Flexibility is a key part of the discount travel experience. If you can match your plans to the “low vacancy” seasons for hotels or the “slow days” of airlines you’ll find it keeps your costs down. Often this aspect alone can reduce the cost of a trip by *half*. Here are a few approches to keep in mind where you sacrifice virtually nothing in terms of quality to obtain much lower rates:
Cheap Airline Tickets: For airline tickets find specialized carriers that travel to your location. These may *not* be reflected at consolidators like Orbitz or Kayak.com and may not match your exact dates, so you’ll need to do a bit of online searching for “flights to cityname” and “cityname airlines”, etc. The object here is just to get the name of the specialty airline. An example here in rural Oregon is Allegiant. They fly to Las Vegas from several western cities, have fantastic rates in combination with hotel specials, but to keep costs down they only fly 2 days per week so you need to make plans accordingly.
For international travel this specialty airlines rule is even more important. There are thousands of airlines around the world – and even within the USA – that are not represented on Orbitz or other consolidators, and many offer special rates but have enough restrictions that you’ll need to plan somewhat around *their needs*. This is not a big inconvenience if you are clever. For example on a big trip you’ll generally have some departure flexibility. Before you plan your time off check and see if the days of the week matter to your departure flight.
Cheap Hotel Rates: For hotels as I’ve noted before the general rule is to book nights Sunday-Thursday and avoid Friday and Saturday where many cities will be booked at higher rates. Las Vegas can be remarkable in this way – on strip hotel specials can drop under $50 per night where the Bellagio on a weekend will run you $250+. A few years ago my Las Vegas Hilton room was $55 for Mon-Thursday but the *same room* would have been about $150 if I’d stayed Friday night. This effect in Las Vegas seems to be more pronounced in some hotels than others so keep that in mind.