The Very First Decision You Need to Make to Get the Best Deal on Travel

At one of the travel meetups we’ve hosted, I met a girl who was newer to the travel deal world.  She was worried she was approaching travel deals with the wrong mindset.

She pointed out that people were saying things such as, “Chase the fare!  Not the destination!”

And she went into our crazy world because she had a bucket list of places she wanted to see in the world.  So was she doing it wrong?

travel suitcase world compass

The answer… sort of.

If travel were only about the fare and not the destination, it could get boring after a while depending on how varied fare sales are.  But does this mean you are destined to a life of missing out on travel deals?  Of course not.

When you book a trip though, you should figure out what element is the most important to you though.  You won’t be able to go to your ideal place, on your ideal dates, and with the cheapest fare possible.

The decision you need to make

You need to decide one of three things:

  • I want to go to X location
  • I want to travel on X dates
  • I want to take the best trip I can at the cheapest rate possible

You can’t choose all three as your priority because you are locking yourself into too many requirements.  The more flexibility you have, the cheaper your trip can be.

What this doesn’t mean

This doesn’t mean you can’t end up on a cheap trip to your dream destination. What it does mean is prioritizing what is important to you so you don’t make travel decisions for the wrong reasons.

For example, if the person I talked to started chasing the fare (and not the destination), she would feel really unsatisfied. If she tried to chase the fare while chasing the destination, she would sometimes be faced with decisions that were at odds with her ultimate goal.

What do you do next?

First, I want to emphasize that I think it is possible to have multiple types of trips on the table.  You could have a week you want to travel.  You could have a destination you want to see.  You could be interested in jumping on a ridiculously cheap airfare.  But these are all probably separate trips and when you plan, have them all on the table–but again, as separate unique trips.

I do a lot of trip planning on Google flights, and it is perfect for helping with two of these variables.

Choosing based on the destination

If I know where I want to go, I input that information into Google flights.  If you go into the calendar, you can actually scroll through the flight prices.

Then you can find the best time to take that flight to your ideal destination.

calendar view

For really aspirational trips (or destinations you like to go pretty often), I like to use Airfarewatchdog.

If you go to the homepage of Airfarewatchdog and select “set up alerts” under the Flight menu bar, you can set Airfarewatch dog to alert you whenever there’s a cheap flight from your home airport to your ideal destination.

Choosing based on the dates

If you have an idea weekend you want to travel, you can also use Google flights.

If you leave the destination blank, you can browse the map for cheap flights.

google maps

Then you can drag around the map and spot different travel deals.

For example, if I’m feeling Caribbean-ish, I can peak over there to see if anything is cheap, and choose an island based on that.  If not, I might just want to choose Orlando to still get a beach area (relatively) and warm temperatures.  (Not that I need warmer temperatures right now).


Choosing based on the cheapest

This is another usage of Airfarewatchdog.  In this case, I would go up to alerts, but sign up for any alerts out of my home airport.  This way, you can scroll through the cheap deals they are listing to see if any sound interesting.

Even though you are prioritizing the “cheapest,” doesn’t mean you have to take the absolute cheapest.  It just means you’d consider types of destinations you might not have thought about before because of how cheap they are.

In addition to Airfarewatchdog, I totally recommend subscribing to the Flight Deal updates.  ANYTHING can happen on the Flight Deal, and I’ve had amazingly cheap fares to destinations I didn’t know I wanted to go to thanks to them.

You can see my post on how to subscribe to The Flight Deal here.

The Flight Deal has deals for: †from NYC / BOS / PHL / DC / MIA / DFW / PHX / LAX / SFO / PDX / SEA and ORDâ€

I recommend following them even if you aren’t in those areas because they are gateway cities.  There’s a lot of good international deals–worth the effort flying out to the gateway.

Fare Deal Alert: Atlanta, Charlotte, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Orlando, and San Diego

The conclusion

Now remember, just because you choose one doesn’t mean you can’t have the other.  But the more absolutes you choose, the more likely you are to leave yourself in an expensive situation.

What process do you go through when booking a trip?

About Jeanne Marie Hoffman

Former bartender, still a geek. One equal part each cookies, liberty, football, music, travel, libations. Stir vigorously. +Jeanne Marie Hoffman Jeanne on Twitter

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