1-Pick Destinations Based On Currency Exchange Rates
My destinations are selected based on where the dollar is strongest. Flexibility in choosing my vacation allows me to be opportunistic.
Reviewing online currency valuation articles helps determine where the exchange rates are best. A strong dollar stretches my travel budget without having to sacrifice luxury. An incredible boutique hotel in Colombia was only $262/night including a lavish breakfast.
Consider whether you think the currency will go up or down by the time you check-out of the hotel. If you think the dollar will go down, then look for rates that require pre-payment in dollars otherwise pay at check-out. Use a credit card without foreign transaction fees. There is a fee built into the rate each time the currency is converted so limit the number of conversions.
2-Use Discount Travel Sites
Scouring sites such as luxurylink.com or jetsetter.com is similar to looking for a bargain on a sales rack. Not all packages are deals since they include suites or champagne which may not be important to you. Reviewing the details is critical. A 10-night trip to India at 5-star luxury Oberoi hotels with breakfast and airport transfers was $2,375 or $238/night on jetsetter.com.
Investigating the section entitled "Highest Percent Off Retail" on luxurylink.com can yield bargains, especially to lesser traveled destinations. A recent 3-night stay at a 5-star boutique hotel in Paraguay cost $195 for 2 people for 3 nights and included breakfast. The $40 booking fee was covered by my first-time user discount for a final price of $185 or $62/night. Additional discounts can be earned when you refer friends who book a stay. Please feel free to say I referred you.
Hotel calendar schedules are still based on historical weather data despite the unpredictability of the weather. Use this to your advantage. An off-peak rate trip to Brazil has 70 degree temperatures. This can be hit or miss so bring an umbrella and extra layers just in case. There are also less crowds and shorter lines.
4-Optimize Frequent Flier Points
Some airlines such as Delta use zone pricing to determine the number of points required to purchase a trip. Select pricier destinations within the zone to increase the value of the points. Visiting Paraguay is a costly route but it's the same number of points as visiting other southern South American destinations.
Incorporate overnight stays or add extensions. A round-trip to Luxembourg from Zurich costs $1,400. Yet, United allowed me to add it to my round-trip NY-Zurich ticket as a free extension.
5-Play The Credit Card Game
Credit card companies are offering bonus points when you open a credit card and spend x dollars in a defined time period. After I meet the minimum requirement, I stop using the card and apply for a new card. My revolving door of credit cards allows me to accumulate a massive amount of points very quickly.
Chase United credit card offered 50,000 bonus miles if I spent $2,000 dollars in the first 3 months. The bonus miles allowed me to raise my United 10,000 balance to 60,000 points. That was the amount I needed to fly round-trip to Zurich with my Luxembourg extension.
6-Diversify Your Credit Card Portfolio.
Hotels offer credit card incentives as well. The Hyatt hotel program offers 2 free nights after spending $1,000 in the first three months with no fee for the card. My two nights in Seoul were free.
Points accumulated on these cards can be used toward additional free stays when you charge on the card. My 1-night stay at the Zurich Park Hyatt was free.
Other cards such as Barclays, Chase Sapphire and Capital One allow you to accumulate points that can be used to erase travel expenses such as tours, restaurants and taxis on your credit card bill that would not be covered by traditional point programs. Programs vary so check the details.
My Capital One card allowed me to remove a 12-course tasting menu dinner at DOM in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The dinner charge meanwhile accumulated new points toward a future travel expense.
7-Compare Online Pricing to Travel Agent Rates
Online hotel sites or calling the property directly does not always secure the best rate. The price for a room at The Belmond Iguazu Falls hotel was the same on various hotel sites, their own website and when I called the hotel directly. Amex Platinum Fine Hotel Rate (FHR), however, had the same rate but included an airport transfer, a late checkout at 4 p.m. and a free buffet breakfast for two. Checking rates with travel agents or companies such as Amex FHR or Virtuoso may not lower the price but can include valuable and pricey perks.
8-Compare Rates for Each Day of your Stay
On a multiple-day stay, compare rates between the various programs for each day of your stay. For a 6-night stay at Seoul Park Hyatt, Amex Platinum FHR had the lowest rates for two of the nights which included a buffet breakfast and afternoon tea. Calling the hotel directly yielded two nights at an even lower price. The final two nights were really expensive through both programs because the property was near capacity. I used the two free nights from my Park Hyatt credit card certificates on the most expensive nights and booked two nights through Amex Platinum FHR and the remaining two nights directly with the hotel.
9-Book tours through the Hotel Concierge
Booking day tours directly with the hotel concierge reduces the cost since there are less people profiting from the booking. The concierge at top hotels know the city's best guides.
Traveling to exotic locales doesn't have to break the bank but it does take being savvy.