DH and I like to travel comfortably - our idea of travel is not camping, sharing bathrooms with people we don't know (ie hostels), or taking exceptionally long layovers just to get a cheaper price. We also will not use Priceline for airline tickets - the chance of getting longer layovers, more than one stop and inconvenient flight times is more than we are willing to take for perhaps a $25-$50 savings.We do travel a lot - the majority of our travel involves airlines - although some of it has involved amtrak or driving (to/from destination).I thoroughly plan out our vacations and get initial estimates on costs so we can start saving. Then, I start shopping out airline prices in detail - using first www.orbitz.com and compare to www.expedia.com - then I use www.sidestep.com (you have to download the program) to do more comparisons. THEN, after I've found the best flights and prices, I go directly to the airlines website and save even more money (you don't have to pay the $6-$12 per ticket fee that discounters charge you). Sometimes, I've found better prices directly at the airlines websites.Secondly, the vehicle is next (if you are renting a car). Use www.orbitz.com for general prices, then use your www.sidestep.com - then, go to www.hotwire.com and see if you can purchase your rental at an even better rate.A suggestion, don't go with unknown rental companies - we did this on one trip and truly regret it. The inconvenience, bad customer service and terrible car we got was NOT worth the $30 we saved on the entire rental.Recently, for our Christmas trip, I had a car reserved directly through a car rental company, at the best price I could find. I kept watching the sites as it got closer, including www.hotwire.com. Then, hotwire popped up with a price that saved us $30 over the entire rental - so I booked it (you have to pay upfront) and it ended up being the exact same car with the exact same company I had already reserved a car from - excellent!Hotels... this one is tricky. Generally I'll browse through www.orbitz.com and www.hotels.com to get ideas on area hotels, their "ratings" by these companies, etc. Plus, these sites give me rate ideas. Then, I'll check hotwire to see if there are any comparable ratings with good rates - usually not - we did use hotwire to purchase a hotel room at the airport in CA the night before we flew out - it ended up being at a Crowne Plaza (which we like very much) and it was perfect. Crowne Plaza is known for beating internet rates - so check their sites first - check their lowest available rate AND triple A or AARP rates.. they are usually really good.We are staying in NYC right after the new year and there are some EXCELLENT rates available, both at Marriotts and InterContinental Hotels (Crowne Plaza, etc.). It's a matter of continually checking - knowing what the best rates are and grabbing the good ones as you see them.When we were in CA - we had reservations at a Howard Johnsons (2*) and we were willing to stay there for $65/night cause the best rates we could find in the area were $90+/night. For one night, I'd go better, for multiple nights, it adds up. Then, on a whim, I started checking Crowne Plaza and Marriott (4*) we found $70/night rates at the Crowne Plaza right on their website - we grabbed it - the $5 difference was well worth it. The going rate for that room (not rack, but average) was $130/night - rack was $180. When we saw the place we were going to stay, we were VERY glad we had purchased the Crowne's rooms.Anyway - I spend a lot of time in the preliminary part of the trip - getting excellent rates for plane/hotel/cars.Also, you can determine places you'll want to set and pick up gift certificates/gift cards ahead of time - for example, a friend of mine receives a % back towards her kids private school tuition on all the gift cards she sells - to places like Applebees, Chilis, Red Lobster, etc.. all national chains. You can check and be sure the chains are located near where you'll be and pre-purchase the cards.For our Amtrak trips - Usually early spring (ie Jan/Feb) Amtrak has 50% off or buy 1 get 1 free - you can purchase as many tickets as you want and use them until they expire. We like to take the train into NYC - but we won't pay full price. So, last year, when they were on sale, we purchase 12 tickets (6 trips each) at 1/2 price - and had until the end of August to use them. There are some blackout days - like we couldn't use them on Saturdays, but that was ok for our plans. This year, if they go on sale again, we're going to pick up a couple for DC as well. Also, with Amtrak - you can easily change the traveler's name - so when my parents came to visit - we used 2 of our tickets for them - with no problems - they aren't like airline tickets.Hope this helps.C.
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