You’re itching to book that vacation you’ve been dreaming about for the last couple of years, but the price of flights, hotels and activities is giving you a case of sticker shock. The good news? Plenty of discount sites for booking travel are out there to help you save big. Plus, you might even score some rewards and perks in the process.
“I prefer the Expedia website because it offers all services like hotels, flights, rental cars and vacation bundles,” said Elice Max, co-owner and marketing director of EMUCoupon. “Expedia offers a rewards program to its customers that makes it unique. You’ll get a few rewards as soon as you sign up, like discounts and extra amenities at select hotels.”
Max added, ” And as you travel more and reach higher membership levels, you’ll gain access to more perks, such as point upgrades and free late checkouts. For instance, once you collect 10 Trip Elements in a year — such as flight tickets, car rentals and per-night hotel stays — you’ll gain access to the Silver rewards tier and earn 2 points for every $1 you spend. When you collect 25 Trip Elements in a year, you’ll earn 3 points per $1. You can use those points toward future bookings on the Expedia site.”
“Booking.com is also the most popular online travel site. It has grown in popularity because it allows you to book all types of lodging like apartments, resorts, villas, hostels, bed and breakfasts, guesthouses and even farms and boats,” said Max. “In general, you’ll find information here that you won’t find on many other travel websites.”
Booking.com also has its own loyalty program called Genius, which features three rewards levels related to overnight stays you book:
- Genius Level 1: Automatic and offers a 10% discount on the price of your stay before taxes and fees.
- Genius Level 2: Unlock lifetime access once you book and complete five stays within two years. You’ll receive a 10-15% discount on the price of your stay before taxes and fees, free breakfast and a free room upgrade.
- Genius Level 3: Unlock lifetime access once you complete 15 stays in two years. You’ll get up to a 20% discount on the price of your stay before taxes and fees, free breakfast and room upgrades and direct access to a live agent to discuss your bookings.
“This is more of an app rather than a site, but I really love the hands-off approach to booking,” said consumer analyst Julie Ramhold with DealNews. “I don’t have to constantly check to find the best deals — I just set up my travel time and route, and Hopper will let me know when to book. It also highlights how much prices are expected to drop and when they’re expected to start rising again, and how much they’ll go up closer to your departure date.”
Ramhold continued, “You can also earn Carrot Cash now on your bookings which results in even further savings down the road. Plus Hopper has more than just flights now — you can find hotels, cars, and even homes if you want to rent something larger than just a standard hotel room. And if you’re eco-conscious, Hopper plants trees with every booking to offset the carbon emissions, so that’s another huge perk.”
“This is a site that is similar to Hopper and can handle booking flights, hotels, and car rentals as well. I really like that you can do price alerts with them, and also check nearby airports as well as opt for non-stop flights only,” Ramhold said.
“Other sites may offer this, but for me Skyscanner wins bonus points for having a prominently displayed live COVID-19 map so you can check travel restrictions for your destination before heading out. This means avoiding surprises and having to scramble last minute to make sure you meet the requirements,” she added.
“You can also sign up for updates so that you can be notified when things open up again. The site makes it easy to find last-minute flights, too — those that are leaving within 90 days — so if you need to get away, this is a great section to browse. Booking is transparent too, with no hidden fees so you’ll know exactly what every cent is going towards when you pay.”
“My favorite discount travel booking site is Orbitz, a long-time OTA with its rewards program called the Orbitz Rewards,” said Georgia McBroom, co-founder of CamperFAQs. “The 1-3% purchase price back, called Orbucks, from hotel accommodations, flight deals and vacation packages can be used as payment for future hotel bookings. Joining the program is free, giving you access to perks and low-price guarantees on flights. On top of that, it refunds the difference when you find a cheaper flight deal from a different site.”
You can get even more rewards if you book your hotels, flights, vacation packages and activities through the Orbitz app.
“While there are seemingly countless travel booking sites all boasting deals and discounts, they’re actually almost all owned by the same handful of companies,” said Lauren Keys of Trip of a Lifestyle. “That means, the deals will be pretty consistent across these brands, so you’ll really only save more if the booking site has a rewards program.”
Keys continued, “Hotels.com has the best rewards program, offering you a free night after you stay 10. It’s the best deal out there at about 10% back on what you spend booking through their site (most other rewards programs are in the 1-5% back range).”
You’ll also get instant access to better pricing on accommodations when you book at Hotels.com — about 10% off.
“KAYAK has always been my favorite discount travel booking site. It is incredibly easy to use and reliable for offering the cheapest rates around,” said Larry Snider, VP of Operations of Casago Vacation Rentals. “My favorite feature about KAYAK is the ability to track flights and accommodation costs. You can get notified when the best time to buy is, and when it is better to wait it out.”
KAYAK also has a loyalty program called KAYAK Explorer. By signing up and booking through KAYAK’s mobile app, you’ll earn Explorer Points good for perks and rewards, such as gift cards, prepaid debit cards and discounts on dining and travel. Plus, once you sign up for the KAYAK app, you’ll receive 2,000 Explorer points as a thank you.
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