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We decided to collect basic information about comparing flight and hotel prices. The information may be familiar for many readers but we are quite sure less experienced travelers can learn something worth of money from this article.
Why to Compare Prices?
People prefer inexpensive prices. You probably choose the gas station where the fuel price is the lowest. Similarly, you buy groceries when they are on sale.
The same behavior can easily be applied to the hotel and flight bookings. When you already know a good hotel or a good airline, why to pay more if it is possible to get exactly the same service with lower price. And by being a little more adaptive with your requirements and accepting more complicated flight routing and worse schedule or by accepting a hotel to be a little out from the city center, you may save a lot. An important thing is that you must know what you want and only after that start comparing booking options.
When to Book?
There are countless guides telling when it is the cheapest moment to book hotels or flights. Some of them recommend booking 2 months before the journey and some of them 6 months before. According to our experience it is really complicated to give a good answer.
One thing is clear. You should book hotels and flights early enough. However, hotel and flight prices are varying all the time and the logic behind the prices is complicated. Different companies have different logic. Shortly, it is almost impossible to know when it is the best moment.
To catch a good price you should be aware about the price baseline. Start following prices early before you intend to place a booking. When you are aware of the normal price level you will recognize a cheap price. Try to avoid last minute bookings because they tend to be more expensive. Especially low fare airlines are selling the cheapest tickets quickly. With them, book early.
The day of the week matters too. We recommend you to book on a day when you estimate the demand to be lower.
Flight Comparison Tools
A simple way to compare flight prices is to visit different airlines' web pages and to make queries there. However, this will take a lot of time and it is inefficient. Even though you may have time for this long-lasting browsing it is probable that finally you will never find the cheapest prices. Airlines tend not to show all routing options on their own pages and they are not showing the cheapest rates when they notice people are coming directly to their web page. That is called loyalty but sometimes loyalty costs more.
So please consider using the following tools if you want to save money to have a cafe latte in Paris or more beer in Munich.
Skyscanner* is our favorite comparison tool. It had a nice user interface before but unfortunately after those times it has gone a little worse. But it is still quite usable.
You can try the web version at www.skycanner.fi* or install its application to your phone or tablet. Comparing prices with Skycanner* is visual and finding the cheapest rate is moderately easy. Finally Skyscanner* forwards you to the booking site where you can finish the booking. In other words, you never do the booking via Skycanner* itself.
A few warnings before you go on. Skyscanner* compares a lot of travel agencies and thus gives a big list of prices on different booking sites. It may not always be the wisest idea to choose the cheapest travel agency. Consider using a travel agency you know to be reliable. Compare also all extra fees. Travel agencies often charge credit card fees and Skyscanner* does not include them in its prices. So you still need some manual work when using Skycanner*.
After these warnings if you feel scared about using third parties and quite unknown flight booking sites, ask Skycanner* to forward you to the airline's own web page. The price is usually a few euros more expensive but in a case of problem everything goes much more smoothly.
We prefer booking on third party booking sites but we only use ones that we have found reliable before. This way we have been able to save a few percents of money for every single booking. Not big money, but it still matters especially when it accumulates.
As Skyscanner, Momondo is a similar comparison tool. According to our opinion, it has a really nice user interface. The prices are sometimes cheaper found by Momondo compared to Skycanner. All other previous mentioned things apply. Momondo also has an app for phone and tablet. However, we have not had much experience about using Momondo but we have started to find it to be worth of a test.
You want to compare prices really carefully? Why not to try one service more.
Kilpailuttaja.fi* is a Finnish service where you can compare prices of different services like flights. The service works just like Skyscanner or Momondo. You tell it your travel wishes and Kilpailuttaja.fi suggests you good connections. Booking itself will be made via a 3rd party travel agency where you will be led after you have found a good option.
You can also use the service to compare prices of electricity contracts or travel insurances. Unfortunately the service is only in Finnish language, so if you don't master Finnish well enough we recommend you to use Skyscanner.
Summary of Flight Comparison Tools
As we said before: if you are not an experienced flight booker, do the booking on airline's own web page. Use the previous mentioned tools to compare prices but finally head to the airline's own page to finish the booking. That is the most reliable way and booking flights is simpler. You will see all the booking terms clearly. Please avoid going directly to airline's web page but head there via a price comparison tool to get cheaper prices.
Prices that Comparison Tools Won't Find
Do the previous flight comparison tools find all available prices? No! Sometimes airlines have campaigns that are only visible through their own web pages. Some campaign require to log on as a loyalty member. Some campaign require using discount codes or your own flight miles to get a discount.
To be able to take the advantage of these special prices you should follow airline's marketing. If you already have chosen the airline you will fly by, try to find out information about its current and coming campaigns before booking. Qatar Airways is a good example about an airline which has special campaign prices that you won't easily find through flight comparison tools.
Hotel Comparison Tools
Several flight comparison tools are also capable to compare hotel prices. We have a few of our own preferences.
As stated earlier Momondo has a great user interface. Comparing hotel prices with a laptop or a mobile device is easy. But it is always nice to try other tools too. Don't forget to try Momondo.
