1. A little flexibility yields spectacular deals

Have you ever seen those ridiculously low fares on travel websites and wondered how they found them? Well, there’s a good chance they’re using KAYAK’s explore tool. On KAYAK, you simply pick your departing airport, set your dates for “Anytime, Any Duration,” and then pick your budget. KAYAK will then display all the prices on your search criteria.

an online map when searching for travel deals
Source: KAYAK

As you can see from the above screenshot, I found flights to Dublin from Toronto for $399 or to Bogota for $464. You have to click through to confirm the price and see the dates, but this tool is nonetheless one of the best travel hacks available since it’ll help you find cheap airfare with minimal effort.

2. Set up price alerts

Another feature that top travel websites offer (including Skyscanner and Google flights) is the invaluable price alert. This feature allows you to select flights you’d like to keep an eye on and then the website will email you whenever the price of airfare goes down. Since Skyscanner and Google flights have thousands of partners, you’re actually getting access to all of those sites at the same time, so there’s no need for you to spend hours scouring multiple platforms for the lowest airfare. Just wait for the emails and if you see a price drop down to a number you’re comfortable with, book it right away before it jumps back up.

3. A shoulder to fly on

When it comes to travelling on a budget in Canada, opening yourself up to alternative travel seasons can lead to major savings. Many of us tend to have a set location and dates in mind when we’re dreaming up our trips, but you’ll usually only find deals that check off one of those criteria, not both.

Travelling during the low or shoulder seasons is a great way to get the most bang for your buck. March break, summertime, and Christmas are the most expensive times to travel in or out of Canada, so try to plan your trip for late spring or in the fall. You could also fly out between Tuesday – Thursday or in the mid-afternoon, since those dates and times tend to have less demand.

4. Nab free flights with the right travel card

There’s absolutely no reason to pay for a flight or hotel without getting something in return. There are many Canadian credit cards that offer rewards points that, when accumulated, can be redeemed for free travel, and they offer stellar travel perks on the side. Earn enough points and you can even get free flights or a free night at a hotel.

5. Consolidate your points with transfers

Travel hacking in Canada becomes a bit easier if you know the value of your points and if/how they can be transferred to other loyalty programs. For example, American Express Membership Rewards have a base value of 1 cent per point if you redeem them for travel. Those points can be transferred to Marriott Rewards at a 1:1.2 basis which means if you want 50,000 Marriott Rewards points, it’ll cost you 41,667 Amex MR Points.

50,000 Marriott Rewards points will get you one free night at a category 6 hotel. However, the cash value of the night should be more than $416.67 to be worthwhile to you, since that’s the value of the points you had transferred from American Express. If the room you have an eye on only costs $350 for the night, you’re better off saving your 35,000 American Express Rewards points to make a more worthwhile redemption.

6. Sign up for every mailing list

Most people hate the idea of getting a bunch of emails, but it’s one of the quickest ways to find a travel deal. Travel websites, airlines, and tour operators always alert their mailing lists first about the most recent deals they offer. For sites that focus on mistake airfares, those deals could last just a few hours. For example, nextdeparture.ca recently found roundtrip tickets from Toronto to Thailand or Vietnam for $679 CAD which is about half of what you would normally pay.

Even major travel brands have special deals that go exclusively to their mailing list, since the exclusive deals incentivize customer loyalty. So next time you’re about to click ‘unsubscribe’, pause and reconsider. Don’t underestimate the value of a few extra emails landing in your inbox. It’s one of the best travel hacks out there!

Barry Choi Moneywise Contributor

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who makes frequent media appearances. When he's not educating people on how to be smarter with money, he's earning and burning miles and points for luxury travel.

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