Booking Your Vacation Online
If you have some time to plan your vacation and you have access to the Internet, you can save money by making your own travel arrangements online.
When using the Internet, you have three primary options:
Book direct. Visit the airline, hotel chain, and rental-car company Web sites. Some guarantee that you'll get the lowest prices by reserving directly through their Web sites, and they may offer Internet-only specials. However, ferreting out the best deals and comparison-shopping can be very time-consuming.
Use a one-stop, online travel service. Sites such as Travelocity allow you to search quickly for the best flights, fares, and hotel and rental-car rates, and they may also offer travel packages.
Try auction and deep-discount Web sites. If you have a somewhat flexible travel schedule and can tolerate some uncertainty, you can save on airfares, hotels, and rental cars using services such as Priceline.
Name-brand companies use these services to sell excess inventory at bargain-basement prices. However, if everyone knows that a specific hotel is offering discounted rooms for $50 a night, no one will want to pay their regular price of $100 a night.
To avoid this problem, these services shield the seller's identity. They tell you when and where you'll be flying (but not the name of the airline), or they reveal the quality level and general location of a hotel (but not its name). You don't know exactly what you've reserved until after you pay for it, and then you're locked in, with no changes or cancellations allowed. It's less risky than it might seem because the reputable Web sites work only with well-known companies.
If you want to try using Priceline, the website BiddingForTravel.com can be a big help. Not only can you see what price others have gotten and where they're staying, but if you do a little research and post your particulars, a moderator will suggest a bidding strategy for you. If you're planning to buy your airfare, hotel, and rental car through Priceline, buy your airfare first because the company may then offer special “Insider Rates” for hotels and rental cars.
If you're willing to make these concessions, advertisements say you can name your own price, but that doesn't mean you can offer $10 for a four-star hotel in high season and expect to have your bid accepted.
Priceline and other auction sites work more or less the same. You do a little research, submit a bid, and it's either accepted or rejected. Under certain circumstances, you can bid again, but you may have to wait to do so.
Priceline and other auction sites can save you a lot of money, but you can't make changes or cancel your reservation, and you will not accrue frequent flyer miles or hotel points. If your travel plans are apt to change because of family or work situations, this may not be the best solution.
Other sites such as Hotwire are a little different. You submit your request, and they quote a firm price but will not reveal the details until after you've made your purchase.
Most California residents already know how to get to Disneyland. It's just off the I-5 in Orange County and the exit is labeled “Disneyland.” Many come in their own automobiles, but if you're getting to Southern California from farther away, you have several options.