1. “You spent $999 [for a week in Ireland]? I’m more of a budget traveler myself. You know, hostels and stuff.”
2. “You used Groupon to go on a trip? I like to go to places before they become popular enough to be mentioned by anyone. I went to Vietnam [three years ago] before anyone even dreamed of going out there.”
3. “$999 for all of that? That is an amazing deal! Tell me more.”
Those are a few examples of responses that I’ve received after
bragging about explaining how I made it overseas for the first time. If your reaction after reading what I just described is number 1, stick around and hear me out. If it’s number 2, get off my blog. I have no time to entertain your romanticized adventurer delusions of “discovering” a place where people lived before you got there, and will continue to live after you, thankfully, leave. If it’s number 3, welcome, friend! You have come to the right place because I’m going to tell you all about where and how I find travel deals.
Where I Find My Deals
The first time I went abroad, I spent $999 with a Groupon that included my roundtrip airfare from New York City to Dublin, six nights in three-star plus hotels (with some meals included), and a rental car. Now for those of you thinking, whoa, you spent what? You call that a deal? Consider this, a roundtrip ticket from Dublin to New York City at the time ran around $800, if you were lucky. So, imagine if you spent that, and then had to spread the rest of the remaining $199 over a week of accommodations, all of your meals, and in-country transportation in Western Europe. Even for the thriftiest of travelers, that’s a serious stretch. If you’re realistic, that Groupon is a deal. Added bonus: you get the satisfaction of giggling like I did when you look at the hotel directory and see the €300 per night that you clearly aren’t spending.
If you’re interested in traveling to Europe, Groupon has recently had more inclusive deals at that snazzy $999 price for locations such as England! Italy! And Greece! Oh my!
LivingSocial has a hodgepodge of offerings that makes it one of my favorite ways to explore near and far. Does the most expensive accommodation you can afford right now happen to be your house? Hey, sometimes, that’s the way it is. LivingSocial offers deals that will let you eat, imbibe, and dance your way through your own region. I’ve used it for events and tours that have given me a different perspective of local culture.
“Sneaky devil child!” Ah, the sound of my mother finally finding my “Hamilton is going to Colombia” iCalendar invite at 5:30 AM the day after I booked my ticket. This would be the “far” part of the “near and far.” I scored a roundtrip ticket to Bogota from Miami for a little over $300. How did I manage this? Well, I received an e-mail from LivingSocial offering a $200 discount off of airfare for a small price with limited blackout dates. I adjusted my dates until I could make the airfare price as low as possible, applied the coupon, and come October, I shall be reunited with Lucia in Colombia. It seemed random, but that’s LivingSocial. Sign up for the e-mails. You’re bound to find something that piques your interest.
I’ve had times where it’s cheaper for me to spend a night or two in a major city, and then fly out of that city, than it is for me to fly directly home after a trip. If there isn’t a loving home that can take me in, Hotels.com is my go-to. A few days before I flew back from Dublin last December, I found a deal for a hotel in Midtown Manhattan for a little over $100. I cancelled my more expensive, refundable hostel reservation (which I had also booked through Hotels.com a month prior), and booked for the new hotel within a matter of minutes. Sometimes, it pays to double check that what you think is a cheaper deal is actually the cheaper deal.
Honorable mentions to services that I haven’t put to travel use but to which I pay close attention
Airfarewatchdog.com comes highly recommended by several people, and I receive airfarewatchdog’s tailored flight alerts daily in my inbox. I usually give them a quick glance before deleting them. But, if you are anything like me, and a shockingly good flight deal gives you a small thrill and has you doing a quick calculation of how much a total trip would cost, then you should follow airfarewatchdog on Twitter. It’s where you see the geniuses who work for that company put their real finds out on the information superhighway in real time. Recent deals have included roundtrip from Newark, NJ to Hyderabad, India for under $800.
Travelzoo has everything. It has hotels, dinners, cruises, travel packages, last minute deals, and on and on. It probably just has me hooked because their e-mails always feature the ultimate in alluring deals. A trip to Italy for $899 with flights, hotels, and railway transportation featured right at the top? Sign me up!
A Few Words of Caution
With the current rise of the US dollar, be cautious of websites offering you “deals” corresponding with this rise. For example, any website offering discounted European flights (and attributes it to the sinking Euro) through Norwegian Air isn’t offering a deal at all, given that that is already a budget airline.
There are times where a deal that seems too good to be true might just be too good to be true. Be wary of offers that do not give specific details, such as the name of hotels, in the package overview. Make sure that before you buy that trip, you do your research about the places and features included in it.
Happy deal hunting!