Flights, Hotels and Cars

Flights and hotels

When you are ready to book a trip, DO NOT use a travel web site. Better yet, go ahead and consult them (they can help you find out where each airline flies and compare prices) but book the flight or hotel on your own. 

  • Booking on line is usually cheapest, but if you aren't finding the same prices you saw on the travel web sites then call the hotel or airline and ask for the same deal.  
  • Sometimes if you ask lots of questions you can find an even better deal. 
  • Unless you are certain you are not going to change your plans and you can’t get the same price on your own, I wouldn’t deal with any of those travel sites because they are inflexible. 
  • When something goes wrong and you need to make a change, or you get to the airport and your flight is canceled, the airline refers you back to your booking agency. 
  • If you book directly with the airline, you walk up the counter and they change it instantly – you are on the next flight out or they book you with a partner airline and you take a short walk to another concourse. Problem solved.
  • It helps if you are a member of their chain or frequent flier program. (See points below)

I was pleasantly surprised to learn the Frugal Traveler for the New York Times agrees that travel web sites are not worth it. He has written extensively on the subject.  Here are links to a couple of his articles:

Travel tips 

Best fares 

 

Points

Another reason not to use travel sites is because they prevent you from collecting points. Points will lead to rewards for being a good customer. 

  • Sign up with every airline you fly and every hotel you stay at.
  • Being a member gets you freebies and upgrades and status.
  • That means if you fly the same airline all the time or stay at the same hotel chain they begin to treat you better.
  • You get moved up to first class at no charge, you get room upgrades at hotels or stays on the concierge floor with free meals and better vehicles at car rental companies.
  • Travel sites rob you of that perk. Some create their own point system, but don’t buy into that lame scheme - it gets you nowhere. 

While we are on the subject of points, you should also book your travel with a credit card that gives you points.

  • For instance, certain American Express cards give you points that can be transferred to hotels for free stays, airlines for free flights, car rentals, etc. Don’t confuse Amex points with airline mile points – they are very different.
  • Airline points are not as easily transferrable. Every credit card has partnered with an airline and those cards get you airline miles but they also usually carry a hefty interest rate, so beware.
  • Don’t charge more than you can afford to pay back no matter how many points you get. (see Managing Your Finances).

 

Car Rentals

Don’t bother trying to rent a car until you are 21. There are two states (New York and Michigan) that force rental car companies to rent to younger adults but it costs so much that it’s prohibitive.

  • From the age of 21 to 25, you will be forced to pay an extra fee for the privilege of renting a car from one of the major car rental companies.
  • Your only other option is to rent from a smaller company like Rent A Wreck or Enterprise.
  • Rent a Wreck offers older cars that sometimes have “issues,” but it won’t cost as much.
  • Enterprise is usually off site (not at airports) but they will come pick you up from anywhere and take you to their location. There may be other smaller local companies in your area that are cheaper than the big chains, so look around. 
  • If it is a short rental you can use Zipcar. Zipcar charges by the hour or day so it could get pretty pricey, if you kept a car for a long weekend.

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Ask Mama

Don't Book, Just Look

Shop around-- and then book directly with the airline, hotel or car company:

  

Kayak

 

Bing Travel

  

Mobissimo

  

Vayama

  

Fly.com 

  

Momondo

 

CheapOAir

 

Lastminute.com