Travel planning on the Internet: it really is not as confusing and intimidating as it might initially seem. After planning and executing a few trips, it is amazing how adept one can become. Travel Planning for that fantastic trip sometimes requires some “practice makes perfect”, but there are a few caveats that help make the learning curve a little less painful and more economical. In planning several trips, both airline travel and by car, I found out through trial and error several tips to improve travel planning. Internet travel is not limited to searching for airplane tickets, some of my best car trips were planned with the help of internet searches. Nevertheless, my first venture with using the Internet for travel planning is probably where everyone starts: getting the best deal on airline tickets. There are so many sites out there to chose from, but here are a few guidelines to assist you in getting the best deal:
- Try to fly in the middle of the week and include a weekend stay, this should help reduce your rate.
- Bear in mind that when you do multiple searches for the same flight information, search engines DO remember and sometimes flights will increase in price if they know that’s what you are looking for. Erase your cookies/search histories and start fresh for an “unbiased” search.
- It may be inconvenient, but it is almost always cheaper NOT getting a direct flight. Usually you are routed through one of the hubs, but it can shave quite a bit off the price of each ticket.
- When booking directly with a hotel, many chains have their own “reward” programs. If you choose to use an internet search engine like hotels.com or expedia.com.com , they also have reward programs but remember that you can’t “double dip”. I made the mistake once of booking a Best Western hotel on hotels.com and could not use my Best Western rewards points because of how it was booked. We were very happy with the hotel, I was just frustrated with the rewards system. So make sure you know before booking, which “rewards” program you wish to pursue. Personally, since I do a fair amount of traveling, I like the hotels.com system of getting your 10th night free. That’s a good deal and it’s a reward you can really use.
- Don’t get stuck in a rut by only staying at certain types of hotels, try a Bed & Breakfast with a local flair for something unique to the area. A really fun way to find interesting places is to do a Google Earth search on the area you will be visiting. My husband & I found a fantastic ranch/resort just outside Yellowstone using this method.
The Shoshone Lodge & Ranch in Cody Wyoming: www.shoshonelodge.com is a beautiful place right near Yellowstone National Park that surprisingly enough does not show up in several internet searches. My husband found it by simply hovering the cursor around the east side of Yellowstone. We were glad we found it then the rest came easy: their web-site has everything laid out nicely. So never underestimate the power of just “poking around” on the internet, you will be amazed at what you will find.
- Do take the time to read other reviews of hotels, for example Trip Advisor, but bear in mind some people are more picky than others. Sometimes you can almost tell when reading the review which are legitimate complaints and which are from folks who really “got up on the wrong side of the bed”.
- Bear in mind that some search engines, including Priceline.com get great prices for you with their “name your own price” program but you have to give your credit card in advance of the search and the exact hotel is not revealed until after you are booked. This is great if you can be flexible, but I am uncomfortable with making a committment in advance when I don’t know exactly what I will be getting.
- When planning a lengthy car trip, start first by determining how many miles you wish to log each day. Then from there you can get a pretty good idea where you will end up and where to book a hotel or campsite. A wonderful aid for determining mileage and drive times is:www.calculator.net/mileage-calculator. You can enter the starting destination and your next stop and not only do you get a recommended route, you get total miles and estimated drive time. This is fantastic for mapping out a car trip and you can estimate how many miles you want to travel per day, and in turn where we want to end up looking for lodging. If traveling during peak periods and at a popular destination, it’s probably better…and alot less stressful to have a reservation.
- Once again, I highly recommend Trip Advisor for not only lodging recommendations, but also restaurants, coffee shops and even the best places for a scrumptious ice cream cone. Sometimes if you’re visiting an area that you are unfamiliar with, it is good to get some insights from others who have been there and get the “low down”…for better or worse.
Planning and negotiating the ins and outs of a trip with the help of the internet can help in so many ways. Not only do you save money by shopping around for the best deal, once your trip is planned you can sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. Put your Traveling shoes on. JES