Personal Finance Interview with Brian Prince on Budget Travel for Mint.com
If you've been bitten by the travel bug but are low on funds, there's no need to give up on your dream vacation just yet. You just have to think outside the box--or outside the season.
"Traveling off-peak is definitely a great way to save money on travel, and for those without fear, you can take advantage of the off-season weather threats like hurricanes and typhoons to maximize your hard-earned dollar," says Brian Prince of HotelsCheap.org. "Off-season is one of the frugal traveler's best assets.
If you're not up for braving possible hurricanes and typhoons though, there are plenty of other options. Like using sites like HotelsCheap.org that offer budget travelers bargains on lodging.
Brian recently checked in with us to offer more tips on saving money on your next trip.
Can you tell us a little about HotelsCheap.org? When and why did you start your site?
We launched the company in 1999, as the internet landscape was awakening and we saw the opportunity for travel research and commerce in this new digital medium. Since inception, we've had one goal in mind: delivering quality online travel products to our customers at discount prices while providing exceptional customer service.
We launched HotelsCheap.org in 2002 with the goal of providing our customers with great deals on hotels around the world and helpful travel content. Our success has been built on a foundation of exclusive hotel listings curated for the budget traveler, helpful landmark and airport hotel guides, and topical articles organized around top travel destinations worldwide.
Who should be visiting it?
All of our hotel deals are curated with the budget traveler in mind. Anyone who is planning anything from a one-night business trip to a seven-day Disney vacation can visit HotelsCheap's Last Minute Deals offers, or utilize our Bargain Hunter matrix to compare the cheapest hotel deals available by star rating in any given city. Both are simple and effective ways to find a great hotel that fits your budget.
What sets your site apart from other travel deal sites?
On top of offering the guaranteed lowest hotel rates online, HotelsCheap features proprietary Loyalty Hotel Coupons to all customers who book and consume a hotel reservation via our website or call center. After the guest's stay is completed, a 10 percent discount coupon is sent via email, ready for immediate use. Coupons are good for a year and are valid for an instant additional 10 percent off at any of our 130,000 hotels worldwide with no black-out dates. The best hotel deals online just got 10 percent better!
Why are you so passionate about affordable travel?
With a middle-class upbringing and a passion to explore the world, I was forced to become a frugal traveler at a young age. Over time I have come to realize that travel can be expensive but it doesn't have to be. With that concept in mind, we built HotelsCheap to feature a wide-variety of low-cost hotels with high user ratings so everyone can learn from each other's experience and enjoy a nice hotel at a reasonable price point.
How are you able to find visitors to the site's great deals?
We were an early adopter of online travel and now have more than 15 years of satisfied customers to thank for our success. As such, we rely on a lot of repeat business from our existing customer base as well as positive word-of-mouth referrals from happy guests. Our HotelsCheap Loyalty Program has also been very well received in the marketplace; effectively guaranteeing customers an additional 10 percent off the best rates available online--every time they book with us. Budget travel consumers appreciate value, and they will reward you with their loyalty if you consistently offer a good hotel at a great price.
Aside from using a site like yours, what other advice do you have on finding affordable lodging at a travel destination?
The travel vertical is a dynamic and fragmented marketplace, giving consumers lots of opportunities to find a great deal if they are willing to put in the time and elbow grease. Aside from using major online travel sites, I like to use hospitality loyalty programs whenever possible, be it directly from the hotel or chain or from a credit card mileage program like American Express. Depending on the type of travel, I will also use a last-minute discount service like HotelTonight.com or utilize last-minute flash sales when available.
What are some easy ways anyone can save money on travel?
There's some easy wins like doing your homework for the best hotel and flight deals, but once you are booked, you can still save a lot of money by utilizing a trip budget, booking a room with a kitchenette, cooking your own meals, and using the power of the internet to find discount offers and coupons for local attractions, tickets, meals and activities.
What are some of your favorite destinations for families on a budget in the U.S.? What about overseas?
Large tourist destinations like Orlando and Las Vegas offer families a lot of choices and opportunities for families on a budget. There is so much competition amongst hotels, restaurants and attractions in these travel meccas that anyone on a budget can still get out and enjoy the city without breaking the bank. There is truly something for everyone, with lots of discount offers and coupons available for those looking to save. I would also suggest off-the-beaten path destinations like Colonial Williamsburg or big state parks like Yellowstone National Park for a great family vacation on limited funds.
Playa del Carmen and Cancun in Mexico both offer a plethora of resort vacation options, many of them relatively affordable for a family depending on the time of the year. Cruises offer another opportunity for families to travel to multiple International destinations without breaking the budget--and the meals are included.
What advice do you have for finding affordable airfare?
Airfare is a tricky one, as it is another dynamic and fragmented market. Typically I tell people to invest the time to do the work: check Google flights, utilize the major online travel sites including Expedia, Orbitz, Kayak and Priceline; and check the individual airline sites as well. To find a great flight deal, be flexible, consider off-peak times to fly, check alternate airports and nearby cities, and consider flights with connections. Deals are out there - but they typically come with concessions.