Follow these tips and stay on track with your finances.
by Jennifer Streaks
It’s that time of year again: Summer travel season. It is enjoyable, but it can also be expensive!
Here are a few tips to get you on your way to saving you some serious cash:
Be flexible: If you’re not determined to go to a set destination, you can save a lot of cash by going to a city with less expensive hotels, less expensive airfare, meals, etc. And if you are willing to fly on an “off” day or early morning time, you can often get even cheaper tickets.
Join and use customer loyalty programs: Use hotel rewards, airline miles, and loyal customer perks, which can save you money on hotel rooms, airline tickets and even breakfast in the morning.
Investigate off-peak adventures: Some destinations are less expensive at certain times of the year. For example, cruises can be less expensive in the middle of the summer.
Transportation: Just getting there can take a huge bite out of your travel budget.
Airfare: Online websites are going to be helpful here. From hot-wire to airline websites, you can save up to 20% just by using the website instead of calling in or using a travel agent.
Car Rental: You can save here by bundling the rental car with your airfare; also, members of AAA and various other clubs can save big on car rental expenses.
Don’t limit your transportation options to just flying or driving. Depending on the distance, day of the week and time of the year, it may be more cost-effective to take a train.
Once you get there:
Take public transportation. Rental cars and cabs are expensive, but public transportation is a steal. For example, in New Orleans a cab ride across town runs about $22.00, but a streetcar will take you the same distance for $1.25. Major cities post their transportation routes.
Don’t pay for overseas phone service. The hotel will let you use their phone to make calls internationally, but you will pay a hefty premium for it. Make sure your hotel has Internet access and set up a Skype or Google voice account before you leave on vacation. Also, some wireless providers will set you up with temporary international calling ability.
Try to reserve a hotel room with a kitchen, buy food locally, and cook in your room. Buy essentials so you don’t have to rely on the hotel. For example, hotels charge a lot for bottled water; buy it in bulk at a local grocery store and keep it in your room.
Make note of these tips while making travel plans and you will be well on your way to saving money and enjoying your trip!
Black Enterprise Columnist Jennifer Streaks is a Financial Columnist, Author and Pundit. Continue the conversation by following her on twitter @ JStreaks or visiting her website www.JenniferStreaks.com.
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In sports, the off-season is a time for athletes to relax. When it comes to vacations, the best time for you to relax is also the off-season. Imagine going anywhere you want for less money <i>and</i> avoiding the crowds. Peter Greenberg says he's a big fan of the Caribbean or Colorado in the summer, not the winter. Similarly, he suggests Alaska in the winter, not the summer. When you travel off-season, says Greenberg, you can avoid long lines, crowds and higher prices.
Don't Book Your Flight Too Far In Advance
The early bird certainly catches the worm, but not always the best airfare. Self-proclaimed "travel detective" Peter Greenberg has sleuthed out the prime time to book your flight. The best time to start comparison shopping for flights is 45 to 60 days before you'd like to travel. Airline computers are intentionally set up not to give you a deal outside that time frame because they are looking at the law of supply and demand, Greenberg says.
Know The Rule
If your plane is delayed for any reason other than weather, says Peter Greenberg, you need to invoke Rule 240. "It is the one rule airlines never want you to know about," he says. "If you invoke Rule 240, that means the airline has to take the ticket and endorse it over to the next available flight." The next available flight can be on any major airline, he says. Almost all the big domestic airlines participate in Rule 240, he says. If you still face a delay or cancellations, Greenberg recommends keeping a written record of every person you speak with. Having records to refer to will help you get a refund or a voucher for your trouble.
If you have some leeway in your vacation days, Fiona Lake Waslander warns against locking yourself into a calendar. The best thing to do is thoroughly research your options online. The more flexible you can be with your dates and flight times, the more you can save. You don't always have to book everything yourself, either. If you're traveling with other people, Pauline Frommer recommends using online consolidators to purchase a hotel and airline package in one.
Sure, you have to stay somewhere, but hotels aren't always the best value for your money, Pauline Frommer says. Try renting a room in an apartment, or even the entire place. Also, if you live near a tourist attraction or big city, take advantage of apartment swapping. You can trade up through companies that can be found online. Frommer says to go with a larger company for the widest array of options.
Get A Guarantee
If you do choose to stay in a hotel overseas, Peter Greenberg says to get your hotel to guarantee your rate in U.S. dollars so you are not affected by a further slide of the dollar against a foreign currency.
Live Like A Local
Pauline Frommer recommends avoiding tourist traps by eating at neighborhood restaurants where the locals eat. Here's how to find them: <blockquote>Never ask a hotel for recommendations. They are often paid to drive customers to certain restaurants. Go up to someone on the street and ask where they would eat. When in a country that speaks another language, avoid places with menus in English.</blockquote>
Go Where The Dollar Takes You Further
Is the exchange rate of the dollar dashing your dreams of traveling overseas this summer? It doesn't have to. If you're traveling internationally, Pauline Frommer says to try to go where the dollar still has purchasing power -- South and Central America and Canada are great options. Peter Greenberg says destinations like Turkey, Switzerland and Croatia haven't switched over to the Euro yet and are more budget-friendly. And don't rule out Portugal, El Salvador and the Philippines, says Fiona Lake Waslander. These affordable destinations are rich in culture, history and natural beauty, she says.