Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Use Travel Resources

#10 Money Saving Tip – Use Your Resources When Planning a Trip. Since we started talking about traveling, I thought I’d go into some detail about resources available to most people. First is the American Automobile Association or AAA. If you are a member of AAA or CAA (Canadian Automobile Association) then you have a built-in discount at many hotels and attractions. Whether it’s worth it to you to join one of these auto clubs for the discounts depends on how often you travel and whether you can garner the discounts elsewhere.

Use the Internet to shop around. I like to check different airlines for their rates and then check different dates (a day or two earlier or later). Or I try different times of the year to see how much different the rates are. You can use Expedia, Priceline, or Travelocity or Orbitz to do your research. I don’t know if one is better than the other. I always book directly with the hotel or airline.

Once you find an area you want to stay in, look at the hotels you want. I choose my hotel like I purchase a house. Location, location, location. I like a hotel that is within walking distance to area attractions. It’s great not to have to navigate the streets of an unfamiliar city. Once I find an area, I see which different hotels are there and I compare prices. I’m partial to the Marriott hotel chain but will go elsewhere if there is a much better price. See if any of them have specials going on at their website. Compare which gives breakfast or other amenities such as swimming pools or workout rooms.

I generally plan my own trips rather than use a travel agent. However, sometimes travel agents can be very useful. When looking at trips to foreign countries such as Mexico or South America, they often have package deals that cannot be beat.

Think of other discounts you can use for hotels, restaurants, or attractions. Senior citizens, members of AARP, children under a certain age, members of a warehouse club such as Costco, the Entertainment Book and even your grocery card can save you money at many places.

Before you go, do your research and you will make up for the time by the money you save.

In Real Life (IRL) - We belong to AAA for the services it provides if our car breaks down. The discounts are just a bonus. I always look there first to see what discounts they offer. They offer discounts to local amusement parks, many hotels, and other attractions. When we went to Gatlinburg last summer I got the AAA rate. Our friends who were not members did not get it. We paid about $80 per night. They paid $100. For a four-night stay, we saved $80 – about the cost of our yearly membership.

Sometimes you have to be creative. I fell upon this tip quite by accident. As I said, I like the Marriott chains. I wanted to go to a certain hotel and put in the dates I wanted, but it wouldn’t give me the AAA rate. So I changed the dates by a day or two and voila, there was a AAA rate. So what I did was book the room for two nights with a AAA rate and two nights without on two separate reservations. If I had tried a 4-night reservation with AAA, it would not have been available.

We went to Boston once with our oldest daughter. I was looking on one of the many Boston tourist websites when I saw they had a children’s museum. I went to the Children’s museum website and saw that admission was only $1 on Fridays. Perfect! One of the days we were going to be there was on a Friday. That’s the day we went to the Children’s museum, saving us a few dollars each in the process.

Before I go somewhere, I will look at an Entertainment Book for that city and see if they have any buy one get one free coupons that would make it worth it to purchase the book. So far I haven’t used it, but it’s worth trying.

Recently we went to Luray Caverns – about an hour from our home. Tickets are a high price of $19 per adult. However, if you use a Giant Supermarket food card, the tickets were buy one get one half off. Still expensive, but more palatable. The kids were free or cheaper so our family of 5 got in for less than full-price.

Lastly, we sometimes plan trips around when the kids will still be free. For example children under 3 are free at Disney World. As in Free! We knew we wanted to take our daughter there while we still had one child and could go pretty easily. So we went a few months before her 3rd birthday while she could appreciate it and it didn’t cost much. We were in Florida anyway, so we didn’t plan our trip around this. As I do think older children appreciate Disney more. But it was a cheaper trip to Disney than it would be had she just turned 3.

No comments: