27 Tips For Finding The Top Travel Deals

By Kylie Ora Lobell · September 14, 2023 · 9 minute read

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27 Tips For Finding The Top Travel Deals

This past summer, almost 42% of Americans (that’s 108 million people) said they planned to travel more than in the recent past. As you might guess, increased demand can send the cost of a trip soaring.

But that doesn’t mean you have to pay sky-high prices or sit at home because everything is too pricey. By doing some detective work and deploying some smart travel tricks, you can score deals on airfare, lodging, food, and more.

Whether you’re dreaming of a tropical vacay, a trip to a European city, or just getting home to see your family for the holidays, try these strategies.

How to Find the Best Vacation Deals

Here are 27 insider tricks and smart travel hacks that can help keep vacation costs in check.

1. Using Credit Card Rewards

Here’s a top way to be a frugal traveler: If you’ve racked up a large amount of reward points on your credit card, you may be able to redeem them for free or reduced-price airfare, hotels, car rentals, cruises, dining, and other travel expenses.

Some credit cards also offer free trip cancellation insurance, auto rental insurance coverage, and lost luggage insurance. If you learn how to maximize your credit card rewards, you might be ready to take that next trip sooner than you think.

2. Looking Into Local Destinations

One surefire way to slash vacation costs is to take airfare out of the equation. You might want to consider taking a road trip to some not-too distant destinations. For ideas on where to go and what route to take (along with local deals), you can check out AAA’s TripTik.

3. Going Where the Dollar is Strong

If you travel to a country where the U.S. dollar is strong, your money will go farther than it would at home or in a country where U.S. currency is weak. Before booking travel, you may want to check out a currency exchange table, like the one at X-Rates, to find out how the U.S. dollar is stacking up to other currencies.

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4. Traveling During “Dead Zones”

There are two times of the year, the so-called “dead zones,” when travel tends to be cheapest: Early December (after the Thanksgiving rush but before the Christmas travel season) and the last three weeks in January into early February.

5. Being Flexible With Your Destination

If price, rather than a place, is the prime concern, you may want to use a destination search engine like Skyscanner. You can plug in your origin and some potential travel dates and then see flight prices for destinations across the country as well as around the world.

6. Getting a Vacation Package

Here’s another way to find a top travel deal: Buying a vacation as a package, rather than booking your flight, hotel, and rental car separately can often yield significant savings. It’s a good idea, however, to keep an eye out for resort fees and airline baggage fees, which aren’t always included in the package price. A few places to find travel packages include Expedia, Priceline, Kayak, and Costco Travel.

Recommended: 12 Tips for the Cheapest Way to Rent a Car

7. Comparing Airbnb and Hotel Prices

Before booking a hotel, you may want to do a quick search on Airbnb and other short-term home rental sites. Even if you’re only staying a few nights, a rental could end up being cheaper than a hotel room. It may also come with a kitchen, which can help you save on dining as well.

Recommended: 25 Things to Know When Renting Out an Airbnb

8. Signing up for Fare Alerts

Rather than checking airfares every day (or every hour) looking for them to come down, you may want to set up a fare alert for one or more destinations and dates at a travel site like Google Flights or Kayak. You’ll receive an email (or notification on an app) when the price of the flight changes.

9. Booking on the Right Day

The day you book your flight typically doesn’t make a huge difference in price. But surveys show that if you’re booking at least three weeks in advance, you may be able to save some money by buying your airfare on a Tuesday. If you’re booking last-minute, however, you may get your best price by snagging your tickets on a Sunday.

10. Not Booking Too Far in Advance

A smart travel hack is to time your plane ticket purchase right in another way. The lowest prices on domestic flights are typically available about 45 days in advance of departure. For international flights, you may want to book about 75 days out to get the best airfare.

11. Eating Like the Locals

Tourist trap restaurants can end up being expensive — and crowded. Instead, you may want to chat up some locals and ask for their restaurant recommendations. Another fun and affordable option, if you’re staying at a rental: Hit the farmer’s market, pick up some locally grown or sourced ingredients, and then cook a meal.

12. Opting to Stay With Friends

Staying with friends can be a great way to save money on vacation. You can end up saving not just on lodging, but also laundry, meals, and transportation with the help of your friends. Of course, you’ll likely want to pitch in and chip in any way that you can to show your appreciation.

13. Paying With a Credit Card Overseas

One easy way to save when you’re vacationing abroad is to use a credit card for most or all of your spending, preferably one that avoids foreign transaction fees. Credit cards typically give you the best exchange rate of the day. Plus, you may be able to rack up rewards, and also get fraud protection.

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14. Looking Beyond Tourist Attractions

Just because a destination is known for a certain attraction, that doesn’t mean you have to go there. You can often get to know a place just as well, or even better, by going on a free or low-cost walking tour or by checking out the local parks, neighborhoods, and cafes on your own.

15. Checking out Public Transportation

While hopping into an Uber or taxi can be convenient, the cost of these trips can add up quickly. You may want to Google the public transportation options before calling a cab. They may be just as, or even more, convenient.

