Clark Howard

What’s More Important When Hunting for Travel Deals: Airfare or Hotels?

When it comes to travel, there’s more than one way to save money. You can and should shop the deal. Knowing which sites to visit and which deal alert systems to tap into can help.

But there's nothing like being flexible. Both in terms of dates and destination.

“My No. 1 rule of travel is to buy the deal first and then figure out why you want to go there,” Clark Howard says.

Which deal should you value most, though? As you have to pay for several different things no matter where you go?

What’s More Important: Cheap Plane Tickets or a Deal on a Hotel?

Should I prioritize cheap plane tickets, cheap lodging or something else when looking for travel deals?

That’s what a Clark Howard listener recently asked.

Asked Tim in California: "I know Clark likes to travel and usually bases his travel on where he finds the deal. But how does he decide what is first among the deals? Cheap airfare, cheap lodging, a combination? Or what is it that makes him pull the trigger?

"Also, has he ever taken a trip to Hungary? When is the best time to visit Hungary as far as airfare and places to stay? Would he do a river cruise in Hungary? What is not to be missed?"

The math on which percentage of your vacation budget goes toward plane tickets, lodging and experiences varies by person. The size of your travel group can swing the numbers quickly.

For example, let’s say a married couple is traveling with two young children for a weekend. They may be able to book a single hotel room or Airbnb. But they’ll have to pay for round-trip plane tickets for four people.

The cost ratio of air travel to lodging is going to be different for them vs. a solo traveler on a two-week trip.

Clark, a noted travel expert, always starts with plane tickets.

“You have 24 hours from when you see a bargain airfare to shop the other elements. So when there’s a great deal on airfare, that’s my trigger,” Clark says.

“I start when a bargain airfare pops up. I book it. Then I have my shopping window that I’ve gotta be all over to see what the total cost of that trip’s gonna be. And then I do the ‘go or no go’ at that moment.”

Clark recently booked an airfare to Hawaii, he explained. And once he saw how much accommodations on the island were going to cost during that time, he canceled the plane ticket within 12 hours of booking it.

Clark’s Advice on Traveling to Hungary

The key to visiting anywhere in Eastern and Central Europe, Clark says, is the time of year you visit. Especially for deal hunters, you need to be willing to brave the cold.

“It is a fraction of the cost going Nov. 1 to Feb. 28,” Clark says. “You just gotta bundle up.

“You know, you don’t have much daylight. You’ve got gray skies. Cold weather. But the cost of the trip is so much lower.”

Clark has never experienced a river cruise. But he still has some timely advice for Tim when looking into one.

“There have been some disappointments with the river cruises of late. Because of low water flow in a lot of riverways. And you end up on a bus,” Clark says.

“And your river cruise actually is a traditional 46-passenger bus for a lot of the trip if the water levels are too low. So pay close attention to that before you book one.”

Final Thoughts

Looking for travel deals? Start by scouting for a discounted flight. You can then shop your lodging and other expenses within the next 24 hours. If those turn out to be too steep, cancel your flight.

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