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Posted: May 23, 2017

To Travel Cheap, Steer Clear of These Booking Flubs

By Courtney Jespersen

NerdWallet

Habits can be hard to break, but certain travel-planning tendencies could be costing you. To help you save money, we’ve identified five mistakes you won’t want to make again.

Mistake 1: Not logging in

Your casual travel browsing could be working against you. That’s because creating an account and logging in to a travel website can unlock better prices, according to Maureen Thon, a spokesperson for travel company Expedia. “A lot of people don’t realize, but if you just log in to a travel site when you visit it to do your searching, you can actually find a deal that way,” she says.

At Expedia, you’ll need to sign up for the Expedia+ rewards program with your email address and basic information to access member-only deals. Log in to your account to score 10% off 70,000 hotels and nearly 10,000 activities, according to Thon.

Over at Hotels.com, become a rewards member and sign in to your account to unlock lower rates. Plus, you can get one night free (just pay taxes and fees) after you collect 10 nights.

Mistake 2: Waiting too long

If you’re waiting for a magic moment to book, you might miss out.

Kate McCulley is a travel blogger, known as Adventurous Kate, who has visited more than 60 countries. She says people often ask her if there’s a best time to book flights, but it’s not as easy as buying on a certain date or at a certain time.

Your best bet? Start researching early. “Generally the best time to book a flight is three to six months out,” McCulley says.

Mistake 3: Being inflexible

Most travel experts agree that starting your travel shopping a few months ahead of departure is in your best interest, but if you enjoy traveling on a whim, be open to last-minute deals.

Say you want to travel to Paris on June 2; you’ll be pretty much bound to whatever the airfare prices are that day. But if you’re easygoing about where and when you’ll be jet-setting, you’ll reap better deals, says Matt Kepnes, a travel blogger and author better known as Nomadic Matt.

“Having some sort of flexibility in your planning is going to go a long way,” Kepnes says. Be ready to pounce on cheap flights when they pop up.

Mistake 4: Forgetting to bundle

Many people know about bundling home and auto insurance, as well as cable and internet. Well, welcome another pair: Bundling your hotel and airfare is also a savings strategy.

Consumers can find package deals that combine flights and hotel stays at a discounted rate at travel websites like Travelocity and Orbitz.

You don’t always have to book your entire trip in one sitting, either. Thon of Expedia said she recently booked a flight to Denver on Feb. 20 and had until Feb. 23 to add a Denver hotel to her trip at a discount of up to 50% off.

Travel search site Kayak found savings of up to 32% by choosing a flight and hotel package versus booking flight and hotel separately, according to David Solomito, a travel expert at the company. He says exact savings may vary throughout the year and be based on destination.

» MORE: The cheapest way to rent a car

Mistake 5: Missing out on coupons

The hotel or flight price you see isn’t always the price you have to pay. Savvy shoppers know to search for coupons and online promo codes before ordering something online, and savvy travelers should learn to do the same.

Look for coupon codes at websites like Groupon, follow travel websites on social media, and sign up for email alerts to have deals sent to you. Pay particularly close attention to potential savings opportunities around major holidays and annual sale periods such as Black Friday.

Courtney Jespersen is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: courtney@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @courtneynerd.


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