Whenever I am at a drinks or dinner party, I usually get stuck with the bore who always gets the best deal, made the most money selling his house/car, and has a system for striking the best travel deal. He has a secret that no one else knows, and I just know that he is going to share it with me…… for the next couple of hours.
It is no good me telling him that there is no secret formula, and that at the end of the day, getting the best price is as much about luck, being in the right place at the right time, as in skill or judgement. He knows best because he always gets the deal no one else can.
There is an element of judgement in involved. To a very large extent, travel prices will be governed by supply and demand. The more people travelling, the less availability there will be, so the travel operators will put up their prices. It’s not rocket science. So, travelling during school holidays will be much more expensive than during term time. Feel like an impulsive dash to Berlin this weekend? So too does everyone else, so guess what happens to the price at weekends? Usually fewer people will travel on a Tuesday or Wednesday, so prices may be lower then, but you still need to do your research. Who else will be travelling to your proposed destination at that time? Don’t expect to pick up a bargain Barcelona break if there is a big football match mid week? It might pay to be a little flexible with your travelling plans, say compare the prices this Tuesday with that Tuesday, or could you go Thursday? Do you have to be in the centre of Rome or could you be 10 minutes away by Metropolitana if your hotel is close to a station?
The myth that holiday companies now offer rock bottom prices close to the departure time because they do not want to be left with unsold holidays has long been exploded, but still persists in the most stubborn of minds. Usually prices will go up the closer to departure time, not down, and holiday companies are more than happy to lose the occasional sale because the loss of income is more than made up by the higher costs that everyone else has to pay. Many companies will offer “early bird” discounts where the travel is booked more than 6 months in advance. It is almost always better to book early to get the best prices as well as the best availability. What is left close to departure is what no one else wants!
The best advice, however, that I have received with getting the cheapest price came from a surprising source, a travel blogger and expert in cheap prices: Don’t worry about getting the cheapest price. Do some research and find a price you are comfortable with, then book it and forget about the price. Prices go up and down, and if your only criteria is the lowest price, the chances are that you will either lose the availability or you are going to be constantly worrying whether you got the best price or not. But you should also be looking at factors like the times of the flights. If the cheapest price is a late night flight, do you really want to be hanging around an airport because your hotel has an early check out time? Is that long connection time really worth it?
Travel agents and consultants may not be able to get the best prices, but they usually can get the best value prices as well as saving you a massive amount of time in searching for the best prices and locations. They usually can offer the option of paying a deposit plus instalments provided that there are several months between paying and departure.