As a former travel agent, I’ve learned a thing or three about finding the best deals.
The truth is, many travel agents do have tools (and connections) to help them find the best deal anywhere. They’re also armed with industry knowledge of routes, hubs and the best supplier for each.
But you know what?
Many travel agent “secrets” can be used by the public. And in this post I’ll share you with several simple tips to save you a hundred dollars (or more) on your next vacation.
Ready? Then let’s roll…
#1. Airline Consolidators
Also known as “bucket shops”, airline consolidators are where travel agents go to buy tickets. They’re sort of like a giant warehouse of airfares: travel agents routinely buy tickets from consolidators and mark it up to boost their commission.
Which doesn’t do much for you, does it?
Instead, you can deal with (some) consolidators directly.
Here are just a few to get you started:
#2. Clear your Cookies
Have you ever found a cheap flight, only to find it’s gone up – a lot – just a few hours later? Clear your cookies and try again. Sometimes (but not always) you’ll see the old price. It’s a trick booking sites use to get you to buy now – and it works. You see the price has gone up and buy to prevent paying more tomorrow.
(Note: Sometimes airfares do go up on their own, so this isn’t fail-safe. But give it a shot – you never know!)
#3. Think Globally, Book Locally
Local providers are almost always cheaper and – thanks to the Internet – you can book with them directly instead of paying the middleman.
For example, let’s say you want to rent a car while traveling in New Zealand. Simply Google “local car rental Auckland, New Zealand” and you’ll have dozens of options to choose from!
#4. Be Very, Very Flexible
It’s possible to save over a hundred dollars if you can fly a few days early (or later). This is especially true for international flights, both due to its distance and holidays you aren’t aware of!
#5. Book Six Months In Advance
A rule of thumb I learned as a travel agent: always book in advance. The only exception? You’re planning a last-minute trip or found yourself inspired to go somewhere new.
A recent report from the New York Times revealed the best time to purchase tickets is roughly 21 – 24 weeks in advance. You can wind up paying significantly more if you wait – so if you’re ready, act now!
#6. Buy Your Tickets On Wednesday
Hat tip to Peter Greenberg for this one.
To summarize his article, fare wars between airlines start on Friday, and Wednesday is usually when airlines are willing go the lowest (before the weekly process begins again on Friday).
#7. Leverage the Cheapest Hubs
All airlines run the majority of their flights from one or more hubs. For example, American Airlines’ main hub is Dallas, while Delta’s is in Detroit (both airlines have multiple hubs, these are just examples).
Next time you’re booking your flights, check for flights to major hubs first. Then see if it’s cheaper to purchase a ticket there and an onward ticket versus a direct flight. You can see a whole list of hubs here.
So there you have it: seven simple secrets travel agents have used for years. Now it’s your turn!
What tips do you have for saving money on flights? Let us know in the comments below!