Answer (from Barry Boone of CurrentCodes.com): Promotional codes are usually combinations of letters and numbers that can be entered during the checkout process on many travel-related websites. Simply knowing those codes can save hundreds of dollars or more on trip-related expenses (flights, hotels, rental cars, etc). Sometimes they are special links that must be clicked through, so that your browser is tagged (with a cookie) and presented with the special deal or discount during checkout.
Q: Who publishes promotional codes and why?
A: Almost every travel company does now and then. This includes the airline companies, hotel chains, rental car companies, and travel agencies (such as Expedia and Travelocity).
Q: What's a typical example of the savings generated from using a promo code?
A: Actually they vary a lot, and it depends on a number of factors including the length of your trip (i.e. the number of hotel nights or rental car days) and how posh the arrangements are. As of this writing, Expedia has a coupon that takes $200 off a trip costing $1800 or more, involving five nights or more hotel stay plus flight. Many times the rental car companies offer coupons for free upgrades or percentages off.
Q: What are some good places to look for codes?
A: I recommend looking for codes on the companies' websites (this does happen). If you're on their email list they will send those to certain customers. Sometimes your credit card statement and other bills will contain these coupons. And of course, currentcodes.com collects these coupon codes and promotional codes and puts them all in one place.
Q: Do the coupon codes expire? Are they time sensitive? When should travelers look for them?
A: Most of the time they have a limited shelf life. The Expedia coupon I mentioned above expires tonight for instance. My recommendation is to start looking for these coupons as soon as you want to consider booking the trip. If the trip is far enough in the future, check back often and look for new coupons that might save you money for your trip. These coupons are very popular when the companies are experiencing a slow time, or trying to outdo their competitors.
Q: Any good tips you can give readers interested in looking for and using these codes?
A: Always read the fine print and terms/conditions associated with the code, as many times they have specific conditions, requirements, or dates that apply to the promotion. Merchants sometimes pull these coupons with no notice (and give themselves permission to do so in the terms and conditions), so you'll want to make sure they didn't pull the deal early. So if you are using a coupon, always make sure the discount shows up before you check out. Finally, shop around. Sometimes the best price with one company with a coupon is still more expensive than if you booked the same thing elsewhere.
Q: Anything else you'd like to add?
A: These coupons are good for all sorts of things, not just travel, so take full advantage of coupons to buy clothes, or electronics, or laptops, or the sorts of things that you are taking with you on your trip. It all adds up pretty quickly.
About Barry Boone