Save money and change your travel life for the better with these 25 tips from the editors at Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel magazine.
- There are companies that will ship your luggage (or your skis or your golf gear…) so you don’t have to schelp them to and from airports. Here’s the thing: Most simply ship via FedEx or a similar service. You’ll save half - or even more - by going directly to FedEx.
- When booking a hotel room, never mention your membership discount privileges (AAA, AARP, military, government, etc.) until after you’ve been told the room rate.
- If you arrive in Orlando without a hotel reservation, go to the Official Visitor Center of the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau (8723 International Drive, corner of Austrian Row). Ask for the “Black Book,” a list of cut-rate offers phoned in by frantic area hotels with vacancies for that evening. Orlando’s Official Visitor Center is open every day of the year except Christmas.
- Upscale hotels charge for just about everything: Telephone calls, Internet, breakfast, sometimes the gym…. Most of their guests are traveling on expense accounts and don’t put up a fuss. But mid-range hotels tend to include that stuff for free. When you’re not sure, ask before it’s too late.
- If you can round up at least two other couples to share the cost, you can rent a luxurious villa in the tropics. Unusual Villa & Island Rentals (800/846-7280 or 804/288-2823, www.unusualviallrentals.com ) has a large inventory of multibedroom homes; rented by at least three couples together, they cost as little as $800 per couple per week, or $400 per person per week.
- Swapping your home or apartment for one in another city is always the least expensive way for large families to enjoy a vacation. Companies arranging swaps include HomeLink International (800/638-3841, www.homelink.org), Intervac (800/756-4663, www.intervac.com), and HomeExchange.com (800/877-8723, www.homeexchange.com).
- Tour operators that book packages with charter flights (such as Vacation Express, Funjet, and Apple Vacations) also sell just the flights - for far cheaper than regularly scheduled ones. The potential downside is that charter flights usually go weekly, and if you miss your flight or the plane conks out, you’re stuck. Consolidators, which sell discounted fares on regular airlines, are another resource. The best ones, like 1800FlyEurope.com and India specialist HariWorld.com, work out deals with the airlines that fly to a certain area.
- By joining the free Playbill Club at Playbill.com, you can find half-price theater tickets in New York and other U.S. cities without standing in line at a theater kiosk or waiting to buy tickets on the day of performance.
- Before you leave home, buy the sunscreen you’ll need at your local pharmacy, where it costs half the price charged at most resort gift shops. Invest in some basic snorkel gear, too, so you can avoid being overcharged for rentals.
- If you’re booked on an early-morning flight, look into the Park and Fly packages offered by airport hotels. Most include a one-night stay and free parking for up to seven days. The total cost is often less than what you’d pay for a week in the airport lot.
- It’s often cheaper to buy a ticket to London and then fly onward to other European destinations via a regional low-cost airline like EasyJet (www.easyjet.com) and Bmibaby (www.bmibaby.com).
- Prices for car rentals and hotels fluctuate, so never give up sniffing out a better deal. When you locate one, snap it up - and cancel the old reservation. Just make sure the cancellation policy won’t bit you in the rear.
- Bid low, score big! While Priceline is now a full-fledged booking engine, it’s most valuable for its bidding system. We like it for hotels in cities, but be wary of two-start hotels and below, and research neighborhoods in advance. BiddingForTravel.com has examples of successful bids. The law of supply and demand means you’ll do better at business hotels on weekends, at resort towns on weekdays, and anywhere off-season.
- When renting a car, photograph any damage the car may have before leaving the rental agency; a digital camera records the date and time of each picture. The documentation will end any debate over responsibility when you return the car.
- Be sure to check baggage weight limits before you leave home. Low-cost airlines like Ryanair charge $8 per pound or more for excess baggage - a particularly nasty surprise when you probably spent less than half that amount on the airline tickets themselves.
- So, you’re halfway through your vacation and your digital camera’s memory card is full. Now what? Go to an Internet café and upload your pictures to smugmug.com. The site offers unlimited photo-storage space for $40 per year.
- Local specialty foods make great souvenirs, and grocery stores are the best and least expensive place to find them. Chocolate-covered macadamia nuts from Hawaii, beautiful tins of tea from England, pots of mustard from France, and bottles of infused olive oil from Italy are just a few examples.
- Before you book a room over the phone, check the hotel’s site for its “Web-only” rate. It’s often cheaper than the best quote you’ll get by calling reservations because you’re paying for the room up front and the cancellation policies are more rigid.
- If you’re traveling overseas, be sure to check the fine print concerning passports before you leave home (go online or call the country’s embassy). To enter Tahiti, your passport must be valid for at least three months beyond your date of departure; South Africa requires at least two blank (unstamped) pages for entry.
- Don’t assume that because you rented a four-wheel-drive SUV, you’re free to go anywhere you want. Most rental agreements do not cover dirt roads and if you get stuck, you’ll have to pay for towing and any damage done to the vehicle.
- On your computer, delete your cookies occasionally. If you look for flights one day and then go back a few weeks later to see if prices have gone down, the cookies stored in your system may direct the site to go back to the original search (and price) rather than starting again from scratch. Deleting your coolies makes the website think you’re a new visitor.
- Make a color copy of your passport and laminate it. Tucked in a book, purse, or paperback, a copy of the first page of your passport is tremendously useful when completing forms or registering at hotels. If it’s lost or stolen, no big deal. You still have the real McCoy safely stored away.
- Bring a cooler on road trips. Collapsible ones can be packed in the outside pocket of your checked suitcase; hard-sided ones can be filled with clothing and used as an additional piece of luggage. Stocked with ice, drinks, snacks, and picnic items, the cooler will save you time and money on the trip.
- Palm Beach (PBI), Fort Lauderdale (FLL), and Miami (MIA) are a short drive from one another, yet the fares to reach them can be dramatically different. Before booking a flight, research all area airports. For New York, try LaGuardia (LGA), Kennedy (JFK), Newark (EWR), and Islip (ISP). For Los Angeles, try Burbank (BUR), L.A. International (LAX), Long Beach (LGB), and Ontario (ONT).
- All cruise lines offer shore excursions, but you can book directly with the tour companies ahead of time and save money. Unlike with ship-sponsored excursions, however, the ship will leave without you if you’re not back onboard in time.
Source: Arther Frommer’s Budget Travel