Where are the best travel deals? You may be surprised to learn that they are not online. Indeed! You should talk to a human. In fact, a recent six-question travel quiz by Good Housekeeping has a false answer. Can you spot it? If you picked the “online reservation” question, you are correct!
Peter Greenberg, The Travel Detective, spoke at the Chicago Travel & Adventure Show. Greenberg, who has probably already forgotten more travel secrets than we will ever know, asked how many of us made our reservations online. Nearly all of us proudly raised our hands. “You are so busted!” he declared, then he told us that only 52% of travel inventory is available online.
He had our full attention as he gave us set-by-step directions to making our travel better.
- Do some spy work . This means going online to your favorite travel website to get an idea what your flight/cruise/hotel/rental car will cost. Check a few sources, such as the company’s website and a “spider” website that draws from multiple websites, such as Kayak.com. Make a list options, but–this is very important–don’t limit yourself to the cheapest!
- Delete the cookies. After looking things up and clicking arounds, you leave a “footprint.” The site will recognize you if you return. Go ahead and try it for yourself. Look up a flight to Reno, Nevada on a Wednesday morning three months from now. Note the price. Then come back in an hour and try again…the price will have gone up. And not because everyone in the world has suddenly decided to fly to Reno on a Wednesday morning three months from now. Delete the cookies, clean out the cache, or even use someone else’s computer. Do this EVERY TIME you research.
- When you’ve decided where and when, pick up the phone! Yes, it seems old-fashioned, but online algorithms can’t improve your experience. Only a real, live person can do that. And they are happy to help. All you have to do is ask nicely.
- Using a hotel reservation as an example, here’s how it goes after you’ve already checked prices:
- Call the hotel directly. (Don’t use the 800-reservation number.)
- Ask for the Director of Sales. Even better, ask for the Manager on Duty, who is authorized to give free stuff and upgrades.
- Explain what you want and ask if the Manager can assist. Besides a room with a view, can you please have free parking and Internet? If there’s that (ridiculous) resort fee, can that please be waived?
- After your nice chat, follow up with an immediate thank-you email (you did remember to get the Manager’s name and contact information, right?) with a gentle reminder of what you discussed.
Voila! And if you read my post Hotel Secrets from a Front Desk Agent, you know to bring an envelope with a crisp $20 bill for the kind Manager who was so responsive to your requests.
Greenberg claims his travel deal method works with flights (“Can you help me get an aisle seat?”) or cruise (“Are you able to give us an upgrade to a balcony?”) or even a car rental (“Is it possible to get a mid-size car?”) Of course, don’t expect any magic if you’re going to a city on the day of the Superbowl or Opening Olympic Ceremony. And you probably won’t get a big boost at an already-economical place, like a Holiday Inn Express…there just aren’t many perks to ask for.
Still, if a hotel says they are full, Greenberg offers one last bit of advice. Ask two questions:
- “If the President showed up, would you have a room?”
- ” Can I have an out-of-order room?” (This is a room waiting for a small repair. Maybe a cracked mirror or a dented nightstand. You’ll sign a waiver, but the room is yours!)
Voila! Now get out there and create your own travel deals!