- Loren Bendele, CEO, savings.com
- Seth Kugel, Frugal Traveler blogger, New York Times
- Nina Willdorf, editor in chief, Budget Travel
1. Off-season doesn’t mean the wrong season, but it does mean deals and discounts.
Bendele: “It doesn’t mean you’re going when no one wants to go or that you won’t be able to experience the best of that area. Some of my favorite travel experiences have been during the off-season.”
Kugel: “Huge tourist destinations are the best bet for sharp discounts in the off-season because these economies are completely dependent on tourist income as opposed to business-travel income.”
2. You’ll save more on hotels than airfare.
Bendele: “If hotels can fill an otherwise empty room for 25 or 50 percent of what they normally get, that money is just straight to their profit. Airlines just won’t fly as many trips.”
Kugel: “By far the nicest hotels I’ve stayed in for very small amounts of money have been major chain hotels, like Marriott, which I get on priceline.com. The best deals in these places are during the off-season.”
3. Do your homework.
Bendele: “Get on a site like tripadvisor.com, talk to friends, and find other communities. Go to the local chamber of commerce or local travel bureau’s website, and get on the phone with people who work there.”
Willdorf: “I’ll find a specific deal online or something through the hotel’s own social-media marketing efforts or through a discount club like jetsetter.com. Then I call the hotel and try to book it directly, and I say, ‘I found this deal online, but I’d rather book it through you.’ You can talk about what type of room you want, and they’ll have all your information when you get there. Sometimes they’ll offer you the same rate as online, and sometimes they won’t. You can go back and book the one you found online.”
4. Know when school’s out.
Kugel: “Not that children aren’t delightful, but I’ve been in places where there are huge groups of schoolkids running around making it a much less pleasant experience than it would otherwise have been.”
5. Remember business travelers.
Kugel: “Cities and major business centers are not as attractive for people looking for off-season deals, because there’s no off-season for business travelers. It’s hard to imagine a season in New York City that’s the off-season.”
6. Use social networks.
Bendele: “Everybody knows somebody who knows somebody who’s in that area or was in that area or is from that area. Put up a Facebook post that says, ‘I’ve been thinking of going to Seattle. Is there anyone from Seattle or who knows someone there?’”
Kugel: “I called a place in Barbados. It was the off-season, and I said, ‘Is that your cheapest room? What if I stayed a few extra days?’ She said, ‘Well, I can offer you the rate for Caribbean citizens.’ Caricom is the term for the Caribbean community, and there’s a rate for native Caribbeans. It was really easy for her, and it would never have come up online. Only by my calling the hotel did she think of saying, ‘Oh, we can slip you in under this Caricom rate.’ ”