Thanks for attending my presentation about “Saving Money on Travel” at Lone Star College. Here are a lot of the travel tips I covered in my workshop.
Feel free to read more articles on my website. New articles are posted all the time. Travel safe!
Finding the best airfare sales? Subscribe to airfare specials from Southwest & Airtran. They put out the most sales, and other airlines often match their sale prices.
Don’t want to pay to check a bag? Southwest lets you have 2 free checked bags & JetBlue lets you have one. Check the airlines’ credit cards because they may let you check a bag for free if you sign up for their card. You will pay an annual fee, but you will save it on fees very quickly (I know that Delta & Continental offer this).
Often you can book an open jaw ticket (fly from Houston to Orlando and return from Miami to Houston) for no additional charge, and you won’t have to backtrack on your trip. This also works great for Europe.
Going overseas? You may be able to schedule a bonus layover for free. You may have to call the airline directly instead of booking online. If you are flying from Houston to Rome, and you change planes in Paris, you may be able to add a 3-day layover in Paris without paying extra plane fare. Use the “multiple destinations” search on a site like Orbitz or Expedia. Air France often stops in Paris; British Airways in London, Lufthansa in Frankfurt, and KLM in Amsterdam. Sometimes this even works for Chicago, Atlanta, New York, & Washington.
Do you know your travel dates and want to get daily or weekly alerts to find out what the airfare is? Sign up at www.bing.com/travel and they will email it to you daily. You need to have a bing or hotmail account (free).
Don’t know whether airfare will go up or down? There is an online tool that estimate if it will go up or down (it’s a guess, but at least it’s an educated guess): www.bing.com/travel. Be sure to sign in before you start the airfare search.
Remember that Southwest Airlines airfares do not appear on most search engines, so you need to visit southwest.com (in addition to the sites you usually use). Right now American Airlines is not available on a lot of websites either.
Last minute airfare specials usually come out on Monday or Tuesday for trips on Saturday (returning on Monday or Tuesday). Sign up on continental.com or usairways.com. Find e-fares on United’s website. Or, Smarter Travel puts out a comprehensive list on Tuesday or Wednesday each week at: http://www.smartertravel.com/airfare/search/
For hotels, you usually don’t need to check more than 2 or 3 online sites (kayak.com will search at least 5 sites automatically for you).
If you are staying for 4 nights, for example, you may want to see if the price changes if you split your stay up into segments (like booking 1 night + 3 nights or 2 nights + 2 nights). Then call the hotel & ask them to block you in the same room.
For hotels, there is often a 20% discount if you book in advance (usually 21- or 14-days) and prepay.
Other lodging options include vacation homes/apartments (www.vrbo.com or www.airbnb.com); home swapping, which I’ve never done but I hear its reliable (www.luxehomeswap.com) and sleeping on the floor (www.couchsurfing.com). Also, not all hostels are for kids anymore. Many now have their own bathrooms and are in many price tiers, but they’re still basic. If you are looking to buy a time share, there is a vibrant resale market, where they can be 50% off the original price. I’m not recommending time shares, though.
Want to take a cruise? Travel agents, such as www.vacationstogo.com and www.cruisesonly.com offer the same rates as calling the cruise lines directly, and they may throw in some extras. Never cruised before, read what to expect from each ship & itinerary at www.cruisecritic.com. Want to know what to do at each port and buy excursions for less than the cruise ships charge? www.shoretrips.com. The best time to buy is very early (if your dates are set in stone) or very late (if you’re flexible & looking for a last minute deal).
Some of the best sites for finding good package deals are: www.go-today.com and www.gate1travel.com in addition to www.expedia.com. Sign up for specials (and find worldwide specials) at www.travelzoo.com. They check to be sure the tour operator is reliable before posting the deals.
If you are going to an off-the-beaten-path destination (such as Africa, South America, parts of Asia), it may be bet to use a travel agent specializing in that area. Find a list of specialists here: http://www.concierge.com/tools/travelagentfinder . They may charge a minimum fee, but they are truly experts, unlike trusting the advice of random strangers on the web.
For rental cars, it may be cheaper to get a car at an off-airport location. Let’s say you are spending 4 days in Orlando. You may be able to get a 1 day rental car (one-way from the airport to downtown), and then book a 3-day rental from downtown to the airport. Airports often have higher rates, plus they may charge a daily “airport service fee” that you won’t see until you click through the first booking page. Be sure to look at all taxes & fees when booking a car.
Priceline.com and hotwire.com are great for saving 25% or more on car rentals. You don’t know what brand you are booking, but the car will be the same.
Keeping safe on the road? Here are some common scams that thieves use: http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/tips/298scam.htm. Rick Steves website also has other great travel tips (especially how to pack without having to check a bag!): http://www.ricksteves.com/graffiti/graffiti_menu.htm
Want to get money overseas? Usually, ATM’s are best (at least in most of Europe & Asia) – I always try to use a bank’s ATM instead of a random ATM. Credit cards will add on 3% for every transaction you make overseas. Only Capital One waives this fee.
Want to pack a lot of sightseeing in a short period of time. Check out www.citypass.com (USA) or www.europeancitycards.com. Be sure to use these passes for the expensive destinations. Pay as you go for free or cheap museums & attractions.
Check out foreign (or local) grocery stores for cool souvenirs – think about all the local Texas food at Central Market for example.
Here are my favorite travel tweeters for specials. You can also get an account on Twitter & have their messages sent to your phone: www.twitter.com/jetbluecheeps
You can also follow me at www.twitter.com/globalpostmark
www.tripadvisor.com is used for hotel reviews, but I also like it for the insider’s tips on what to see and how to get around.
Want to know how to best use online hotel reviews, check out my article: http://www.globalpostmark.com/?tag=travel-tips-2
Remember: Vacations are not about how far you go, but the shape you come back in!