Do It Yourself Package Deals
These sites have been the most helpful to me in putting together trips that involve flight, hotel and car – whether for business or vacation. Although buying a flight or hotel separately via 3rd party sites rarely net significant discounts, combining flight and hotel (and sometimes car) ‘can’ net big discounts. In my experience, these discounts are nowhere near what they used to be – but every bit helps. Here are a few of the sites I use:
- Travelocity – Travelocity pioneered the Last Minute Booking strategy, perfect for when you want to get away for the weekend.
- Expedia – Originally started by Microsoft, has been spun off into one of the leading Internet reservation sites.
- Orbitz – Largest of the 3rd party reservation sites, big with corporate travel departments.
Note: Southwest Airlines does not allow their tickets to be sold on these sites – so be sure to check their site directly to ensure you have the best fares.
Should I Use a Travel Agent?
3rd party Internet reservation sites (like Expedia, Orbitz, etc) display current rates for the destination in question which are valid at the time of the search. Online Travel Agents generally pre-purchase an allotment of airplane tickets and hotel room combinations in bulk. This allows them to offer a set rate over a finite period of time – usually heavily discounted. Travel agents generally specialize in a particular region, such as Asia, Latin America, etc. This specialization makes them more familiar with the destination in question and in a better position to assist you with planning your itinerary, e.g., whether a visa is required, scheduling tours and/or activities on your behalf if you don’t speak the language. Finally, travel agencies almost always have a ‘real person’ to speak to if something goes wrong.
Here are a few travel agents in which I’ve had success. These aren’t recommendations and your mileage may vary.
When using travel agents, always be sure to pay for everything with a Credit Card. Any travel agent that wants you to buy thousands of dollars worth of travel – but can’t accept credit cards should be avoided like the plague. Also, when dealing with a travel agency – search for them on the Better Business Bureau or the relevant associations, such as the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA). Doing so won’t guarantee a great experience, but companies with excessive complaints tend not to stay in business very long.
Best International Travel Sites
In my opinion, the package deal sites listed above tend to do a better job with domestic deals than they do with international deals. The sites below tend to have much better diversity and value with respect to international packages. In fact, many of the packages are actually offered by travel agents.
There you have it. If you have suggestions or comments, please share them below.