Helpful Tips for Planning Your Next Vacation
* The sooner that you decide where you want to go on vacation, the more likely you are to realize your best deals. Visit travel-oriented websites like Frommers, Fodors, Lonely Planet and Rick Steves among others to get solid ideas of where you would like to travel. Once that has been established, start looking for airfare and hotel deals to the destination.
* Consider the possibility of getting a package deal which consists of air, hotel and some taxes and junk fees. It’s a kind of one-stop shopping where you often realize discounts by purchasing them together. Also, if you are going with a partner, you may find that this is the most economical way to travel because single travelers are often hit with a supplemental fee to offset the lost revenue that a couple would bring.
You may find that it is cheaper to book a package deal where you pay for a visit to two or more cities, round trip air, hotel, attraction tickets, and train fare b/t cities for one low (or at least reasonable) price. There are several reputable online travel agencies that have exceptional vacation package deals like Go Today, Gate 1 Travel and Nordique Tours, among others.
* The further out you plan your itinerary, the more lead-time you will have to locate deals, especially during your destination’s “off-season”. While there are last minute deals to be had via sites like Travelocity, it’s prudent to take a proactive approach and plan early. Once, I missed a great fare deal to Paris because I took to long to decide if I really wanted to go; when I finally decided the fare was long gone, which meant that I had missed an opportunity to save a lot of money because I was not decisive.
* Be flexible about your travel dates for your vacation, fare amounts can be extremely volatile and change radically from one week to even one day to the next. If you can save hundreds by postponing your trip by a week, isn’t it worth it?
Utilize online tools that will help you to find unadvertised fares
* Compare prices from different airlines by using fare search engines of online travel agencies like Orbitz, Expedia and Travelocity – which will email you a ‘fare alert’ for your particular itinerary. This pretty much means that you have to be flexible when it comes to carriers. Never be married to or loyal to any one airline or you will lessen your chances of finding a good deal. Airlines are aware of this trend and to counterbalance this reality, airlines try to match other sale fares offered by their competitors.
* Contact a specific airline’s website directly to book your flight with no booking fees. You will probably have to pay a nominal fee to book a flight by phone but try calling late (preferably after midnight) on Wednesdays….usually, that is when a lot of reservations that have been placed ‘on hold’ are released. Airlines have also been known to offer ridiculously low fares on early Saturday morning that can disappear within hours. It is up to the traveler to be vigilant about catching these ‘sneak’ fares.
* Sign up for the airlines’ weekly fare deal emails for cheap fares if you are planning a trip over a long weekend….usually from Thursday to Monday.
* When booking your next vacation take advantage of the many online sites like Booking Buddy, Mobissimo, Hotwire, Kayak, Momondo and Airfarewatchdog which will search online travel agencies and the airlines for the lowest fare offered during your travel dates.
* I have discovered that if you are flexible and open to all destinations, there are several online sites that direct you to the best online flight deals ever! I would make it a habit to check out the following sites on a daily basis. One word of warning, though, the fares are crazy good and will most assuredly sell out like hotcakes, so don’t delay: The Flight Deal, Secret Flying, Fare Deal Alert and last but not least, Sky Scanner.
* If you do not currently belong to an airline’s frequent flier program, please sign up now. Especially with the airline with whom you will be booking your international trip. The programs are free and while they are now cutting back on opportunities to earn miles, they are still a great way to earn free flights over time.
Despite the troubles that airlines are currently experiencing, it will be to your advantage to take these free miles whenever the opportunity arises. You could potentially earn 10k or more miles if you fly to Paris and it only takes about 25k miles to earn a free domestic ticket!
*Since you will never know where your deals may come from, go ahead and sign up with at least one FF program from one of the three airline alliances. Once you book your flight, make sure that you key in your number so that you will get credit for it.
Maximize your Dollars!!
* With the dollar seemingly growing weaker by the day, it’s important to figure out ways to stretch your hard earned money. Consider booking housing alternatives like Hostels where you share basic accommodations with fellow travelers, usually students. However, if you are willing to pay a bit more, some hostels offer private rooms. Hostel World is a great resource to research which ones rate the best.
* For the more adventurous traveler, you may want to join groups like Couchsurfing, Global Freeloaders or Hospitality Club where members actually offer one another their couch or other sleeping accommodations for free. It’s a great way to meet people from all over the world and help one another to keep down expenses by exchanging domiciles.
* Avoid the usual tourist traps. Of course, some are great ones like the Eiffel tower, but on the other hand, some aren’t worth the time or effort to bother. Try to focus on the areas that are more familiar to the locals and asking them for suggestions. There you will experience the true ambiance of that city and the prices won’t be artificially inflated either.
* If you are planning on visiting landmarks far from the hotel where you plan to vacation, it may be easier to take advantage of their local public transportation system or taxis (exercise caution with cabbies…some are known to play fast and loose with your cash). Or you may be lucky enough to be able to walk to your destination.
* Maximize your stay by visiting other interesting towns nearby. I figure that if I’m going to travel that far away from home, I may as well make it count. It’s not unusual for people who travel to say, Paris, to make a stopover in London, then continue on to their destination. Or you may decide to take a day trip from your destination to another locale via their train system, bus companies like Megabus or one of the many discount airlines like Ryan Air, Easy Jet, Brussels Airlines or Fly BMI where you can find an abundance of cheap flights.
* Contact the tourism board of the city that you plan to visit to request a free packet of information that may contain lots of valuable coupons, maps, restaurant reviews and discounts to their most interesting landmarks and attractions.
* Speaking of coupons, invest in the coupon book from Entertainment Book. They offer books for every major metropolitan area in the USA as well as Canada. Using one coupon will usually pay for the entire book, so it’s a great investment to any traveler who is seeking deals on food, car rentals, entertainment, etc. The price of the books is reduced in the spring and continues to fall later in the year so keep that in mind if you are planning an autumn vacation.
* Travel forums are a great resource to provide tips on where to find a place to stay. Usually, the forum members will let you know in no uncertain terms which hotel to try and which ones to avoid like the plague. Sometimes the reviews are mixed, but you can take what they say and factor in hotel reviews from Trip Advisor and come up with your own conclusions.
So, dear reader, now that you are armed with vital info that will assure that you spend very little on your next vacation, where do you plan to go? Let me know in the comments!