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Every travel website claims it can get you the best deal. They claim to search hundreds, nay thousands of other websites. Each one claims to be different.
That’s what makes them so alike.
But there are differences. Here are some of the top travel sites for coupon deals, negotiated-rate hotels, last-minute offers and other circumstances that might arise for your future travels.
For hidden coupon and mobile deals on hotels
Search multiple hotel booking sites at once with goSeek, which pulls up the best deals from hundreds of providers. But unlike myriad other sites that do the same, goSeek offers something extra: The site automatically inputs active coupon codes to show you deals other sites don’t. You can also filter your search by mobile, senior, automobile club and other deal-getting criteria.
For comparing airfares
The quickest, easiest way to compare airfares is simply to go to Google and type your departure and destination airports into the main search field, like “JFK to SJU.” In seconds, you’ll be a looking at a list of airlines and corresponding fares for the route, customizable according to date.
For negotiated-rate hotels
Most major airlines’ websites have a link to their vacations site, where you can book packages that sometimes include negotiated-rate hotels. But only one lets you access those negotiated-rate hotels without including a car or flight. At UnitedVacations.com you can select “Package type: Hotel” to see if there’s a rate considerably lower than you’d get elsewhere, sometimes significantly cheaper than at the airline’s main website, United.com.
Ever book a nonrefundable hotel and pay for it up-front without knowing what hotel you booked? Sounds like a terrible idea right? But what if there was some payoff, say a major discount? At Priceline.com, “Express Deals” let you filter your hotel search by star rating, neighborhood and even criteria like pet-friendly or free breakfast before you commit to your mystery hotel.
For Vegas, baby
This site compiles coupon codes for hotels (including some deep discounts on swanky luxury properties) and shows, too. To get the codes, you’ll have to give the site your email address. But if you’re Vegas bound, it’s worth it.
For flight deals you might otherwise miss
You won’t find Southwest Airlines flights when you search booking sites like Travelocity, Orbitz or Expedia. That means there could be deals you’re missing. Familiarize yourself with Southwest’s routes, then, before you book another airline, make it a habit to see if Southwest has a better option for you.
For customized fare-drop notifications
Give the folks at Airfarewatchdog your route, dates and email address and they’ll send you notifications when prices drop. The site also has research tools that help you know the best time to book.
For rental cars
Like “opaque” booking sites that offer you deals on mystery hotels, Discount USA Car Rental searches multiple providers to find you the best unpublished rates for your city and date. But unlike those hotel sites, you don’t have to pay up front. (Just be sure to actually cancel if you change your mind. The companies can’t keep offering deals if no-shows mess up their inventory management.)
For last-minute ideas
Sometimes you just want to get out of town with no clear idea where you want to go. Browse deals at TravelZoo, which are dug up by the site’s expert deal hounds, for last-minute ideas.
For vacation rentals
Competition is good. The big boy of the vacation rental market is VRBO.com, where you can find lots of great condos to rent at destinations all over the world. But searching HomeAway.com gives you an edge: Often their rates are no better than VRBO, but at times they are. Either way, you get to choose the best deal.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice: 8 pro tips for smart and cheap family travel What every airline reservationist knows that you should, too How to uncover the identity of Priceline and Hotwire mystery hotels before purchasing