don’t even go to specific hotel sites anymore. I rely solely on Priceline (the name your own price option, not simply Priceline’s discounted hotel rooms). I find this to be so easy to use. I input “Denver” and it returned a map with “regions” of that metropolitan area. I selected the one closest to the Federal Center where I will be speaking, chose the 2.5 star option (I know that Courtyard by Marriott, Homewood Suites, Country Inn … my favorites, are all considered 2.5 stars in Priceline’s world and that is my favorite kind of accommodation when I travel on business).

Next I named my own price. Here’s the tricky part: Priceline hints that I’d better input $70 per night or more if I have a prayer of getting my deal accepted. Phooey. I know better. $50 is my target (knowing they will add tax and other fees on top of whatever price I name). Then I got really gutzy and decided to lowball my usual $50. I typed in $40. Of course I got a pop up message from William Shatner that I must be out of my mind with such a low offer and I needed to rethink and increase my “bid.” I laughed and hit “Submit.” Ten seconds later … “Congratulations, your offer has been accepted!” That’s when they reveal which hotel I will be staying at. Bingo! My most favorite hotel for $55 per night, inclusive.

CAR: If Priceline is good enough to name my own price for a hotel, it’s gotta’ be great for a car. And yes it is. My boldness now surging, I went straight to Priceline Rental Car (name your own price option) and opted for an economy model for (get this) $20 a day. Poor William. He’s very put out at me with my low bids. And do I care? No! All it takes for him to see things my way is about 10 seconds! Yep, I got the car, too. With fees, $32 a day.

BONUS: As I receive email confirmations for each part of my travel itinerary, I simply forward them to my account at TripIt. It’s free, and is it ever slick. I simply name “Add” a new trip and TripIt takes all of those confirmations and builds my itinerary in chronological order with every detail included. The free TripIt app for my iPhone makes sure I have every detail for my trip at my fingertips including driving directions, estimated drive times, updates, etc.

They don’t call me the queen of cheap for nothing. If there’s one thing I know how to do (and love doing), is booking my own business travel. It gives me great practice for when I book my personal travel. Because I make it a point to join every frequent flier/point program out there, no matter how little I pay for hotels, airfare and cars, I get lots of points and miles. And as a reward, Harold and I get fabulous vacations mostly paid for with all of the points and miles I rack up as I travel to speak and participate in media during the year.