The screenshot of my deal, with all the exciting naughty bits censored out.

Two weekends ago I got to take advantage of a crazy deal where I got to book a quick one-night trip to New York City for a whopping 22 cents. It came courtesy of (the Canadian site of Expedia) and they were offering $300 off coupon for flight+hotel packages to New York City, Las Vegas and Cancun. This meant that with the right combination of flights and hotels, a trip could be virtually free.

The terms and conditions specified that the coupon could only be used for “Canadian bookings”. However, the fine print didn’t specify what that meant. Did it mean trips had to start in Canada? That it could only be used by Canadians? That you needed to sing “O, Canada” and be eating poutine while clicking the buy button? In this case, the terms and conditions were so vague that anyone booking through the Canadian version of Expedia could use this coupon. Thanks to the relatively cheap airfare in the US compared to Canada, people were booking trips essentially for free. Expedia could have limited use of the coupon to flights out of Canada, which would have mean cheaper but not free trips, but for whatever reason they didn’t. Expedia eventually pulled the coupon, but not after hundreds of free trips were booked.

Another deal that happened earlier this week was when American offered flights to various cities in Europe from the US for as little as $97 one way. Getting $200-$400 roundtrip airfare to Europe is very good, especially as airfare often runs closer to $1000. The sale only lasted about 12 hours though, and it appears to have been unintentional as the fares didn’t include a fuel surcharge that normally raise the price by $100 or more.

Of course, such deals and mistake fares like this don’t happen every day. But they do happen, and they happen more often then you might think. But how do you find out about them? Here are some of the places I like to check frequently.

Flyertalk- This is the forum for all things travel-related. It’s also the place where most deals first surface before spreading to the rest of the internet. The main focus of the site is on airline frequent flyer programs and how to get status and lots of miles. But the site goes much deeper then that, providing mountains of information on airports, airlines, airplanes and destinations. Most importantly, Flyertalk has a vibrant community that is well-informed and often happy to answer questions if you do your homework first. When the Expedia deal was happening, I used Flyertalk to find out what other people were booking and engage in wild speculations like whether Expedia would really honor the coupons or not (they are). The downside to the site is that it can sometimes be hard to read if you don’t know what all the abbreviations or nicknames mean (it’s a good excuse to brush up on your knowledge of airport codes).

Slickdeals This site is the newest addition to my deal-finding arsenal. The list-style forum layout and detailed headlines makes it easy to skim through the list and see if there’s anything interesting out there. The deals listed are not just limited to airline and hotel deals, but also often include sales on tourist attractions, luggage and other travel-related goodies. What I like most about the site is that it’s all about the deals- there’s little discussion of the best mileage strategy or which airline has the best program. If I need to know what’s hot right now and don’t have the time to plow through pages of forum posts, this is the place I’m go to. The one downside to the site is that it’s fairly US-oriented, so it may not be as helpful if your next trip doesn’t involve North America.

Blogs- I first found out about the Expedia deal through Gary Leff’s “View from the Wing” blog. Another blog that frequently post good deals or sales going on is Ben Schlapping’s “One Mile at a Time” blog. If you’re into credit card promotions, churning or other tactics involving using cards to get miles, Rick Ingersoll’s “Frugal Travel Guy” blog has all the details. The blogs don’t always post on every deal and promotion out there, but they’re great for getting a good understanding of more complex promotions and how to leverage a program to your best advantage.

If you do find a good deal, act quickly. A deal can die fast (that coupon code was pulled 36 hours after it was released), especially if it turned out to be an error made by the company. In other cases, there may be only a limited number of rooms or seats available so it might sell out quickly. Good luck and happy deal-hunting!