Trivago is advertising a lot. According to our experience Trivago does not always "find" the cheapest prices.
The user interface of Trivago is nice and it works really well with a mobile device. We suggest to double check prices with other tools too, not only using Trivago.
Hotelscombined.com* is not that well known comparison tool as Momondo or Trivago. We have noticed that it often finds lower prices. The tool differs from the others, and it always shows the whole accommodation price but not a single night price. This tool is really worth of trying. Our suggestion is to do the final check with hotelscombined.com*.
Kilpailuttaja.fi* is capable of comparing hotel prices too. So if you prefer this Finnish comparison tool head to this service. Remember that kilpailuttaja.fi is also capable to compare other prices than just flights or hotels.
Best Price Guarantees
Majority of hotel booking sites state they have the best price guarantee. What it really means differs a lot.
After you have found the cheapest price check if the booking site has the best price guarantee option. If yes, read its terms carefully. If you accept the terms, continue with the booking. There is a possibility that you may claim money back later if you find the same room with the same terms somewhere else cheaper.
Another approach is to check if the hotel's or hotel chain's own web page has the best price guarantee too. If yes, booking the hotel directly from the hotel's own web page is the wisest option and claiming money back right away after the booking by showing the same room is available somewhere else is a good option. WARNING: read the terms really carefully because they differ a lot.
Please read our (Finnish) article, how we used the best price guarantee earlier.
We commonly use a few hotel booking sites. They may not always be the cheapest ones but we have found them reliable. Sometimes it isn't wise to risk the booking to save a few euros but booking from a reliable site may be safer. The following hotel booking sites are reliable according to our experience but of course we can't take any responsibility on behalf of them. But they are worth to try.
We have booked several hotels via Otel.com*. Not any single time we have had any problems. Otel.com also has often discount coupons to get some extra discount. The price level is quite good. Absolutely worth of trying.
Agoda* is a well known booking site and this site we have also been using often. Not any single problems with them and they also have their own bonus program.
According to our experience Amoma*has often the lowest prices. In addition they often offer some discount coupons to claim even more discount.
With Amoma we have had a few problems, unexpected cancellations. Their customer service has been superb and they have always solved the problems better than we have even been expecting. Usually they have given even a better hotel for the same price.
As other previously mentioned services, booking.com* is also a reliable booking site with a nice user interface. If you are a fan of this service, continuing to use it is just a good option.
More Innovative Hotel Booking
Rocketmiles* is a company that is not always the cheapest one but the rates are still quite moderate. We have tested this service without any problems. In addition to the hotel booking you will get airlines' bonus miles. If you are a fan of collecting airline miles, you should consider using this service. If not yet a member we strongly encourage you to join.
As a new member to Rocketmiles you will get 1000 extra points after the first booking via our Rocketmiles referral link* and joining is free of charge.
Pointshound* has exactly the same idea as Rocketmiles. Joining both programs is possible as you wish.
As a new member to Pointshound you will get 500 extra points after the first booking via our Pointshound referral link* and joining is free of charge.
Both Rocketmiles and Pointshound points collected can be transferred to many different airline loyalty program like Norwegian reward, Finnair Plus or Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles program. If you are not familiar about airlines bonus programs you can read for example about Norwegian Reward.
One of the newest hotel booking site is called Dreamcheaper*. This German company has an innovative idea how to make you to save money.
Before booking a hotel via Dreamcheaper you need an existing reservation. In fact the idea is to re-book the same hotel cheaper or a better hotel for the same price. That is why it is called Dreamcheaper: you will reach your dream cheaper.
The requirements to use this service is to have an existing booking and the booking must be refundable. It does not matter where you have made the original booking. In order to find a cheaper price you need to forward the booking details to Dreamcheaper and they try to find a better price for you. If you are lucky and they find a better rate they will contact you. You can accept their new proposal and they re-book the hotel for you cheaper and cancel the previous booking. Of course you can also reject their proposal. The benefit is that they are doing all work on behalf of you.
Registering into their service is free. Using the service is free too. If they find you a cheaper price they are asking a small commission from the saved money.
Booking Directly from Airline and Hotel
Booking directly from the airline or on the hotel's own web page is usually always more expensive option. But there are a few good reasons to do it still:
- Solving possible problems is always easier when there are no 3rd parties.
- Hotels usually do not give bonus points when a 3rd party booking site is used. If you prefer loyalty programs, book directly from the hotel. This rule does not apply to airlines.
- Hotels and airlines sometime have offers that 3rd party sites have no idea about. Always check direct prices before booking.
- The best reason: some hotels have the best price guarantee and they will pay you money back if you find their room on a 3rd party site cheaper. This is a great reason to book directly from the hotel. Direct bookers may get some extra benefits like bonus points or free minibar.
The major disadvantage is that in average you are always paying more when you do a direct booking. If you want to save money as we do, prefer 3rd party booking sites but please understand the possible risks.
We wish this information is useful for you. However we do not take any responsibility about your flight or hotel bookings on these sites but we wish you to be able to save money. Please send us feedback via our contact form or comment below.
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We are updating articles when we get new information. This article has been edited last time on 05/22/18.