TRAVEL MATH: How using multiple booking portals helps me save money

Estimated read time: 4 minutes

Sometimes people claim that business travel is more expensive because businesses have money. And while it is true that businesses have more money than a family would have to go on vacation they also don’t have an unlimited amount of cash to throw at travel.

Assuming that we all agree that throwing employees into the back of basic economy isn’t the answer to cutting budgets let’s look at some other ideas that I noticed to save big bucks while traveling on business. Quick sidenote: basic economy is actually a terrible deal because first of all, you can’t work there and second of all you can’t take a small piece of luggage with you on board so there’s an extra fee to check that.

As you likely know, I am relatively loyal to American Airlines because I have their top level status currently but I also look for other reasonable flights while traveling. For example, I’m flying Delta on a trip to keynote in Western Canada in 2018 because American doesn’t really fly there all that often. However, since I don’t currently have status on Delta I also upgraded to first class so I can actually work and not be too squished.

Find out how to book me to speak at your conference or company event here

I have used many different booking portals and Google Flights still remains one of my favorites because you can track and compare very easily. Another option I recently rediscovered after not using it for a number of years is American Airlines Vacations – where you can book packages.

So let me walk you through the math on how my travel estimate easily decreased by $1,000 and maybe more because I used that one-stop website to look at travel to Europe from the United States.

Option 1: Book flight and hotel separately

When I first ran the numbers I booked Cedar Rapids to central Europe in business class on American Airlines through Google Flights. Even though American Airlines is my preferred airline this was indeed the cheapest ticket across all carriers at that time.

I booked the hotel separately through a hotel website.


Flight US$3,100

Hotel: $600

Total = $3,700

Option 2: Book flight and hotel together

Then I headed over to American Airlines vacations and booked the same itinerary but on one website.

Total cost: $2,688

So I saved $1,000 and even when it’s client or business travel and somebody else has to pay it of course they also would appreciate the cost savings.

The biggest drawback perhaps might be that you don’t earn hotel points using this process. The entire trip cost is credited to your American Airlines account and doesn’t even break out what the cost is for the flight and hotel. It’s just one big package cost.

So if you’re OK with earning American Airlines miles this is all good but if you are trying to earn hotel points this might not work very well. I actually used this strategy a few years ago but since I was flying really short hops I never got enough points on American to begin with and switched to booking separately but I am reconsidering moving back more and more to this system.

It’s not about sticking with one or the other anyways it’s about comparing them all and picking the best option for a particular trip.

One more story: Flying in a semi-private jet

My home airport is Cedar Rapids, which is a relatively small airport and I try to keep flying out of there because it’s the closest to my house. And now American Airlines has three destinations from here and it’s relatively easy to get to where I’m trying to go relatively cost-efficient. CID is pictured in the featured image with this article.

But there is another option I ran across the other day: even smaller Burlington, which is about an hour and a half from Cedar Rapids flies what I would call an almost private jet to several cities including Chicago via Air Choice One.

It looks like that round trips into Chicago O’Hare often costs around $100, which of course could be a lot cheaper than flying to Chicago from Cedar Rapids or driving to Chicago and and leaving my car at $75 a night or more parking lots. Don’t forget about the toll roads between Iowa and Chicago.

I tried searching for flights from Burlington on Google Flights and on one attempt it worked but to get the actual pricing I still had to go to the Air Choice One website.

Needless to say it’s on my radar to fly out of Burlington on one of my upcoming trips and I’ll be certain to share how that went.

The moral of the story here is that while it sounds easy to go to one source for everything and that sounds simple it doesn’t always mean that we can get the best deal with that kind of workflow.