Hi, my name is Shannah and I am a travelaholic! I'm a passport collecting fool. There, I said it. What is a travelaholic you ask? It's a person who has an ever-present nagging desire to run home, pack a bag, and get on the next plane to anywhere. Can you relate?
I blame my ancestors, who just like me, would trade "stuff" any day for a chance to see a new part of the world. I've been lucky enough to travel all over the world from Hawaii to New York to Paris to Rome to Kenya and many more places in between. While I love to travel, I don't always love the price tag that comes along with it. Being a financial planner, I am always on a personal mission to scratch my travelaholic itch, all while being smart about the dollars & sense of my trip.
I've become the unofficial travel guru in my group of friends. They commonly ask, "Please tell us your secrets to travelling to amazing places and not spending your last penny." There aren't really any coveted secrets to my approach, but I'm happy to share two dollars & sense tips from this travelaholic to help you scratch your travel itch.
NEGOTIATE! What happened to our generation? We love a good coupon and can't pass up a stellar deal, but we've lost the art of good ole' negotiating. Gasp, you want me to do what? Take a breath and follow me here:
-Hotels work off the get "heads in the beds" system. The more "heads in the beds", the more profit they make.
-Now, it's very common to assume that you can only negotiate with low cost hotels. Nope, actually they are LEAST likely to negotiate. Go for the big buck hotels: Ritz Carlton, luxury boutique hotels, St. Regis, etc. There is always more room to negotiate here because the mark up on the rooms is higher. Are you following me? This is how you can have a dose of luxury without the luxury price tag.
-Call and ask to speak to the hotel manager or the guest relations associate. Don't talk to the front desk person; they have no pull in the negotiation process! Be nice too, it goes a long way. Mid week is usually better than the weekend too.
-First, exhaust all possible discounts you have.
-Second, exhaust all possible ancillary discounts such as birthday, anniversary, promotion to a new job and so on.
-If you work in radio, TV, newspaper, magazine, or even a travel blog (yep, even a blog will suffice if it's done well), ask for the "media rate" discount. You will have to show proof here, so a website, blog, and business cards will be handy. Remember to make it look classy fellow travelers.
-Your last step is simply to negotiate the rate after all discounts are applied. I normally start asking for 30-40% off the rate, but I will settle for 15-20% off. How do you ask? I usually say, "Hi, I'm deciding between your hotel and another hotel. I really want to stay at your hotel, but the street price is too high. I need your help. What is the best rate you can offer me?"
Remember when you get a new job and you are trying to negotiate a better salary with your current job? It's the same strategy here. You need to start a healthy dose of competition between the two hotels.
I found that hotels in Europe are more open to negotiation, but I've gotten some of my best deals in U.S. based hotels. The secret here, fellow travelaholics, is that most people simply settle for the rate they are given. Hotels LOVE you for that. Don't do that!
Score an amazing deal on one of the online sites that offers discount hotels and vacation packages. This can be more difficult because you have to be flexible in your dates and where you want to go.
The strategy here is simple: when you find a deal that you like, always check it against the hotel's pricing to make sure you are really getting that good of a deal. Yes, as you might have guessed, some sites have been sneaky about claiming this amazing life-changing discount, only to find out you were really paying the same, if not more, than if you booked it separately. I steer clear of those sites! Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order:
-Jet Setter- publishes a list of 10+ deals at all different locations once a day, great for the flexible traveler
-Luxury Link- has a lot of high end and middle range listings, you can buy now or go through an auction process, and has a ton of Europe listings
-Vacationist- a subset of Luxury Link that has a list of 10+ time sensitive vacation deals
-Groupon Getaways- great for short trips, I often find local getaways here
All of these sties have lists that you can subscribe to, which is a good idea so you can stay on top of the offerings. Plus, it provides a good daily distraction to look at all the amazing locations!
There's always more room in my travelaholic club, so come join me. I promise it is one affliction that you won't mind having. I believe the saying is that "travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer". Amen to that!
Follow Shannah L. Compton on Twitter: www.twitter.com/shannahlcompton