Finding amazing travel deals: $150 for air, hotel

A flexible schedule — and an understanding boss — can help you capitalize on the deals.
Joe Cavaretta/Associated Press/File 2005
A flexible schedule — and an understanding boss — can help you capitalize on the deals.

Jessie Purton won the frugal travelers’ lottery. A bit of luck, quick thinking, and lots of flexibility landed her an amazing deal: a four-night Carnival cruise to Mexico and two nights in a Miami hotel for just $275.

Purton, 30, found the cruise online in January, shortly after the Costa Concordia — owned by Carnival — ran aground off the coast of Italy. She and six friends booked the deal on a BlackBerry — they weren’t at home at the time.

Savvy travelers can find some incredible sales, but they need to have fluid schedules and a willingness to vacation at off-peak times.


An understanding boss is helpful, too.

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Purton is part of a small group of travelers who pick vacations based not so much on destination, but on cost. That could mean sitting on a tropical beach, strolling the Las Vegas strip, or sailing the Caribbean — as long as the price is right. They are people who always have a suitcase packed, just in case.

‘‘If I could be anywhere in the world, I would be on an airplane. I love traveling,’’ Purton said. ‘‘I come from a family of pilots.’’

Two years ago, Purton found a last-second ­vacation on the Monday after Thanksgiving — Cyber Monday. JetBlue was practically giving away Las Vegas vacation packages.

She and a friend booked round-trip flights from New York to Vegas and two nights at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino for $140.80 each, including all taxes and fees. They had to leave on a Tuesday and come back on a Thursday, but the cheap price made it worthwhile.


Sales like that typically last just a few hours and require flying on off-peak days. But Purton is lucky enough to have a flexible boss.

And ‘‘I’m a single gal,’’ she added. “I don’t have a family to take care of.’’

Here are some of the best ways to find great deals:

 Download mobile apps, bookmark pages, create online profiles, and add credit card information. That way, when a deal comes along, you can book it from anywhere with minimal hassle. By the time you get to a computer, it might be gone.

 Twitter and Facebook are your friends. Sometimes airlines, hotels, and cruise lines will post their deals on social media. More often, you will hear about them from industry watchers or friends.


 Sign up for text alerts. Travel blogs like Deals We Like will send you a text message when there is an amazing special with a short shelf life.

 Question travel newsletters. By the time a travel company e-mails you about a supposed sale, most of the spots are gone. Sometimes those deals aren’t any cheaper than what is normally offered. Like any savvy shopper, know what typical prices are so that you’ll know when the price has really gone down.

 Search for last-minute weekend fares. Each Tuesday, airlines e-mail offers for that coming weekend or the following one to fliers who have signed up online for deal alerts. Travelers have to depart late Friday night or anytime Saturday and come back Monday or Tuesday.

But at least such trips don’t gobble up any of those precious vacation days.