I am someone who loves to save money when I can (especially on hotels or flights), but I am also someone who loathes checking 50 sites before deciding on which one has the best deal.
After booking a number of flights (from Canada to cities in Asia, and then Canada to cities in Europe), my strategy has been simplified.
I BOOK FLIGHTS FIRST…
You can’t really book hotels until you know when you’re leaving and arriving. I also find that sometimes it’s cheaper to fly on a Tuesday rather than a Wednesday, and if you book your hotel first, you may not get the best deal.
Generally, for Europe, we book with Air Transat most of the time.
For Asia, we used Air China and Singapore Airlines.
I use Expedia to check flight prices, the best dates and which airlines are the cheapest. Then I pick the cheapest and go to the actual airline’s website to re-check to see if it’s cheaper on their site.
(Side Note: I really hate Expedia’s layout but they’re the best starting point for finding flights)
Sometimes, instead of buying a direct flight, I will buy a flights with stopovers with two different airlines and build my own flight (I’ve noticed the combinations they give on Expedia aren’t the best deals at times).
For Asia, we flew to Vancouver with Air Canada before switching to Air China to get to Beijing. It was cheaper than a direct flight from Toronto to Beijing.
I prefer taking flights in off peak hours, but I hate red-eye flights (overnight). I like to arrive at around 7 p.m. or so to avoid rush hour.
…THEN I BOOK THE HOTELS
I tend to prefer the Accor Group for hotels (Ibis is a great, low-cost brand), but if I wanted a kitchenette or an apartment-like hotel then I like Candlewood Suites, Marriott Residence Inn (fancy!) or Motel 6.
We like Ibis hotels for when we travel, because BF can remove the mattress and sleep on the hard wooden board that’s underneath. It isn’t a mattress spring or wood slats, so it’s the perfect travel bed without having to sleep on the floor!!!
I always use Hotels.com (no, they are not paying me to say this I actually like the site!).
I tried to use the same strategy of checking with Hotels.com and then booking with the actual hotel brand itself, but it turned into one big clusterf*uck when we tried to change some dates or something like that.
Now, I just use the site and forget about going to the actual site, unless the price per night seems unreasonably high based on past experiences.
I also really like the site for these reasons:
- It manages all my hotel reservations in one place
- Lets me earn free nights based on the average price of nights we paid through the site
- ..and you don’t need to stay with specific hotel brands each time you book*
So if you paid for 10 nights at $100 at a hotel, you get 1 night free at $100.
If you paid for 5 nights at $50 at a hotel, and another 5 nights at $100 at a hotel, you get 1 night free at an average of $75 a night.
*I mean that you can book with one hotel group like Marriott and then with the Accor group the next time (whichever hotel gave a better deal for your travel dates), and you still earn free nights based on the average price of your 10 night stays.
I used to hold 5-10 cards of different points with different hotel brands.
It’s annoying to know you ALMOST have one free night at each of them but you need to stay another week in each hotel.
LASTLY, I BUY TRAVEL INSURANCE
Seven Corners Travel Insurance works for us because it’s very easy to purchase and it goes for more than 2-3 weeks (we travel for months at a time). It was also available for Canadians!
You can read all about my experience with buying travel insurance here.
That’s it. That’s how I book my hotels and flights. It takes about half an hour if my internet connection is willing.