Can you hear all of those deals calling your name?
How to use the power of promo codes, comparison shopping, and deal hunting to enjoy a five-star vacation at a two-star price.
So you’ve got an awesome flight booked because you read our last episode of Jet with Jay where we helped you find cheap airfare?
Nice work! Now let’s find a place for you to sleep, a way to get around, and stuff to do… for less.
You Better Shop Around!
One of the most daunting tasks of planning any trip is figuring out where to stay, especially if you want to visit a city you’ve never visited. You’ve heard me talk about how awesome TripAdvisor is in previous episodes, but it’s helped guide us to amazing hotels for years.
Use the hotels tab on the main page and type in the city you’re visiting. TripAdvisor will show you the top ranked hotels in that city.
Narrow down your search by entering in your travel dates and any preferences (Free Wi-Fi, pool, etc.)
You can then browse almost every hotel in the city in one place. When you see one you like, check the reviews. Mrs. Kruz and I often joke that we are a “4.5 bubble family.”
TripAdvisor ratings are from one to five bubbles. I’m not sure what they’re official breakdown is, but in our experience, it goes something like this:
5 bubbles – You’re gonna have an amazing time at this place!
4 bubbles – Probably a pretty good stay, might be one or two things that could be improved.
3 bubbles – Ehhh, you can do better. (I don’t book properties with 3 bubble ratings)
2 bubbles – Nope. Not tonight, not ever.
1 bubble – Sleep in your car. Literally stay anywhere else but here.
#4. Companies like Vacation Express make it easy to take a break without the hassle
Ok, maybe you’re not exactly the kind of person who thinks competitive travel shopping should be an Olympic sport. (That’s cool. We can still be friends!) You’d rather just find a place to go, click a button, and have someone else take care of everything else.
Meet Vacation Express.
They’ve been booking hassle-free vacations for millions of people since 1989 and they’ve been having some really great deals from CVG lately to places like Cancun, Riviera Maya, Punta Cana, and Cozumel.
These trips include literally everything. Airfare, hotel, meals, drinks, airport shuttles, and some even include activities! Just pack your swimsuit and go.
And if you’re the last-minute type, Vacation Express has a last-minute deals page where you can save up to 84% on your trip from CVG.
That’s a good price, but we can do even better!
Here’s a few ways to save even more:
- Create a free account on each of the sites mentioned above. They’ll often send coupons and discounts for members only that you can apply to bookings.
- Use RetailMeNot to find promo codes. Note: not every code works with every hotel. There can be exclusions, however, we have been able to save an extra 5% – 20% on already discounted hotel stays.
- Always check the hotel site directly. Sometimes they offer packages or buy two, get the third night free offers that don’t show up on TripAdvisor or other booking sites that can end up saving you 33%.
Jay, what do I do about “The Great Rental Car Shortage?”
You’ve probably seen the news stories about how rental car companies sold off large portions of their fleet when COVID hit. And it’s true, rental cars are in short supply in some cities as travel reaches pre-pandemic levels in many destinations.
Here’s how to avoid paying $200/day for a compact car!
- Try Priceline and Hotwire for rental cars. I’ve rented from nearly every major rental car brand and they’re all pretty much the same.
- If you don’t require a specific size car, try a “Manager’s Choice” or “Supplier’s Choice” option. It’ll save you money and you could end up with a better car than you were going to book.
- Try adjusting your pickup / drop off time. Sometimes different times of day can make a difference.
- Use a discount from AAA, AARP, or similar groups. (Fun fact, you don’t have to be over 50 to get an AARP membership.) Check with your employer to see if they offer any rental car discounts too.
- Sign up for a free account with all of the major rental car companies. They will periodically email promo codes and deals. I create a separate folder in my email to avoid cluttering my inbox
But say you’ve tried all of this, and you still can’t find a car?
Don’t worry. You have options:
- Turo is like Airbnb for rental cars. People who aren’t using their car will rent it out to people who need to rent. Much like an Airbnb, each rental is different and some people will drop your car off for you at a specific location while others will want you to pick it up from them.
- For destinations with good public transit or large cities with a big Uber or Lyft presence, consider skipping a rental car altogether. We’ve done this for many trips and enjoy the hassle not having the hassle of worrying about a car, fuel, scratches on the door, returning it on-time, etc. In European countries like Spain, Austria, Germany, France, the UK, and Poland, we’ve enjoyed using FREENOW (formerly MyTaxi).
- Scooters are fun but be careful and make sure you’re aware of local laws governing where you can and can’t ride them. Lime, Bird, and Uber all have scooter options. We tend to avoid them in large cities with busy roads.
- U-Haul. U-Haul. A friend of mine was booking a trip and couldn’t find a car for a decent price at the airport. So, they got an Uber to the local U-Haul, rented a pickup truck, and saved a ton of cash. I highly recommend reserving your vehicle ahead of time.
Finding cool stuff is as easy as… going back to TripAdvisor
I swear, TripAdvisor hasn’t paid me a cent to tell you how great they are. It’s just been an incredibly valuable travel resource for trips around the world!
And in addition to finding hotels, it also helps us find good restaurants and stuff to do.
The same principle applies as the hotel “bubble rating” system. Five bubbles = awesome meal. Grab the free TripAdvisor app for your phone. When you get hungry while you’re traveling, you won’t have to guess if a restaurant is good just by looking at the sign out front. You can use the “Restaurants Near Me” feature and find a highly rated spot to eat that fits your budget.
This also holds true for finding things to do in the city you are visiting. TripAdvisor will show you the highest ranked, most popular attractions by default. In larger cities, make sure to scroll deeper as there are often hidden gems or new things to do that may not be at the very top of the list.
You can book some activities directly in the TripAdvisor app, however, I have sometimes found it cheaper to contact the place directly.
PRO TIP: When visiting Europe, always look for Free Walking Tours. It’s the first thing we do in any city. They are normally 90 minute – 2 hour tours of a city that highlight major points led by a very knowledgeable local guide. So how is it “free?” Well, as your guide will explain, they work for tips. This is a moment of panic for many Americans. How do you tip 20% when it’s “free?” Best way we do it is to follow our gut. If we see people tossing in 10 Euros each, we’ll do the same. Or if a guide is especially terrific? We’ll give more. But it’s some of the best money we spend in each city.
So where do you want to go? Start your journey now by finding a cheap flight on the Jay’s Deals page and make sure to check out the Travel Navigator to book your next flight. Be sure to visit the Fly Healthy section to view the latest safety tips.
And of course, wear a comfortable mask – federal regulations require everyone wear face masks in all airports and on all flights right now.