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After researching a trip online, consult a travel agent to confirm the best deal, says Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert Barry Choi.

With the holiday season behind us and the kids back in school, it's time to get back to normal and forget about the idea of another vacation right?

Not so fast.

According to Barry Choi, a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert, now is exactly the time to start searching for your next big trip. Because if you don't, you could end up overpaying for your dream family vaycay or that romantic spring getaway you've been humming and hawing about.

Apart from knowing when to make your move, according to Choi, there are several simple ways to find that perfect holiday destination at the right price. What's more, if you play your cards right, the trip can even pay you back. Here are some do's and don'ts to make you feel like a true travel insider.

DON'T WAIT

Sure, last-minute deals are great for some of us, some of the time. But it's a bit like finding money: it's great when it happens, but you can't bank on it. Resorts and airlines are motivated to fill vacancies as early as possible, says Choi.

"Traditionally, in January, there are a lot of discounts available. Basically, if you book early you get that discount," he says.

Because it's the low season, deals are plentiful. But this is also your best bet on finding a perfect vacation in the high season because you're booking before other eager travelers have even thought about preferred dates.

"It could be hotels, cruises, vacation packages, it could be anything," says Choi. "But start booking your travel now."

DO BE FLEXIBLE

Keeping an open mind with destinations, seasons and departure dates and time can mean the difference between travel heaven and, well, that other place.

"If you can get out on a Tuesday or Thursday, it could save you quite a bit of money," says Choi. "Another example depends on the time you fly."

Choi says he was recently looking at flights to Orlando. Booking a 10 a.m. flight cost about $600. Moving the flight to 9 p.m. dropped the price down to $400.

"So, you can save if you're flexible. Obviously, if you're with a young family you might not want that, but if you're going solo, flexibility will help," he says. Flexibility also means being open to a different destination altogether. Some countries offer great value for airfare, but everything else in the country will leave you with sticker shock, says Choi.

Consider a country such as Thailand. You might pay a little more to get there, but once you arrive, you may pay considerably less for accommodation, food and other expenses than you would in higher profile destinations.

D.D.I.Y. (DON'T DO IT YOURSELF)

There's limitless travel information at the touch of a button these days. And knowledge is power when searching for great deals. But once you've scoured the interwebs for destinations, flights and all the other details that go into planning, consult with a real-life travel professional.

Think of them as your very own fact checker. Tell them about the great deal you found online, says Choi, and chances are a seasoned travel pro will know right away whether it can be beat. Even better, he adds, a travel agent might offer some great advice like, "If you leave the next day you'll save more money." Travel agents, especially Canadian ones like PC® travel services (exclusive to PC Financial® Mastercard® cardholders), can also advocate on your behalf when things go wrong, he says.

"Let's say your flight gets cancelled and you're on your vacation. You can have your travel agent deal with re-booking your flights. It's nice to have that extra level of customer service so you can enjoy your vacation even while a mini crisis is going on."

DO TAKE THE CREDIT

A great way to add value is to book your travel with a rewards credit card such as the PC Financial® World Elite Mastercard®, says Choi.

"If you're smart about your credit cards and who you book with, you can really benefit in two ways," explains Choi. "PC® travel services offers a full-service travel agency and when you use a PC Financial® Mastercard®  you can earn anywhere up to three times the points. You're earning additional PC® points every time you book vacations, flights, hotels, cruises, car rentals and tours, and then you can use those points towards groceries at participating stores, clothing at Joe Fresh® and beauty products at Shoppers Drug Mart [afterFebruary 1], for example."

Add the savings of not paying an annual fee with a PC Financial® Mastercard® and you really are winning at travel.

Apply today for President's Choice Financial® World Elite Mastercard®


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