Now that I have your attention with this heading, I can share the money-saving tips that have saved me a bundle over the years. As both a former banker and a die-hard traveler, I pride myself on getting good value for my travel dollar.
I believe that travel is not a luxury, but a vital part of a balanced and happy life (my wise old dad taught me that one!). With the following suggestions, I hope I can help you squeeze a few more travel miles for your money and enjoy your next vacation without worrying about your bank balance.
1. Be a banker and practice a little hedging!
We don’t have to be financial wizards to hedge our travel money when traveling overseas. The simple act of “locking in” your exchange rate before you depart by buying travelers checks in the local currency will protect you from a falling dollar while on the road.
Whether your dollar goes up or down while you are away, you will always know you’re the true cost of your purchases based on the exchange rate at which you bought your currency.
2. Review your various memberships
Before every trip I empty my wallet and review my cards. Everything from your credit card, airline mileage program, autoclub membership to your professional memberships offer discounts for hotels, car hire, flights and tourist attractions. Finding out your entitlements before you depart will save you anywhere from five to 20 percent on your travel expenses.
3. Ask for a discount
If you can’t keep track of which membership gives you what discount, just list them all when making a reservation. When I am reserving a hotel room, I simply list every membership I have, and then let the customer service staff tell me which one gives the best discount.
Never be afraid to ask for a better deal. If you are staying a number of nights at one hotel or hiring a car for more than just a few days, use this as leverage to ask for a better per night/per day price.
4. Learn the art of haggling
The rules for markets and stores that welcome haggling are simple and as follows:
(a.) Start by offering one third of the quoted price.
(b.) Make only small increases to the price.
(c.) Be patient.
(d.) Walk away if you don’t like the final price offered.
(e.) Enjoy the process!
5. Contacting home
Use Skype or prepaid phone cards rather than phoning directly from your room. Hotel phone rates are often exorbitant. (For example, a Go World Travel reader recently contacted us after she received an outrageous US$70 phone bill for two three-minute phone calls to the States from her hotel room at the Grand Chancellor in Auckland, New Zealand.)
With prepaid cards, you can be sure of what your call is costing. If your hotel room won’t allow you to call out or charges you to use a prepaid card, use the hotel lobby phone.
For general non-urgent contact, send emails, but steer clear of expensive cyber cafes in tourist areas. Simply ask directions to the local library where access is either free or at a nominal payment.
6. Secondhand book and music stores
Entertainment is a traveler’s best friend. I love a good mystery or thriller on a long flight, and no road trip is complete without a few good tunes to hum along with. When I need to update my books and tapes/CDs on the road, I hit the secondhand stores. To lighten my bag, I always ask about trading in my old books and those tapes/CDs that I have done to death.
7. Discount coupons
I often find these in city tourist guides in my hotel room, but I have also found good value discounts or “two-for-one” deals in newspapers and at the local tourist information center.
I have found the most useful ones when doing my research on the internet before I ever depart, often finding printable discount vouchers for attractions I’d like to visit on my trip.
My buddy Sal and I attended a fun Cajun-cooking class in New Orleans a few years back. I found the school when searching the web before my departure and scored a discount on the class for us both, courtesy of the discount voucher I had printed from the school’s web site.
8. Discount clubs
On a recent trip to California, I walked into a chain motel to book a room for the night. On the reception desk sat an application form for a free membership to the hotel’s frequent visitor program. There were no conditions attached, and all I needed to do was take a few minutes to fill out the necessary form. Instantly, I received the members’ 10 percent discount on my current booking. Amazingly, of all the people waiting with me to book in that night, I was the only person to take the time to fill out the form and receive the discount.
My motto is, if it’s free and it gives you an instant discount, join!
9. Internet bookings
One advantage of the technology boom is the proficiency of travel-related Internet sites. Airlines, hotel chains and car rental companies have invested big to develop these websites. However, they need to attract consumers to use these sites for our travel bookings rather than the more expensive to operate call centers and outlets. To do this, they offer discounts for the same booking made via their website rather than a phone or in-person booking. I have found savings of 30 to 40 percent for car rental alone for the identical booking was made on the Internet rather than the company’s toll free number.
And don’t forget that Go World Travel Magazine has a special partnership with One Travel to provide discount travel offers on hotel, car rentals, etc. to our readers. (Check it out for yourself by clicking the “Planning a Trip?” ad in the right hand column.)
I’m still surprised by the number of people who choose to travel without insurance. As my travel agent says, “If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.” To ensure you get the most from your insurance dollar, take the time to read the policy before you depart. Note exactly what you need in the way of documentation if you do need to make a claim on a lost, stolen or broken item.
I received replacement value on a stolen camera because I took the time to get a written report from the tour company I was with when the theft occurred. A pair of expensive prescriptions sunglasses were paid for in full when I got home because I spent 10 minutes getting a signed and dated letter from the manager at the Spa I was visiting at the time they were stolen.