Travelling on a Shoestring: Never say no to flight and hotel coupons

The point of this post is to answer a seemingly really simple question I get asked by my travelling buddies all the time: Are coupons helpful for online bookings? In other words, will using a promo code or an online coupon really save you money when booking a flight or a hotel room? Or are you basically wasting your time?

I’ve had the chance to travel longer stretches of around a couple of months, backpacking through parts of Western Europe, Northern Africa, Central America and a lot of North America in my early 20s. Now, my trips are typically more concentrated in 2 weeks journeys where every minute counts. So, I guess I’ve picked up a few tricks on how to save some bucks here and there in different travelling contexts.

From these experiences I’ve obviously learned that the answer to my aforementioned question is more subjective than a simple yes or a no. But it is clear in my mind that if you’re willing to spend a little bit of time looking online for coupons and deals, it probably won’t just be a few bucks that you’ll save.

In terms of airfare deals, there are always a lot to be found online. It’s pretty much a matter of taking your time to look at what’s available. Of course, sometimes you’ll just get lucky but the best way to optimize your chances is to head to a website like (if you live in Canada) or somewhere like RetailMeNot (if you live in the US) and have a look at their Travel category deals, from there you see all the most recent coupons and deals for the main airfare booking services, so you can cherry pick the deals that are most applicable to you. Personally, I usually find myself looking at promotional codes first and then if I’m not satisfied I’ll start shopping around at their other travel discount sites like Expedia.

As far as booking accommodation goes, the same process should probably apply to all types of travel, at least it does for me now I’m a super budget traveller. If you’re going to stay in hostels it may be harder for you to find discounts online due to the nature Hostels, as they are usually small businesses (and we want it to stay that way), but if you’re looking for a hotel room to splurge on and you’re somewhat flexible concerning where you want to stay, you’re bound to find a coupon or a deal. Last September I went to Switzerland and Croatia for a few weeks and didn’t have any problem finding great rates on accommodations, sometimes even on the day of my arrival in a city. And in terms of the time it took, I spent about 8 minutes researching each accommodation and flight and saved roughly in the 30-50% region on all my bookings, that’s quite a lot considering my total trip came to about $3000.

All right, I hope this piece helps you out. I know some of the stuff in here may sound a bit obvious, but you really only get good at finding online deals with a little bit of practice and time. If you want to cut to the chase, I think that heading to online communities, which make it their speciality to find these coupons for you, is probably your best option. Unless you’d rather pay the full price, something I personally simply cannot bring myself to doing. How about you? What are your best techniques on saving money on your travel?

One Response to “Travelling on a Shoestring: Never say no to flight and hotel coupons”

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  1. Thanks for the great read! I love to travel and although I am not much of bargain hunter, my girlfriend seems to do a great job for us! One she has taught me, is to call the hotel and ask them if they have a walk-in rate. If the hotel isn’t full there’s no point in securing a room earlier than you need to, although this tip doesn’t work for the busy travel season. On our last trip to the Oregon coast we stayed in a Best WEstern luxury suite (with an ocean view) for just $79 a night. Overall, we save $150 for the three nights we stayed there, just for securing the walk-in rate!