I am asked often how I can afford to travel as I do.
Besides having a fairly successful business, my husband is also a successful entrepreneur in his own right - and whose company rewards him often with vacation-style conferences, incentive trips and out-of-town meetings.
I was smart a number of years back and decided that a flexible catering business would be ideal for me to be able to tag along.
“Yeah, Stephanie, but I still couldn’t get to some of the places you do!”
I would have to agree - but also disagree.
Maybe some of the more exotic locales are a little out of your reach right now, but if you have the desire for a particular destination, there is always a way!
If you are already travelling a little now - even it is only day trips over weekend jaunts, here are just FOUR (4) of my favourite and well-used tips and tricks to saving money WHILE you are travelling so you can then travel more often.
I know you curse all of those retail loyalty cards that you have busting out of your wallet. Some of you may even be “techie” enough to use the “passport” section of your iPhone to store all of your card numbers. (I, personally, use my Notes section that I can access across all of my devices.)
The idea behind loyalty cards is to reward customers who are loyal. That’s it.
I used to spend hours researching hotel websites, online travel sites, auction sites, discount sites and wherever else I could find a deal online and realized one day that I was spending more time that the overnight stay was worth - or for the $50 or so that I would save by spending that time doing the research.
I have since started only using one hotel “brokerage” website that offers rewards after so many stays and I will tend to choose hotel chains that I know I already trust and like and subscribe to their loyalty program.
Since I am travelling often anyhow, I pay for the posted rate on the brokerage site (still discounted much more than at the hotel directly) for most of my stays, and when I have to travel to a more expensive area or during peak seasons, I can use my earned “free night” to help out when I really need it. Even better? I can use the cash value of the free night to discount a much better room rate so I can live like a princess for one day. 🙂
Besides saving time on deciding what to wear, packing light saves a lot of money on airline baggage fees.
It used to be a standard luxury - to have a free checked bag and free carry-on for each flight. Now, unless you have paid for an upgrade or earned a big “frequent flyer status” , you will most likely be paying a fee for each checked bag as well as extra fees for any carry-on that is too heavy. Packing light will help you either keep everything in your carry-on or perhaps share a bag with your travelling partner.
Scared about all of the shopping you plan on doing at your destination? Make sure to research your airlines baggage fees ahead of time (or before you go shopping again). Most times it is cheaper to pay the low, flat rate of a second checked bag than to stuff all of your purchases in your current suitcase and pay the “overweight fee”. Don’t pack an extra bag “just in case” though…just add “cheap duffle bag” on your shopping list and then re-pack when you reach your hotel before leaving for home.
Plan Ahead with “Alerts”
I am sure you have heard that discounts can be found when you book ahead. It is not always the case with all travel, but there are a few exceptions - or things to watch out for…
Resorts - There are always new resorts popping up all over the world. If you have an idea of a certain island or area that you plan to visit this coming winter, go your favourite online site (or contact your travel agent) and search NOW for what you are looking for. Save the search criteria and have it email you every time a new deal is posted - or when a new property turns up. The new properties will have amazing deals for a number of rooms - but only for a certain timeframe.
Hotels - A similar rule applies for hotels. If you know you will be travelling to a particular city, go to a review site, a hotel brokerage site, and sign up to receive “alerts” or other email notifications about deals or new offers for that location.
Flights - Flights used to be cheaper when you booked well in advance, but lately they seem to fluctuate regularly depending on passenger counts, the season and the weather. Go to your favourite travel site and set an alert to advise you price drops for a particular date and destination. If you can be a little flexible with your departure date or time, even better.
Flex Your Schedule
Planning a shopping trip to New York? Peak times for travel to Manhattan are spring and fall. Hotels may have deals on, but flights may be pricey (and quickly booked) with the high demand.
Need to travel to downtown Toronto for a couple of meetings in September? Don’t focus on finding a hotel close to where your meetings are. Most downtown hotels during this month are filled with conferences, their guests and associated business travellers. It may not sound logical, but it will be cheaper to stay a little outside of the downtown core and then take a taxi or subway to your meetings.
When booking vacations and using an online reservation system, always select the “flexible dates” option or make a note to check the departure date before or after your first choice. A Monday departure may not be ideal, but if you can save $300 per person, it might be worth it for the extra day you have to take off work.
Finding a deal is half the fun in booking your travel plans. It may be just a free room upgrade, a better view or slightly larger bathroom, but any little boost is always a treat.