People often ask me how I find great deals or plan my own personal travel. This weekend, my husband and I saw an advertisement for a Food and Wine Festival in Atlantic City in July. It looked really interesting so I started to investigate. Here are the steps I took:
1. Can I go for free?: I did a quick check of my frequent flyer accounts to see if any of them had enough points for a free hotel or flight. They did not.
2. Figure out what which airports to use: I pulled up Atlantic City on Google Maps and looked for the surrounding large cities. Flying directly into Atlantic City or Philadelphia were the best bets.
3. Check airfare: I went to kayak.com and put in the dates and cities. I checked the two closest airports to where I live and both Atlantic City and Philadelphia. I also changed the dates to see if that made a difference. Then I went to southwest.com because Southwest isn’t included in the kayak search results. I searched there for flights as well. When I check flights, I pay special attention to if it is nonstop, the times and, if it stops, how long the layover is. Depending on the airport, an hour could be just right or way too short. Southwest had a roundtrip nonstop for a competitive price.
4. Check hotels: I went to the website of the hotel where the festival is taking place to check rates there. Then I went to hotels.com to see what they had available. I found two good options. When I search for hotels, I check for any additional fees: resort fees, parking, Wi-Fi, and taxes to make sure I understand the full cost of that hotel room for a night. I also check the deposit and cancellation policies.
5. Check for packages to reduce the price: I went back to Southwest to see if packaging the hotel, flight and rental care would lower the price. It did. I also found the website for the Festival to see if they had a promotion for room rates. They didn’t.
6. Check reviews: I wanted to check reviews of both the Festival and the two hotels. Trip Advisor had the hotels, but not enough reviews of the Festival. I went to Google and typed “Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival 2011l” “reviews” and that brought up several reviews.
7. Check with a travel agent: Because I am a travel agent – this was pretty easy. I logged into three different databases to check the hotel prices, the flights prices, and the package prices. I found deals $20 to $100 less than what I found just searching online.
8. Decide. This is the hardest step for a lot of people. Fear of overpaying often holds people back. My philosophy is that if you have done the research, you are comfortable with the price, and you really like the flight/hotel/itinerary – then book it and don’t look back. If you are not excited about the options, then keep looking. I have seen more examples of people paying more to book an itinerary they really liked a week ago, than people who found an awesome deal that met their needs later.
In the end, we decided attending the Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival didn’t make sense for us, but I hope this information was helpful to you. How do you research a trip? What parts of the itinerary are important to you?