The holiday season is almost here! Can you feel it already?

You know what this means – everyone’s on the lookout for the best holiday travel deals! But, where do you find them? There are plenty of sites around that promise to get you the best deal (I read Intrepid is having a sale on black friday!), but do they really work as they promise they do?

I put up a quick list to help you decide for your vacation. After all, we want a good splurge that won’t make us poor next year, right?

Whystopover - How search holiday deals

→ Choose Wisely

Before you begin looking for deals, take the time to think about where you’re going. If you’re visiting family, obviously your destination is set, but if you’re just going out on a trip or vacation, try to stray off the beaten path. Look for a destination that is less popular during the wintertime (or in other parts of the world – summertime), and you probably don’t have to look as far as you think. Consider flying to a nearby area, or to a neighboring country rather than halfway around the world.

Once you have your heart set on a place, don’t hesitate to begin looking for a deal because booking in advance is definitely one of the top ways to save money on your airline seat and hotel room.

  • TIP: Book as early as possible. You can only book so far in advance, but you’re more likely to get a better rate a few months in advance versus waiting till last minute. Trust me, the airlines won’t be discounting seats at Christmas time!

→ When To Book

You’ll find the best fares at the start of the week (i.e., Monday and Tuesday) because airlines process demands over the weekend for each flight. So, if you can set aside your lunch hour, you could end up saving a substantial amount of cash booking a few weeks in advance.

Additionally, if you can, arrive early—sometime mid-week—and leave a little bit after the normal “holiday rush”. That means, if you’re going away for Christmas, try to stay longer after the holiday than before the holiday for the best rates and easiest travel.

  • TIP: Get creative with when you book. Looking for fares at the start of the week will get you lower rates, and if you choose to fly on the holiday itself, you can save big.

→ Use Deal Sites

Travel sites are great for finding places at your destination to stay, things to do, etc., but when it comes to finding a great deal, you shouldn’t just wait to book until last minute and rely on one of them to grab you the best price.

We all know of these well known websites, but if you actually compare the same destination and travel dates amongst them all, you’d get some slight variances in the results. That’s because these sites have deals with different hotel chains and airlines so they have more leeway regarding discounts with one over another. For instance, one site might be able to score you $20 less on your plane ticket with Airline 1, but another could save you more if you book a hotel and plane package together with Airline 2 and Hotel 1.

So, who’s better? It just depends on where you’re going, when you’re leaving, and how many other people have the same ideas as you.

  • TIP: Book online, and compare. Use the flexibility of the internet to your advantage by comparing all the big-name deal sites. See who has the best offer and remember what it is!

There are also some other tactics you can use to find a great travel deal this holiday season, like…

→ Find A Package Deal

Plenty of travel packages are available year-round, and they can actually save you money if you save your seat ahead of time. You can look online or head to a local travel agency where they can get you on a flight and at a hotel that fits your needs and your budget.

While you might think all the deal sites and online shopping can beat out a travel agent, the truth is that they still have huge relationships with airlines and hotel chains, and their one-on-one contact with both you and the place you’re booking at can mean even bigger savings than any third-party site could get you.

Before you jump on the next package deal, however, consider what it includes and what the terms are. Consider the hotel it is placing you at, and where that hotel is located. Think about breakfast and other dining options, and of course, think about the airline you’ll be flying with. If the package deal saves you $100 but has you on a flight with 3 connections and a 5-hour layover, is it worth the hassle? That’s up to you to decide.

  • TIP: Ask local travel agents to compare all your options, and look online (and offline) for package deals that include airline and a hotel. Just don’t be tricked into thinking it’s a better deal—consider where you’ll be staying and how long it will take to get there.

→ Have Your Heart Set?

If you already have your heart set on a destination, take “early booking” to mean real early. Even waiting for three months before a holiday to grab your hotel room could mean paying double the rates. Begin looking as early as you can and have the destination and travel dates in mind. As soon as the hotels you’re considering allow you to begin booking for those dates, do it. The further out you can book, the better—plus, you’ll have the peace of mind knowing you won’t be rushing to find an option last minute when everyone else is doing the same.

Over to you..

So where are you going for the holidays? Found any secret deals?