Monday, February 9, 2015

6 Tips for Affordable Travel

My friends often comment about how often I travel. It doesn’t seem that often until I sit down and tally it up. I spent 9 weeks in hotels last year. That’s was a lot of travel for someone who does not work outside of the home! Years ago my husband and I decided that we were going to enjoy life now. We are not going to wait until “someday.” I call it living in the land of “someday.” You know, “Someday I am going to …….” We realize that “someday” never comes for many people so we decided to start checking off our bucket lists. Over the years I have developed some skills in planning affordable travel. I will be sharing this wealth of information in 6 posts in order to break it into manageable pieces. Here are my first tips.

Travel planning is a great activity for gloomy days of winter. I hope you’ll use these tips to plan a great trip. Don’t forget to send me a postcard!

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1. Driving vs flying

To determine if we are going to drive or fly, I calculate flying time, add time to the airport ( 1 to 3 hours depending on which airport we use) add 2 hours pre-departure at airport and add 1 hour for arrival at the airport for getting to the hotel. If that total travel time is within 2 hours of diving time we usually drive. Even with the price of gasoline it is considerably cheaper to drive and we have our own car eliminating the expense of a rental car or taxis. (And if we drive I have room to bring home any “treasures” that I may find!!)

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2. Get a travel reward credit card. We actually have two credit cards with travel rewards. Dave Ramsey and I disagree on this one. Dave does not like credit cards and says you can never use the points. I disagree as I have had great success using the points. In my next post I will tell you which cards I have and how I get the most use from them. As with any credit card, the balance should be paid in full every month. We always abide by this rule. It is non-negotiable. Now that my children are adults, they have reward credit cards too so that we can combine rewards. They also understand the importance of paying the balance in full every month.

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3. Enroll in loyalty programs. Enrollment is free for loyalty programs with hotels, airlines, and rental car companies. Many offer discounts just for being a member. Others allow you to accumulate points. The perks are worth giving an email address for enrollment. Many loyalty programs send emails with discounts for members. I’ll also be sharing an additional post on making the most of loyalty reward points.

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4. Double dip. Add days to business or conference travel. Most conferences offer hotel rooms at a “conference rate” which is significantly lower than rack rates. Also, most hotels will allow you to add days on either end of the conference at the same rate if there is availability. My husband and I have been to Hawaii five times. On four of those trips he had a business meeting. His airfare and hotel room were paid for. I went along and the only expense we had was my airfare and meals. On another trip we were able to use “buy one get one free” certificates with a major airline. Since my husband’s ticket was paid for by his business, this allowed us to take 6 people for the price of one airline ticket! Yes, 6! My husband took one child with his ticket and I took another. Our 2 children under the age of 2 were allowed to fly free! That will probably never happen again but it was a great trip for our family!

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5. Compare prices. I always use travel websites to compare prices. Make sure to read the fine print and watch for add-ons such as fees, resort fees, parking, internet, breakfast, etc. Some travel sites include all fees with initial airfare quotes while others add them on at check out. Make sure that you are comparing the same thing before you click “buy.”

Whenever we are taking a first-timer to New York, I get a limo to pick us up at the airport. It is a splurge but it’s always fun and exciting. When comparing prices this past December, the prices ranged from $85 to $225. The $225 was all inclusive. The $85 had add-ons for indoor meet and greet, parking, tolls, gratuity, taxes, and fuel surcharge! That’s a lot of add-ons. I ended up using NYC Rich Limo for $159 inclusive. All seven of our party could ride in one limo and the price for 2 taxis would have been just under $100.

Whenever I use online services for booking travel I always have my confirmation information handy. If I am traveling where I have cell service the info is on my phone, but I usually print a copy of all bookings and confirmations and keep them with me in a small portfolio. That has helped solved check-in problems in many instances!

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6. Flexibility can save a bundle. I understand that travel dates are not always flexible if you are traveling for a particular event but even then, adjusting your date by one day can save you a bundle of money. On our trip to NYC this past December, the rate for one hotel room was $299 for Thursday, $339 for Friday, and $419 for Saturday. That’s a pretty big difference. Had I been attending a Friday event, it would have been much more affordable to add Thursday night instead of Saturday night.

Also, when we are flying, I always check prices from at least 3 airports. The airport closest to our house is almost always more than $100 higher than the others! $100 is not that much if you are buying one ticket but when you are buying four or five it makes a pretty big difference! I’ll talk more about flexibility in my upcoming posts on Reward Cards, Making the Most of Reward Points, and Booking Hotel Rooms.

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I understand this is a lot of information. I have more details in the upcoming posts. If you are not already a “follower” of this blog, you can click on the “Follow me on Bloglovin” button on the upper left corner of this post and you will be notified by email when the next post is up.

If you would like to read my other posts on travel I have taken, click on the word “travel” at the top of the post!

Ok start making your travel bucket list because I hear we are in for several more weeks of winter weather!

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I’ll be linking to Metamorphosis Monday at Between Naps on the Porch.