By now, you probably know that I obsessively stalk travel deals. I have a whole Twitter list dedicated to it and, assuming I’m not in the middle of traveling, I check it a few times a day. Some amazing deals have come through even before the email alerts go out. Indispensable.

The key to getting travel deals while they’re still available is quick booking. Some are only around for a few minutes, some for hours, but rarely more than a day. Decision time has to be kept to a minimum.

Sometime on Friday afternoon, I spotted a tweet from The Flight Deal:

Since I stalk travel deals so much, I knew this was a solid fare and I immediately texted my Paris-loving frequent travel buddy, Jimelle:

Let's go to Paris!

Thus, a trip was born.

Luckily, this Delta deal had tons of availability from November thru March, so I wasn’t super worried about time. And since Paris is higher on Jimelle’s list than it is on mine, if I didn’t get this particular trip, I wouldn’t have been too upset about it. So as soon as Jimelle got home from work we set about looking for dates. We decided on the end of March because that would give us the best probability of good weather.

$558 Roundtrip, including taxes and fees. Going into the high season for Paris, that’s a really solid deal.

Delta_-_Book_a_FlightAs of 9/4 at 11PM there is still lots of availability between NYC and CDG!

My airfare in the last 3-4 years has been booked almost exclusively on deals like this. Here’s how I do it:

Follow the Deals

Shameless plug for my Travel Hacking Twitter list again, but seriously, it’s saved me thousands of dollars. Another good option is Hipmunk airfare alerts, especially if you’re looking for specific dates. As soon as something strikes your fancy, click through and explore.

Don’t Think Too Hard

Once you find a deal, if you know some rough dates that might work for you, throw them into the search! I know that at the moment I have a more flexible schedule than most, but if you have some vacation days coming your way, count them up and look for a set of flights that fits in that window. If something could even remotely work, book it! Nearly every airline has a 24-hour cancellation policy. If you have the space on your credit card (which I hope you do, otherwise maybe you shouldn’t be booking this trip), then book it at absolutely no risk!

This is the part that people don’t often realize. There is no risk to booking a flight on an airline with a 24-hr cancellation policy.

Get the fare while you can. You have 24 hours to figure out plans, ask your boss for the time off, or decide to cancel.

I always book through Expedia if I can (more on triple-dipping in another post). Expedia’s cancellation policy is often even better than the airlines - they sometimes give you until 11:59PM the next day to change your mind.

Book Multiple Itineraries

It’s not uncommon for me to book a ticket and then go back and 15 minutes later book a variation of that itinerary if it works better for me. I always book using the mentality that it’s better to lock in my price and get a guaranteed trip at a good fare than to miss it altogether because I spent too long obsessing over details like the ideal departure time or whether I should take a flight with a layover (that would get me more miles) or something direct. Lock in the price. Then look for something better. The 24-hour cancellation policy still holds true. In fact, for this flight to Paris, I booked 2 separate itineraries less than 10 minutes apart!

First booking at 9:27PM and the next at 9:37PM. Call me Quick Book Vargas?First booking at 9:27PM and the next at 9:37PM. Call me Quick Book Vargas?

Using this tactic, I was able to find flights that were more conducive to my mom’s schedule (can you tell she’s my designated airport pickup? Thanks mom.) AND I managed to extend my trip by a full 7 days FOR THE SAME EXACT PRICE. Granted I’ll have another 7 days of food and accommodation to worry about, but that’s an issue for another day.

Don’t Forget to Cancel

Um, yeah. This is obvious, but sometimes you get so excited about booking your trip and finding the perfect itinerary, you forget to cancel the ones that don’t work. Set a reminder on your phone or your calendar for 22 hours after your initial booking. Better not run the wire at the risk of hundreds of dollars.

Bask In Your Success

Booking travel deals, especially when you like to travel on a budget, is an awesome way to stretch your dollar on a trip. Think about it - if you booked a standard fare to Europe in March or April, that’s easily a $1,000+ fare. If you got this fare at less than $600, you would free up $400 of your budget for actual fun things in Europe! That $400 can get you 10 nights+ in a hostel. It could feed you for at least 8 days if you don’t go to pricey restaurants. Or, if you’re looking for luxury, you just bought yourself a night in a pretty swanky hotel! Don’t consider food and accommodation fun? Well then put that $400 toward a shopping spree or a paraglide off the Swiss Alps. Hell, you could even put it toward a few train tickets and see even more cities than you’d originally planned.

For me, that $400 is going toward paying for those extra 7 days I scored!

Questions?

I love helping people find travel deals and go to places they didn’t think they could afford to go. If you’re hunting for your next trip and want a hand finding something, get in touch! I have way too much fun doing this to keep it to myself. All I ask is that you send me a postcard from wherever you end up. :)