With Four continents and dozens of countries, we are in constant motion. We can suddenly decide at 10 pm that we will fly the next day at 6am to Barbados, or my husband who was going to fly home to Chicago, can ask me to meet him tomorrow in Philadelphia.
At first glance, such an unset lifestyle may seem like a lot of effort, but this is not really true.
I will illustrate how this works out for us. I will generalize instead of describe every nuance. These tips are aimed at travelers who love comfort as opposed to backpackers who stay at hostels—although those adventure seekers can also find something useful.
Travelling expenses are mostly divided into three major categories. I’ll try to explain how we try to optimize the value of each.
First of all, quite frankly – collect miles, points and everything offered by the airlines which you use the most. Miles can then be exchanged for tickets. In the US and Europe, most airlines also offer credit cards in partnership with a bank – for every dollar/euro spent you accumulate at least one miles/point. I have two: Amex Delta and Chase United, and my husband also has American Airlines. Owners of these credit cards have other bonuses (each time the list is different), such as free baggage or priority boarding.
Many people always look for low cost airlines but, interestingly, many low-cost airlines are not found on the major booking sites. So if you’re looking for a quick inexpensive getaway search their sites directly but read the fine print. Many tickets additional charge for baggage, skipping line, food, and assigned seating. At times, these fees can make it more expensive than a traditional airline.
When using booking websites, ticket prices are almost the same everywhere. Just choose the one that is most convenient for you. I use expedia.com and hop2.com most often. While the process across the sites are almost the same fare prices can increase or decrease from minute to minute so, I normally do a few days of checking the prices before buying a ticket.
When you fly often, there is a high probability of getting into a situation when tickets are oversold. Many people don’t know that airlines always sell more tickets than seats on the plane, because statistically there is almost always certain number of people who do not come (we have had such situations). However, when everyone shows up, airline offer vouchers to those passengers who voluntarily agree to fly later. My record was giving up seat for another flight in 2 hours for $800. The vouchers can be used to purchase another flight within a year.
If there are problems with your flight and airlines are wrong do not hesitate to argue with them. I had once an employee at the check desk give me an economy boarding pass instead of a business class ticket. They were also extremely rude: she tore up my boarding pass saying: “If you do not want to fly – do not fly.” We immediately called customer service, raised a bit of hell and finally they fully refunded us the cost of the ticket.
Similarly, as airlines, collect a points. If you take a car in the same company(ies), it helps a lot. Being a Gold member at Hertz offers a range of benefits – from lower prices and better services, to additional bonuses such as free registration of the second driver or upgrades to better car for minimal cost or even for free – this is how we got a Ford Mustang convertible in California.
You can often get a significant discount by buying bundles (flights, hotels, cars) on the booking websites.
In the US, there is a unique website Priceline.com. It has a section which is like an auction for extra hotel rooms and car rentals. Bid for cars, hotels, flights through this service but if your bid is accepted, you cannot cancel it. In this way, you can save over 50%, which is how we once got a car for $20 for 2 days.
Points again, it’s all about points which you can use for free booking.
I recommend checking on expedia as well as the hotel’s website. Often it’s less on the hotel’s website. They sometimes also offer bundle deals to lower the total cost of the trip.
By the way, many booking websites, such as www.expedia.com, also give you own points. Beyond traditional hotels, Americans use a lot of timeshares or apartment rentals. A timeshare is when you buy a tiny part of a condominium complex and then you could stay there for some time depending on the package. Often, you can stay not only in that particular property but any of company properties around the world. For example, one of biggest time share owners, Wyndham, has 219 properties around the world: New Zealand, Europe, North and South America, the Caribbean, etc. Details are here: https://www.clubwyndham.com/cw/company/about-us.page.
Wyndham is only one of the many time shares. Time shares are great for avid travelers, but you have to understand the commitment and I would recommend buying a package on the secondhand market which is a lot cheaper.
To attract potential customers, they offer free or almost free stays at or near their properties. All you need to do is spend 2 hours listening to their presentation. You don’t have to buy anything but be prepared to face some world-class high-pressure sales people. The rest of the time, you enjoy your stay. We stayed like that in Wisconsin Dell: for a 2-hour lecture, we had 3 free nights which would otherwise equal to $700. Additionally, we received a voucher for 1 free stay at any of their locations.
And of course, it’s good to have friends around the world with whom you can stay. Thanks to our friends for hosting us in Barbados.
This one depends on the trip. It is known that outside of peak season prices fall significantly. From my experience, negative information on the Internet does not always correspond to reality. For example, rainy season in Peru or Ecuador does not mean that it will be constantly pouring rain. The weather is quite enjoyable to immerse in local charm. However, the prices will please you. We went to Galapagos at 5 times cheaper than it usually costs, also Peru’s Machu Picchu and even skiing.
I always try to learn as much as possible about our destination and make a plan. However, I still leave some room for the unknown which I can find already in place.
One of my favorite resources is www.viator.com, where you can not only find out what to do but also order entertainment, including different combos, which could save your money. But what I also do is finding the company selling on Viator, because offers from local companies most often will be the cheapest. Generally, it’s best to look for local resources.
Most touristic cities have tourist cards like Roma pass or Lisbon card etc. Depending on the offer, they conveniently include public transport cost and some museums. I would recommend checking the availability of these cards and what they include on the city website.
Often, you can buy package tickets in a museum. For example, Chicago has a city pass www.citypass.com, which includes entrance to the 5 most visited places for $106. It is half of the price of buying tickets separately.
Often, ordering tickets online will be much cheaper option and more reliable because popular places sell out quickly. I bought for my son tickets to Versailles, the Louvre, and somewhere else, because it does not only save money but also time.
In conclusion, select resources that you frequently use and subscribe to their newsletter. From time to time, you get very interesting proposals.
This is how we live: buying tickets with miles, booking hotels with points or at Wyndham, checking it on priceline, and looking at entertainment package deals and go somewhere is what I want to wish you to.