Over the 5 years that we’ve spent travelling the world, we’ve figured out some pretty essential tricks to saving ourselves money while booking our travels online. Whether heading out on a quick holiday or a one year trip around the world, these tips can save you thousands of dollars (yes… thousands) on car rental, hotel reservations and flight bookings made online. These hacks are so good in fact, that you’re going to wish that you read this article sooner. This may sound like a lot of hype, so let’s prove it and get started!
Hotel Booking Hacks
Never book another hotel room without utilizing these awesome hacks below. The web can be an amazing place to find discounts on hotel rooms, if you know how and where to look.
1. Book Early From Booking.com
Usually we don’t recommend booking from booking.com because we’ve found that they generally have hefty fees. But if you can book early (think 2 – 3 months in advance), then you can find some incredible discounts on this site. We booked a couple of beautiful apartments in Greece for just $20 – $25 / night because we reserved them 6 weeks before we arrived!
2. Call The Hotel / Hostel Instead Of Booking Online
There are many reasons why this hack is a good one. Firstly, even though it may show that the hotel is fully booked online, there are often rooms that they don’t post on the internet. Google their contact info and give them a call. Not only can you sometimes get into hotels that are fully booked, but you’ll also avoid those pesky booking engine fees that can be upwards of 20% / night!
3. Ask To See Multiple Rooms
Okay, so this one doesn’t exactly “save” you money, but if you’ve been to as many hotels as us, you’ll know that the hotel manager usually tries to pawn off the less desirable rooms first. You’d be amazed at how much better the room down the hall can be for the exact same price! Don’t just accept those keys… have a look around.
4. Ask For Discounts For Longer Stays
Even if you’re only staying for 3 or 4 nights, talk to the hotel manager and ask about a discount. I can’t count the number of times we’ve received a free night’s stay just because we asked.
Flight Booking Hacks
We’ve literally saved thousands of dollars over the years from employing these simple hacks that are easy to use and available to everyone. The first trick on this list is by far the most important, so take notes!
5. Clear Your Browser’s Cache
If you take one thing away from this article, this is the hack that should stick in your mind. Have you ever noticed that when you’re checking flight costs day after day, trying to find a great deal, the flights always seem to get more expensive, so you quickly hit the “buy” button to ease your mind. Well this isn’t a coincidence. Flight booking engines and airline websites save cookies in your browser, which means… they know that you’ve been coming back for more. They will jack up the price as much as 25% to get you to buy, and if you pay that escalated price that you’re only seeing because you’ve returned to the site too many times, you’re S.O.L. There’s no way to take it back.
Luckily there’s a simple trick to save you hundreds of dollars. Simply clear your browser cache and search again. To do this, head to your browser settings and click the “clear cache” button and then re-search. Don’t believe us? Check out this recent flight booking we made to Cuba, we saved $125 USD each from one click of a button.
Note: Clearing the cache is different for every browser, here are instructions for the most common ones:
6. Book At The Right Time
According to a recent study conducted by CheapAir.com, the optimal time to book your flight is 48 days (about 7 weeks) before your proposed departure date. There is a lot of debate surrounding this little trick, but CheapAir’s study was pretty comprehensive and from experience I can say that I agree with the results.
7. Book Flight & Hotel
Have you ever noticed on big booking sites like Expedia.com and Kayak, you can choose to book your flight with a hotel? Did you also know that by clicking this tab, you can access secret savings that are not available to those who only book their flight without accommodation? On a recent sample booking we conducted on a flight from Vancouver to Bangkok, we saved over $100 on the flight cost by including a hotel in the booking. And you can choose a cheap hotel and only stay one night as well. These are huge savings.
8. Use The Multi-City Tab
If you head to Kayak.com, you’ll notice that they have a small tab for “Multi-City” bookings. This little tab recently saved us over $200 each on our flights to Cuba. If you are planning to book multiple flights from multiple cities, use this tab instead of booking each lag separately.
Example: We needed to fly from Guatemala City to Havana, then Havana to Costa Rica. When we booked these flights separately they totalled $938. Reserving it using the Multi-City tab only cost us $710! That’s a savings of $218 USD per person! Use this trick if you’re planning multiple flights within a couple of months time.
9. Book With Your Best Rewards Credit Cards
As Canadians, we don’t have as good of credit cards as they have in the US, but we can still earn some pretty handy points when booking online. If you’re American, you can check out Nomadic Matt’s site for some great travel hacking tips.
10. Book On A Wednesday
That’s right everyone, hit the skies on hump day for the best deals on airfare. It has long been known that Wednesday is the cheapest day of the week to book flights. Of course this doesn’t apply to every flight with every airline, but on average, Wednesday is the cheapest day to fly.
