She is not alone. Travelers, used to the generous bargains offered during the first days of the pandemic, are waking up to a cold reality. Traveling is expensive. These days, it is really expensive
Deals don’t just fall into your lap anymore. You have to go out and look for them. Hayes thought of other ways to get from Little Rock to St. Louis. How about by train? She checked the Amtrak site, which offered a one-way ticket for just $52. You could relax with plenty of legroom and Wi-Fi on board. But instead of an hour, it would take about seven to get there.
“I think with those fares, I’ll be taking the train a lot more,” she says.
You still have to work to get a deal even if you take the train. This summer, I knew I wanted to take the Eurostar from Paris to London to avoid the craziness of Heathrow Airport. But during the peak summer travel season, Eurostar’s website was offering tickets for $279 one way. I bought and found the same tickets on Rail Europe for $249. Still too high, but better.
How to find a travel bargain now? After you’ve had your moment of I can’t believe what you see at the amazing starting price, you’ll need to apply patience, a little stubbornness, and a lot of counterintuitiveness.
Some tried and tested sites and apps can help you find the lowest rate or hotel rate. For example, companies like Google Flights and Hopper will show you the best times to book. Hopper even has a color-coded calendar to identify the lowest fares. And Kayak will let you know when the price drops. You can monitor the airfare for an exact date range, destination or price.
The timing of a deal is tricky. Cornelius Fichtner says the deal-hunting dynamic has changed for him. He used to get discounts by booking months before his trip. But now that is not the case.
“Booking ahead doesn’t work anymore,” says Fichtner, president of an educational software company in California. “Better wait a few weeks before your trip.”
He is not alone. Industry experts say their customers started booking their trips at the last minute during the early days of the pandemic due to travel uncertainty.
They are still doing that, forcing suppliers to adjust the way they set their prices. In other words: don’t stress if you can’t find a bargain months before your trip. Your patience may reward you with a lower price, eventually. But don’t wait too long.
Being a contrarian can also lead to big discounts. For example, if you’re looking for a discounted cruise or package vacation, a big box store probably isn’t the first place that comes to mind. Maybe it should be. Wholesale stores like Sam’s Club and Costco have gained a reputation for offering deep discounts, especially during the pandemic, experts say.
“The deals posted on their website are usually 10 to 30 percent off,” says Bakersfield, California-based budget travel expert Andrea Woroch.
Business hounds had to adapt to the new travel environment. Ashley Lands goes through several steps to find the best price. Lands, who runs a digital marketing agency in New York, checks Google Flights on Monday or Tuesday mornings. He noticed lower prices on flights from New York to Orlando, in one case as low as $250 for a holiday weekend.
“And when you find a low price,” he adds, “don’t wait. I can’t overstate how important this is.”
He recently hesitated for a few hours, only to find out that the rate went up $700. Procrastination effectively killed his trip.
One more thing: in travel, a deal isn’t always a deal. It can be easy to go for the lowest price. But you might be following the wrong instinct, says Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst at DealNews.
“The truth is, just because these are the cheapest on the surface doesn’t mean they’ll be as cheap in the long run,” she says.
For example, a budget airline may appear to have the lowest fare. But once you factor in other fees and have to pay for extras like a bottle of water on your flight or your checked bag or carry-on bag, you could end up paying the same (or more) than the regular fare on a traditional airline. . Also, tickets can be more restrictive, so if you need a refund, you’re out of luck.
So what’s a traveler to do? Experts have told me that at a time like this, they’ve seen too many people rush to book a ‘deal’, only to find it was too restrictive or too good to be true.
The bottom line: When you find a deal (and you will), don’t rush the process, but don’t hesitate either. Find that sweet spot in your moment. Please read the terms of your purchase, paying close attention to the cancellation information and other restrictions.
So if it still sounds good, it’s released.
Potential travelers should consider local and national public health guidelines regarding the pandemic before planning any travel. Information about travel health advisories can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s interactive map showing travel recommendations by destination and on the CDC’s travel health advisories webpage.