shopping for cheap travel

Next month, Mr. M and I have two back-to-back weekend weddings to attend on the east coast: one in South Carolina and one on Long Island. That meant we needed to find a 3-legged flight that would hop us between locations as well as hotel and car reservations down south… and it also meant that I was on a “bargain spree” once again to save us some $$$ on the trip. I was not to spend over $1600 for the two flights, 4-nights hotel in SC & a rental car, and with some savvy online travel shopping we actually came in well under that total!


My first stop for all flight needs was my favorite travel search site: I love the way you can alter your search terms while you’re browsing the flights, by adding/subtracting airports (super important if you’re flying into the NYC area and don’t care which of the 3 airports you land at). changing your flight time window, and more. It really helps to see that your cheapest possible flight might be one low price, but for $40 more you can spend less time in the air or on stopovers and get your ideal flight times. You can even add in “baggage costs” to the estimate to see which flight is cheaper after that cost is incorporated (yes…paying for 3 legs of baggage… for a 10-day trip… not fun!)

From there, I used the flight information I gathered to visit to book our tickets. We’re lucky to have Premier status with United, so I knew if we could find all UA flights… we’d luck out with comfy seating and no baggage feeds on our flights. It was our luck that the cheapest “ideal” flight on UA was only a few dollars more than the overall flight… hooray!


Now onto the hotel booking… which was pretty simple since we wanted to stay at the Embassy Suites, as designated by the wedding party, in South Carolina. I just needed to see how to get the lowest price on that hotel, and we’d be set!

The wedding couple was kind enough to set aside a room block (and nice online web portal to reserve that rate), so I already knew what the “price to beat” was ahead of time. My first stop was, to see if our hotel was available for bidding at a super low price on It wasn’t one of the available hotels, so I checked out again to see the range of room rates. I ended up finding a rate at that was $30/night cheaper than the blocked rate.

Untitled-1 by you.

Before visiting the site, however, I went to to see if there were any rebate portals I could visit from and sure enough there was both a reward site AND a coupon code! So I logged into, clicked on the link to, entered my coupon code (ENTERTAIN50) and found and booked my hotel for a total savings of $120 for a couple of extra clicks. 


I’ve booked lots of rental car deals for Mr. M on his work trips, and I’m always amazed with the variation in prices that will come up. I’ve gotten him a car on priceline for $8/day one week, and then struggled to find a rate under $30 on the next trip for the same car/airport/etc. Yet, this is another travel expense that I’ve worked into a “deal” system. First two stops: and I like to see what prices people have paid at the same location for a car on priceline, and then see what the “rate to beat” is on hotwire. Then… I head over to priceline to start the car bidding process.

Cars are really easy on priceline, because you get 3-4 bidding chances each day, one for each class of car you’re after. If you can settle for a compact, start there with your lowest bid price and move up, and as long as you can beat hotwire’s price you’ve usually gotten a deal! I usually start around $13 and bid up by $2 until I hit mid-size… then try again the next day at $14. (For some people, this is frustrating and they just want a car the first time around or need to go through a certain company, so there’s always this discount code list for reference as well)

I know that lots of people have money headaches when it comes to travel (esp. for wedding weekends), so I hope some of my bargain tips can help you in the future!


  • Jenna

    Kim this post is fantastic! I’m excited to give this biddingfortravel trick a try. I’m sure it took you a good long while to write and I (I’m sure we all) really appreciate it.

  • Janet

    Have you ever thought of a career as a online deal hunter? ;) Seriously, you find deals like no one can! Good timing – I need to book a rental car in the next few days, too!

  • talda

    just when you think you know something, something else even better comes to blow you out of the water. thanks sooo much!