Join mailing lists. Recently I went to Miraval Resort in Arizona, a top world spa and way over my usual budget. How did I do this? My friend was on their mailing list and got word that they were having an incredible summer sale, so we booked it immediately. Hotels and airlines will notify subscribers of their deals right away, and that is more than worth sifting through the junk mail you will receive. I never book full price hotels or flights anymore – there is always a sale to be had!
Use group discount websites and loyalty programs. Websites like Travel Zoo, Group On, Wag Jag, etc. all have travel sections that you can usually search by region. There are great deals here if you are flexible! Other websites, like itravel2000.com, often have promos where if you sign up for their newsletter or app you get a travel voucher – usually $50. Also, if a hotel offers a loyalty program, sign up for it. One great one in Ontario, Canada is SkyLife (includes resorts like Deerhurst and Horseshoe) – you get 15% off spa or food purchases, amongst other things.
Use points cards. After years of ignoring my Rewards Visa, I had thousands of points and was able to save $230 on a flight to Chicago. The beauty of this system was that unlike AeroPlan or AirMiles, there was no blackout period, no limit on which flights you could take — it was just a direct discount on any flight. I suspect many banks offer this type of direct points credit card. I am considering signing up for a card with a small annual fee to maximize points (it might be worth it but I haven’t worked out the numbers yet). Now I charge every single purchase to my Visa card and then pay it all off at the end of the month (don’t let the balance carry – this is not worth the points!). AirMiles has now added a loyalty management company that charges for bookings (my last charge was $10) so I generally don’t use them anymore.
Just ask. It never hurts to ask the hotel manager casually and nicely for an upgrade. If you are celebrating a special occasion, let them know. If you are a returning customer, let them know. If your friend raved about and recommended the place, let them know. It generally costs nothing for the manager to upgrade you to a better room, but it’s a great sign of customer service for loyal guests. I usually do some investigating to get the manager’s name/email address (Trip Advisor is a great place to start – they will often leave their name when responding to reviews). I then email them a few days before I’m coming to let them know how much I am looking forward to staying with them and any special requests. The squeaky wheel really does get the grease!
Enter contests. Seriously, I know this sounds kind of crazy, but if I see a contest for just about anything, I enter it. People do win these things….I know some of them myself! You really have nothing to lose (yes you will likely end up on a mailing list but just set up a separate email address for this or quickly scan through your emails – really no big deal!).