How To Get The Best Deals on Hotels, Flights & Cruises

Finding the best deals and planning awesome vacations are my strong suit if I don’t say so myself! Throughout the years my husband and I have traveled to Portland, Seattle, Canada, Alaska, Chicago, Miami, Bahamas,Italy for Christmas, and a few other places along the way. Everyone always asks how I find such good deals and what companies do I use to book my trips through?!

So I thought I would share with you all today my favorite travel booking companies so you can plan your 2019 trips with ease and maybe even earn points or cash back along the way! (meaning more trips but for FREE!)

Swagbucks
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    • I’ve been talking about Swagbucks a lot lately because I’ve honestly have had nothing but great experiences in the two years I’ve had an account with them. Last year I did ALL my birthday/early Christmas shopping through Swagbucks and had enough points to book a trip to Denver. Chad & I both had our flights and partial hotel paid for all from points earned while shopping throughout the year.
  • Install the Swagbucks dashboard button to your Google chrome to earn points easily! Whenever you are shopping on a Swagbucks partnered site that earns you points, a little button pops up asking if you would like to activate your Swagbucks and earn points on this purchase. Uh, YES PLEASE! It’s so simple and you don’t have to remember to log onto Swagbucks first which I would admittedly forget to do. Once they came out with the extension I was easily making points back on every single purchase even when I booked trips through Expedia.

Expedia

    • Although Expedia (or any other booking company) is not perfect, it is still a pretty incredible site. I have had nothing but great experiences when booking through Expedia. Currently, I am a gold member which is the highest member of Expedia. They reward me with higher points, an exclusive support team, and the best deals available.
    • On every booking, you earn points through Expedia and if you activate your Swagbucks then you’re earning points with two different places all redeemable for cash back or money off your next booking!! Woohoo!!
  • What I like about Expedia is they seem to always have the best pricing on hotels especially for members. Not only that, but they offer on most hotels the option to “Book Now, Pay Later”. So you can get your hotel booked and not have to worry about paying for it the day you check in. I almost always use this feature and have never once had an issue. At check in the hotels always have my reservation for the Expedia price and there have never been any issues checking in.

    • One thing I will note is when I paid in advance a few times on Expedia, the hotel didn’t see it was prepaid and charged me twice. This happened once in Long Beach and almost a second time in Tahoe. Learning from the Long Beach incident, I told the hotel in Tahoe when we checked in that we have already prepaid through Expedia. They were able to find it in their system after reading some notes and everything was cleared up.
    • Also when booking through Expedia and being a member, you have a support team to assist you should anything go wrong. When I booked a trip to Portland for my mom, grandma, and I, I specifically requested an ADA room and that’s what I booked. When we showed up the hotel gave our room away and put us upstairs. It wouldn’t have been a problem had the hotel had elevators but walking flights of stairs for my grandma was out of the question. The hotel refused to make it right and actually KICKED US OUT. I instantly got on the phone with Expedia and they refunded us the one night we stayed there AND paid for our new hotel. Then another incident I has was in Tahoe when I booked “Book Now, Pay Later” for some reason the whole total came out. I called Expedia and they refunded me the whole amount and paid for our hotel for us. Talk about customer service!!
  • You can book vacation rentals, hotels, rental cars, flights, things to do, and cruises through Expedia! I have booked all of the above and have had nothing but incredible experiences. On our first cruise booked through Expedia, we were able to pay with $100 deposit and make payments until the month before the cruise was set to leave. It makes traveling fit in our budget and was an incredible option to have.

Airbnb

    • To receive $40 off your first Airbnb click here.
    • My husband and I LOVE Airbnb. When hotels are a little out of our budget, Airbnb comes through (and usually with a way cooler place than any hotel). We booked Private Whole Houses in Portland, Chicago, & Anaheim and then booked staying with the host one time in Portland. After experiencing the awkwardness of staying in someone’s actual home with them, like where they live we decided to never do that again and book only Private Homes. There was nothing wrong with the hosts we stayed with it just is an extremely uncomfortable feeling especially when we want to have a night in..ahh just skip it and pay the few dollars extra for a place to yourself.
  • Airbnb makes me feel comfortable booking a stranger home thanks to detailed reviews. You can only leave a review if you booked through Airbnb and only after you have checked out. This prevents fake reviews which is SO important to me. At times I think the reviews on Expedia are kinda BS and I always have to check the reviews on Yelp before booking anything. I like that with Airbnb I know I can trust each and every review.

