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Travel

6 tricks to save big on airfare, hotel rooms and car rentals

If you’re planning a trip on a budget, Hotwire is probably high up on your list of places to deal-hunt. It’s known for partnering with travel providers (airlines, hotels, rental car companies and tour companies) to serve up unsold inventory to travelers looking for bargains.

Hotwire’s inventory and options are so vast that you’ll need to know how to find savings efficiently.

Follow these tips to book the dream trip that matches the reality of your finances. And don’t forget to tap or click here for 4 things you must do to protect your money while traveling.

Book a Hot Rate hotel

You need to be a bit spontaneous and flexible for this option, but there’s big potential for savings.

Hot Rates are rates that Hotwire negotiates directly with hotels. The hotels have unsold inventory to offer, and Hotwire serves up those rooms at up to 60% off to travelers.

The catch is you won’t know exactly which property you’re booking until the process is complete. At that point, your reservation is non-refundable. The only details you’ll see in advance are the price, amenities, a rating and an approximate area.

Hotwire will also share a short list of hotels yours is guaranteed to be on. If you understand the fine print, and the destination is more important to you than the accommodations, Hot Rate hotels are a great option.

Book a Hot Rate rental car

As with Hot Rate hotels, this rental car option adds a bit of mystery to your car booking process. Your results will show you the size of the car and comparative make and model, as well as the price per day; however, you won’t know which agency you’re booking with until you make a non-refundable booking.

If you’re willing to take this option, you’ll save on the per-day cost of your rental car. But if booking with a particular agency is important to you, skip the Hot Rate options and filter by standard bookings, which reveal the agency in advance.

Use the app

Hotwire makes some hotel rates, rental car rates and promo codes available only to mobile users. So maximize your savings options by browsing for travel via the app. The app will also notify you of current sales and last-minute discounts based on your departure city.

RELATED: Tap or click here to learn how to change this smartphone setting to save big money while traveling

Utilize Hotwire’s low-price guarantee

This is Hotwire’s price-matching program. In general terms, if you find a lower average nightly rate on a hotel within 24 hours of booking on Hotwire, the company will refund you the difference.

In specific terms, there is a lot of fine print you need to understand before you avail yourself of this perk. Most importantly, the lower rate you find must be available for the exact dates you booked via Hotwire.

Plus, the refund (if you’re due one) will be based on the average nightly rate during your stay. So, if you simply find one of the nights cheaper on another site, you’re not necessarily due a refund unless it brings the average nightly rate across your entire booking down.

If you understand all the fine print, the low-price guarantee can allow you to lock in a rate via Hotwire and then take a little time to see if you’d save more elsewhere.

Book bundled deals

Save off the total cost of your trip when you book your flight, hotel and rental car together. Select the “bundle” option on the booking screen and type in your destination to see your options. Hotwire has also incorporated Vacation Rentals into its bundles, if that’s your preference.

Note that the price displayed on the first results screen may not be the price you pay. Once you select your airline and departure time, the price could increase or decrease.

In addition to saving you money, bundling is great if you’re a bargain hunter, because it gives you one price for your entire trip. You’ll know exactly how much you’re spending at the outset, and you won’t find yourself surprised with expensive hotel options after you booked a cheap flight.

To save the most on bundled deals, while still ensuring you enjoy your trip, be sure to filter by star ratings, hotel distance from downtown and other factors that are important to you.

Browse deals and use promo codes

If price is the most important factor to you for a vacation, and you’re flexible with the destination, navigate to the deals page to see the top deals of the day and the lowest rates.

You can also choose to browse current coupon codes to get an instant discount off your purchase. Hotwire frequently runs sales around holidays, so be sure to sign up for its mailing list to get the latest promo codes.

If you’re traveling with little ones, tap or click here to learn how to load up with movies and TV shows before your trip.

Kristin McGrath is a shopping expert and editor at Offers.com, a leading coupons and deals website on a mission to save shoppers time and money every day.

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