With my budget and itinerary pretty much mapped out, I had 2 missions:
Find the lowest airfare!
Find the BEST hotel rooms for the lowest price!
I subscibed to airfarewatchdog.com and to get fare alerts from kayak.com. And I was determined to wait it out until I could get tickets for $800 or until May--whichever came first.
Kayak.com was awesome, because they graph out prices that they find over a month, so you can kinda guess whether rates are headed up or down and which days of the week tend to cost less for travel.
I turned to Venere.com to search for hotels, TripAdvisor.com to read reviews, and I used Excel to make myself spreadsheets for my findings in each city, sorted by price. And....oh, I spent hours and hours mulling over my options. I also found a few options just through Google or other sites like BBPlanet.com, although I ultimately didn't use most of them. One of my favorite finds I found by following a series of links: LApparthotel.it--I'm so excited for that one!
We found our flight in March on American Airlines for $830 each!