How to Pay Less for Your Next Vacation
You can find really great travel deals online. With numerous price comparison websites for flights, hotels, and car rentals, it's easy to identify the cheapest online options. (See also: Get the Lowest Rates From Travel Websites)
But the prices you see on the Internet may not be the best deals available. If you're willing to spend some time and effort, you may be able to haggle prices down even more. The downside? You'll have to speak to an actual person and charm your way into lower prices.
Not every company will negotiate its prices, but it's worth a try. At best, you get to enjoy lower rates and perhaps some freebies. At worst, you just pay the regular rates. (See also: Always Negotiate These Costs)
After you check the online rate, make a phone call directly to the hotel. Be careful with the timing of your call. Avoid busy times like during meals or close to the hotel's check-in time.
Speak to a Manager
If the first person who answers the phone won't negotiate, try asking for the sales manager or the front office manager. Explain that you really want to stay there, but the price is too high for you, then ask nicely for a better deal. If you have to, mention that your other option, the hotel's competitor, offers a lower rate.
Ask About Discounts or Perks
Check if the hotel has any special discounts that you can take advantage of. For example, there may be lower rates for members of certain groups or for corporate travelers. The hotel may also have unadvertised packages that could include parking or bar tabs.
In some cases, hotels that won't lower their rates may offer complimentary upgrades or throw in freebies like breakfast, parking, Wi-Fi, or spa treatments.
Book Last Minute
As a last resort, call the hotel again the day before your trip. Hotels are more willing to negotiate at the last minute because they don't want the room to be empty. However, if you do this, make sure you have a back up accommodation option with a good cancellation policy in case the hotel is full.
When it comes to flights, your haggling skills don't come into play as much. However, you still have options. (See also: Top Travel Reward Credit Cards)
Book by Phone
You may be able to score a better deal over the phone just because the airline's phone agent has access to more inventory than is available online. For example, you may be able to get a seat on a positioning flight, which happens when the plane flies not strictly to earn ticket revenue, but to get to another airport in time for its next flight.
Ask for a Credit After a Price Drop
You can also call to get a refund or airline credit if the price drops after you make a reservation. Check your ticket conditions; you may have to buy the ticket directly from the airline to take advantage of this price-drop protection.
Ask for Discounts
When you speak to the airline representative on the phone, ask whether they offer any discounts that apply to you, such as student discounts or military discounts. And if you don't mind traveling at ungodly hours or from isolated airports, let the representative know. Both are often offered at discounts.
Just like with hotels and airlines, after you get the cruise price online, call the cruise line directly to get another quote. When you call, check for any special discounts and extra fees.
Call a Travel Agent
With these prices as base rates, contact a travel agent and find out what his best price is. A good travel agent who has built close relationships with cruise lines can get you big discounts. Be honest and let him know that you are shopping around for the lowest prices. (See also: Hidden Travel Fees)
Some travel agents may refuse to work with you, and that's OK. Other travel agents may charge a non-refundable deposit for a consultation; you'll have to decide for yourself if the fee is worth the potential savings of working with that particular travel agent.
Have you haggled to drive down travel costs? What worked for you?