16. Flying at Odd Times

You can often get a good deal on a flight by going when no one else wants to, such as early mornings and late nights. The cheapest days to fly tend to be Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturday (afternoons), Thanksgiving, and the eves and days of Christmas and New Year’s.

17. Contacting the Hotel Directly

Hotel price aggregator websites may not always have the lowest prices. It can be worth contacting the hotel directly and getting a quote. Even if the price listed on a travel site is lower, you may be able to get the hotel to match it. Booking directly could be better because the hotel’s cancellation policy might be more flexible.

18. Using Groupon

Groupon can be a good place to check for deals on hotels and resorts in popular destinations. The site can also be useful for finding discounts on local activities and dining that you can use once you get to your destination.

19. Trying a Travel Auction Site

At travel auction websites, such as SkyAuction.com, companies will list hotels, flights, or packages, and then travelers can bid on them. It can be a good idea to understand what fees will be additional (and not included in the auction price) before you bid.

20. Checking Into “Senior” Discounts

Even if you’re under 65, you may qualify for a senior discount. Some airlines, hotels, and rental car companies offer discounts to adults age 55 and over, and a few offer senior prices to anyone over 50.

21. Researching Student Discounts

If you’re a student, carrying your student ID and asking if you can get a student discount can pay off. You may also want to check out StudentUniverse, which offers exclusive deals on flights, hotels, and tours to students and adults under age 26.

22. Consider Going on a Cruise

Depending on the cruise line and destination, going on a cruise could end up being cheaper than paying for a flight and hotel accommodation in the Caribbean or other beach destinations. To find deals on cruises and current promos you may want to sign up for e-letters from the major cruise lines.

23. Adding Items to the Cart (but Not Buying)

Sometimes travelers can snag deals by adding an item to their cart, but not going through with the purchase. This shows the merchant that you’re interested in making a purchase but may need some persuasion to actually go through with it. The merchant may then send you a coupon in order to get you to buy.

24. Signing Up for Loyalty Programs

If you travel frequently, being loyal to one particular airline, hotel chain, or rental car company (and signing up for their loyalty programs) can pay off. You may be able to rack up enough points or miles to get discounts and freebies on future travel.

25. Avoiding Baggage Fees

These days airline tickets often do not include the cost of checking a bag. To keep baggage fees down, you may want to see if you can get away with just a carry-on. Other ways to minimize baggage fees include: signing up for the airline’s loyalty or “frequent flier” program, getting an airline-branded credit card, and weighing your bags before you leave home (to avoid excess weight charges).

26. Finding a Flight With a Layover

You may be able to visit an additional destination for free, or a minimal additional cost, by booking a flight with a 24 hour-plus layover. A number of international airlines offer a free stopover within their home country when you are en route to another country.

27. Fighting Back Against Resort Fees

Some hotels will tack resort fees onto your bill that you weren’t expecting and significantly inflate your bill. You may be able to get these fees removed if you are a rewards member with the hotel, or if there were any problems with your stay. To make sure you have time to negotiate, you may want to ask for a copy of your final bill the night before you check out. Or you might want to consider all-inclusive resorts.

The Takeaway

Pent-up demand for travel can make reservations and deals a little harder to come by these days.

But by doing a little bit of extra research, signing up for travel alerts, and being flexible on when and where you want to go, you may still be able to score great prices on airfare, hotels, rental cars, cruises, and more.

Ready to start planning and saving for your next getaway? Then it can be wise to open a travel fund at an online bank where interest rates are likely to be higher.

SoFi Travel has teamed up with Expedia to bring even more to your one-stop finance app, helping you book reservations — for flights, hotels, car rentals, and more — all in one place. SoFi Members also have exclusive access to premium savings, with 10% or more off on select hotels. Plus, earn unlimited 3%** cash back rewards when you book with your SoFi Unlimited 2% Credit Card through SoFi Travel.


Photo credit: iStock/onurdongel

**Terms, and conditions apply: The SoFi Travel Portal is operated by Expedia. To learn more about Expedia, click https://www.expediagroup.com/home/default.aspx.
When you use your SoFi Credit Card to make a purchase on the SoFi Travel Portal, you will earn a number of SoFi Member Rewards points equal to 3% of the total amount you spend on the SoFi Travel Portal. Members can save up to 10% or more on eligible bookings.
Eligibility: You must be a SoFi registered user.
You must agree to SoFi’s privacy consent agreement.
You must book the travel on SoFi’s Travel Portal reached directly through a link on the SoFi website or mobile application. Travel booked directly on Expedia's website or app, or any other site operated or powered by Expedia is not eligible.
You must pay using your SoFi Credit Card.

SoFi Member Rewards: All terms applicable to the use of SoFi Member Rewards apply. To learn more please see: https://www.sofi.com/rewards/ and Terms applicable to Member Rewards.
Additional Terms: Changes to your bookings will affect the Rewards balance for the purchase. Any canceled bookings or fraud will cause Rewards to be rescinded. Rewards can be delayed by up to 7 business days after a transaction posts on Members’ SoFi Credit Card ledger. SoFi reserves the right to withhold Rewards points for suspected fraud, misuse, or suspicious activities.
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SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a deposit to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


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