Spring break is just around the corner, and it’s not only for college kids anymore.
Just because your college days are a dwindling landscape in the rear-view mirror doesn’t mean you’re willing to pay tuition-sized bills on vacations. The best way to save is to do some research, then choose your destination based on the specials. Are flights to Orlando on sale? How much are hotels in Nashville? Then work backward to build your trip.
Here are a few resources to aid your search:
Airline tickets: It can be difficult to land a deal, especially when prices fluctuate based on fuel and other factors. User-friendly aggregator Bing.com (click the travel tab) will not only give you a price alert when your trip goes on sale, but also has a price predictor to help you guess if the price is likely to go up or down based on historical data.
When booking your flight, use SeatGuru.com. Plug in your flight number and the guide will give you a seat map of the plane, allowing you to avoid choosing seats that don’t recline as far as you’d like or are located too close to the rest rooms.
Flash sales: Everyone knows if you can wait until the eleventh hour, you can usually scoop up a great price on unsold hotel rooms. But now there are even more methods to find them. Expedia.com just launched Last-Minute Deals, which allows customers — not business owners— to alert each other to great offers. You’ll have to have a high threshold for risk, as the earliest you’ll be able to book rooms is about two weeks before .
Another great set of resources are the daily deal sites that feature vacations, including LivingSocial, Groupon, HalfOffDepot and KGBdeals. Many times hotels will throw in free massages, tours, meals or other extras in addition to the base or reduced price of a room.
Tourist sites: Look for sites for the area you’re interested in, as they frequently advertise deals for multiple hotels or resorts. For example, EmeraldCoastFl.com has hotel deals in Destin, including a fourth night free at the Holiday Surf and Racquet Club and 20 percent off three consecutive nights at the Ramada Plaza Beach Resort. SavannahVisit.com is advertising 25 percent off a three-night stay through March 15 at the Foley House Inn, located in the historic district and within walking distance of favorite attractions like Mercer House and Chippewa Square.
Hotel/resort sites: If you already have your eye on some favorite hotels, scour their sites for special offers. Hawks Cay, a swanky resort in the Florida Keys, is offering a Couple’s Escape package that includes a sunset cruise, a day spa pass and other freebies. Take a late spring break (April 8-June 30) and save 10 percent on a two-night stay or 20 percent on a five-night stay.
Even if you don’t see discounts on a hotel’s website, call to find out if it’ll cut you a deal, especially if you’re planning a long stay or visiting on a slow weekend.
– By Lauren Davidson, Atlanta Bargain Hunter