11. Use The Best Booking Engine
In the past, we were huge proponents of FareCompare.com, but over the past few years we’ve found some sites that we think are better. In our experience, the best fares are usually found on Kayak.com, Cheapoair.com and Expedia.com. (It should be noted that we are NOT being paid to endorse any companies in this article, we’re simply listing the ones that have the best fares).
12. Search the Fare, Not The Destination
Feeling spontaneous? Use Kayak’s Explore Tool to search for flights within your budget. Want to fly somewhere for under $300? Input your maximum amount and Kayak will open a map with all flights that meet your criteria.
Car Booking Hacks
Don’t book a rental car until you’ve read these hacks. They’ll save you huge money and they are very easy to employ. We’ve saved upwards of 50% off of our rental costs by shopping smart and using the tricks below.
13. Deny The Costly Collision Insurance
Before you gasp an explain how irresponsible this sounds, hear me through. Most major credit card providers come equipped with comprehensive collision insurance. That’s right, it’s built right into your credit card. Next time you book a car online, use a credit card that includes insurance (most do) and save up to $15 / day on your rental! Most likely if you’ve rented a car on your credit card in the past and paid for crash insurance, you didn’t have to… sorry.
Note: Some countries have mandatory liability insurance that some cards won’t cover. This usually costs around $12 / day and it is unavoidable if enforced by local law. However, this is basic insurance and you should still deny the collision insurance as you are covered for that on your credit card.
14. Use A Search Engine To Book Your Car
If you head straight to Budget Rentals website, you may not be accessing all of the discounts that you can receive with your rental. Try using a service like CarHire3000.com to book your rental car and find huge savings. You can also book on Expedia and you don’t pay a cent until you receive the car.
UPDATE 2015: We just rented a car with Expedia in Costa Rica and when we arrived, they had tacked on liability insurance and a $50 drop-off fee that didn’t show up on our Expedia booking. This is common practice with Expedia and rental companies so BEWARE!
15. Book Long-Term
If you book for a week or more, you can get the cost of your rental down significantly. When we booked our car in South Africa via CarHire3000.com (again, not sponsored), we paid just $20 / day including insurance (yes, we paid for insurance because we hadn’t read this post before booking). Short-term rentals can be as much as $40 / day, so that’s half price if you book long-term.
16. Avoid Pick-up At The Airport
Of course it’s convenient to get off of your flight and head right behind the wheel, but the car rental shops that are located in the airport often have hefty service fees. You could end up paying $10 less / day just by walking down the street, or taking a cab into town and renting from another location.
17. Return The Car With A Full Tank
If the receptionist at your rental store says: “you can return it empty and we’ll just fill it up”, he or she is actually saying: “Go ahead, return it empty and we’ll charge your credit card triple the going rate for gas”. That’s right, almost all car rental companies will charge upwards of $3 / litre for gas if they have to fill it up themselves. Always return the car with a full tank.
18. Book The Car With A Flight
Similar to the “Flight & Hotel” tab that you see on most online booking sites, there is also the “Flight & Car” tab. This will give you access to the same amazing flight discounts as the “Flight & Hotel” trick that we talked about earlier in this post. Go ahead… give it a try.
Hacks That Work For All Bookings
No matter what you’re booking online, try these hacks and watch the savings add up.
19. Search For Coupon Codes
Next time you’re booking something online, ANYTHING online, look for that nifty little box that says “Promo Code”, “Promotional Code”, “Coupon Code” or whatever phrasing that looks like it may save you money if you type in a password. Run a Google search for what you’re booking (ie: “Kayak.com Promo Code April 2015”) and see what comes up. There are times when we’ve saved 50% off online purchases using this simple little hack.
20. Always Try Multiple Booking Sites
This is especially true of flights, but it really works for all of your online bookings. If you find one price on Kayak.com, also check Fare Compare, Expedia, Booking.com, Trip Advisor…. everything! I wouldn’t waste too much time searching around (time is money after all), but spend a few minutes and see what you find. We’ve probably saved a few thousand dollars over the years just because we know where to look and we shop around.
21. Check The Price In Multiple Currencies
Not all websites convert currencies in the same way. Did you ever notice that everything is cheaper if you order it on Amazon.com rather than Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.ca? The same principle can apply on booking sites and airline websites. Test the booking in different currencies and see which one is the best conversion when compared to your dollar.
Now You Can Book With Confidence
Next time you’re surfing the web, anxiously hunting for the best price, use these 21 hacks and we guarantee you that you’ll save a lot of money. I can’t imagine how much we’ve saved over the years by using these tricks, but I’m sure that we lost thousands before we knew about them as well. Hopefully you’ll find these hacks as useful as we have over the years.
Surely we missed some useful hacks! Please share your favourite money-saving tips in the comments below and help other travellers to save big money online.