    • All places we have stayed had wonderful hosts that made check in/check out easy and were available through text if we had any questions. We treat everyone’s homes with respect and follow all rules, clean up after ourselves, and we ALWAYS ask the hosts what they would like us to do with the towels and sheets before we check out.
    • The only thing about Airbnb is there are a lot of fees attached but that’s standard for most hotels too. You have on some places a cleaning fee, security deposit,  and a service fee. But even then they usually come out cheaper for more privacy/room than most hotels. Also when they accept your booking most require either a deposit or the entire cost of the booking upfront. It’s not a great option if you are budgeting a certain way and in times when I don’t want to pay upfront, I use Expedia.
    • All in all I still highly recommend Airbnb and have never had any creepy experiences or found any dead bodies haha. Every place has been clean and exactly as advertised.
  • If you want to try Airbnb make sure to use my link HERE for $40 off your first booking!

TIPS WHEN BOOKING ONLINE

Before we go, I wanted to share a few more tips that have saved me major money while booking our travels!

    1. Clear your browser history and cookies/Search Incognito mode
      • Have you ever noticed when you are planning a trip and start comparing deals that the prices are all of a sudden going up by the second?! That’s because Google has stored and shared your information with various sites that you are looking to travel to this place on these dates. Prices for those dates start to inflate the more you search for them and before you know it, you will have paid double the price for those dates. To prevent this from happening and getting the best prices, make sure to book through Incognito mode and clear all browser history and cookies before searching online
    1. If at all possible, try to fly on a Wednesday or Thursday
      • Wednesdays and Thursdays are usually much cheaper than Friday-Sunday prices. I try to plan all trips where we fly out Thursday after work (if we are off Friday) and return home on Sunday if it is a quick weekend trip. We end up saving a good couple hundred dollars
    1. Book in Advance or Super Last Minute
        • There are 2 ways to get incredible deals. Either book months in advance or book the day of/before. Now I am too OCD to leave anything up to fate and plan the day of/before. However, recently I was searching online for basketball tickets in March and saw the seats I was looking at in March were going for more than half off for tonight’s game. They weren’t able to sell them and were offering low prices to make some money rather than no money. A lot of hotels and flights will do the same. They will offer the lowest price they can the day before/of to fill the seat or room. Some money is better than NO money.
      • But if you are a planner like me, I find booking 3-4 months in advance has saved us quite a bit of money and we also have a larger selection to choose from. Right now we are planning to go to Portland in March and Airbnb’s in the district we like are going for only $69 at a Super Host. That is an incredible deal!!!
  1. Travel in the Off Season
      • Chad and I try to book all of our trips if possible in the areas offseason. For instance, we are traveling to Italy at the end of this month with my in-laws and were able to get INCREDIBLE deals because it’s not tourist season. The weather is still enjoyable (the 50s and 60s) and we will be able to see so much more for half the cost and not have to fight any crowds.
    • Same for when we traveled to Alaska. We booked our Disney Cruise for the date of the last trip of the season. The weather was still great but all the ports were having INCREDIBLE sales and basically giving everything away for free since we were the last ship of their season. We booked a Disney cruise while school was in session so prices were lower and kids didn’t rule the ship.

Well, that’s all for now! Traveling is a huge passion of ours and we are always finding ways to travel more without breaking the bank. Stay tuned for more travel tips and tricks.

Also, if any of these tips worked out for you or helped you score a huge deal, I would love to hear about it! And if you are an avid traveler like me, I would love to hear YOUR favorite tips and tricks. Drop a comment below or shoot me a DM on Instagram

Happy Traveling,

Mariah

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