By Jon Mohatt (AKA Travel Brainstorm)
I wanted to end the year with some travel tips worth reading and implementing to save money and protect yourself and family while traveling. Just like you, I read many travel tips across the web and though it may be nice to just put together 10 quick and easy ones that I actually used and they worked. So here they are…
Best Practices for Purchasing Airline Tickets
Of course there is no golden ticket, but here are some short and sweet tidbits that will help guide you to the best airline prices:
- When buying domestic airline tickets purchase them on Tuesday at 3:00 p.m. ET
- Avoid the most expensive days when purchasing: Fridays and Sundays
- Fly on the cheapest days if possible: (U.S. domestic routes) Tuesdays, Wednesday and Saturdays
- Best time-frame (how far out) to shop/buy:
Domestic fares: 3 months – 30 days before departure
International fares: 5 ½ months – 1 ½ months before departure
- Sign up for airfare alerts (via email)
- Shop one passenger at a time because if you buy more than one at a time you will pay the same price for all the tickets even if some were available at a lower price.
- The best time to buy is always sooner rather than later (i.e. don’t wait until the last minute thinking prices will drop)
- Look for flights in the Morning or other times that aren’t the most convenient, they tend to also cost less
Cancel for Free
This one tends to be simple, but most never think of it and just pay the cancellation fees. If you miss your cancellation window for a hotel, restaurant or car rental, but are still allowed to change the reservation date free of charge, then move your reservation date back by several days, weeks or months depending on your next use. Once you do this then you just need to call back to a different representative and cancel. There are tools that the company representatives can use to check past reservation changes, but most won’t take the time and will just make the cancellation. This may be considered in the gray area for some so you will have to decide for yourself if you want to use the tactic, it works.
Steer Clear of High Airport Parking Rates
Everyone knows that on-airport parking rates are normally high. Boston “economy” rates are $27 for the first day, $18 for the next six days or $108 for 6-7 days, that’s crazy. Do they really need to be that high? Some airports, such as Charlotte Douglas International Airport, long-term rate is only $5 a day. This mean that reasonable parking rates can exist if the airport authority doesn’t treat it as their personal cash cow.
Here’s what you can do to avoid high parking rates:
- Leave your car home and take a shuttle to and from the airport (or enlist a friend’s help)
- Use private off-airport parking lots
- Find a motel that offer “park-sleep-fly” deals: Pay for one night and get “free” parking
- Fly from a nearby airport with lower rates and it will probably be easier to get in & out as well
Adjust Air Vents to Protect from Germs
When you take your seat on the plane, adjust your air vents to get it just right. Open the air vent halfway and then position it so it blows right in front of you but not on you. Not only will you boost your “personal zone” circulation, but some experts say that you may also be protecting yourself from germs with the air flow keeping them away from your face.
Bring Your Own Snacks
It’s no secret that food prices on an airplane are outrageous, but there is also slim to no selection for anything nutritious. To combat this, just be sure to carry on your own snacks. A go-to favorite for many are homemade fruit oatmeal squares filled with natural fruit flavors but not overly sweet. They can be baked and frozen in advance so you won’t have to take time getting them ready right before a trip. Here are a few recipes:
Go For the Unknown
The best way to enjoy max value in your hotel and rental car accommodations is to buy through one of the “pick your price” agencies, where you either “bid” on a room or car or accept a price without knowing the exact hotel or rental company until after you make the purchase which cannot be refunded. The two biggest agencies of this type are Priceline and Hotwire. One can get quite close to what they want by limiting hotel choices by star ratings and neighborhoods (when available). It’s worth it as prices can be as much as 50% off. Be adventurous and give it a try.
Avoid the Extra-Driver Car-Rental Charge
Don’t you hate it when a rental car company tries to charge you a fee to allow your spouse to also drive the rental? This doesn’t seem necessary, yet many of the companies do it any way. Some as high as high as $13 a day, per driver, crazy! Here’s how to avoid it:
One shouldn’t have a problem in California as they prohibit extra-driver charges and New York caps them at $3 per day. For other states, Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz, and National waive the fee for a spouse/partner on rentals by members of their frequent-renter programs, so be sure and be a member before renting, there’s no fee to enroll.
Change Your Cell Phone’s Lock Screen
Change your cell phone’s lock screen to an image that displays your contact information. Be sure to include your email address and an alternate phone number so someone can contact you if they find your phone. Of course this is assuming it a good Samaritan that finds your phone J
Make a Backup with Your Cell Phone
Before you travel make a digital backup of your wallet in case your identification gets lost or stolen. With your camera phone, take a photo of your passport or driver’s license and email the photo to yourself. You might also want to take a photo of the contents of your checked bag in the event your luggage is lost. Throughout your trip, take advantage of the camera on your phone and snap photos of anything that might serve as a helpful reminder, from your airport parking spot to your hotel room number.
Buy a Airport Club Membership or Day Pass
Comfortable chairs, soothing music, free snacks, drinks and Wi-Fi are just waiting for you at the airport. You just need a lounge pass or membership to get to them. Annual passes to airline and airport lounges tend to be pricey, but there is a way around that. Look for credit cards such at the United MileagePlus Credit Card that included club membership with the card. You may also just want to look into a day pass if you don’t travel a lot but just happen to have a long lay-over and don’t want the time wasted.
In one line here is why I love my club membership:
Peace, quiet, space, wi-fi, personal assistance to change flights or make new ones, arrival recovery, departure preparation, you can bring a friend, snacks and booze or non-alcoholic beverages.
As always, happy brainstorming and safe travels! Be sure to sign up to be notified of future blogs posts (top of right sidebar), let your friends know about this blog and check out all my travel reviews on TripAdvisor, just search for “TravelBrainstorm”!