Things Even Experienced
Travelers Don’t Know
The majority of people who travel do so only once or twice a year. They vacation as couples, family groups or even singles. They look for the best fares, probably a non-stop flight and departures and arrivals from convenient airports.
But there is so much more that most people, even experienced travelers never consider including in their trip.
Some of the so-called “Bucket Shops,” sites that offer deeply discounted air fare or hotel rooms often don’t have what they offer. Some say they have a conglomeration of various sites and can compute the best available offer. Frequently far from the truth.
Not too long ago we decided on a last minute whim to book a getaway to Lake George, New York. We uploaded a site known for hotel offerings. Without exception every time we requested a hotel and the offered price, we were told that nothing was available in that category. It almost got to a point of bait and switch because there was always a more expensive lodging available.
Totally disgusted we decided to contact the hotel of our choice directly. Coincidentally, this was one of the hotels they said had no vacancies in our price range…a price they had advertised on their site.
One phone call to the hotel and we were able to book a very nice, upscale room without any difficulty. Add to that the fact that the hotel offered us the accommodation at considerably less than the booking site wanted.
While this isn’t always the case, it is true that by contacting the front desk directly, you can more of ten than not get what you want at a price you want. Add to that the fact that if you are polite and not demanding, you can frequently bargain for an upgrade or a better price. That’s not always the case, but it certainly is worth the effort. Avoid the “800” numbers as they are usually from a central phone bank and they do not have the authority to upgrade or cut the price.
The same does not hold true for airlines but there are ways you can save money. If you travel off-peak and fly on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday you will find the aircraft far less crowded, you’ll have a better chance of getting seats reserved for mileage credit and often fares are less expensive.
If you’re planning a long weekend, see if it is possible for you to schedule your time to go from Saturday to Tuesday. You could snag the same benefits.
For the most part vacationers schedule their trips months, or even a year, in advance. That’ll usually work to your benefit, but even on shorter notice you can save money if you can go slightly off-season. If you are going on a ski trip, there’s only one time to go-winter, but for most everyone else there are options.
If you are considering the Caribbean, consider what is called the “Shoulder Season.” That’s the period between high season and off-season. The islands can be hotter than you know what in July and especially in August. There are also period when they fill up with other national groups such as Japanese in May, Australians in January and Canadians in July and August.
During Shoulder Season the weather is still near optimal, the crowds are thinner and airlines and hotels are eager to fill those rooms and seats.
With airlines and hotels the best deals are usually sub-rosa and rarely ever announced. They will contact customers who hold their loyalty cards, credit cards or those registered to receive information on their web sites. Tie into these possibilities and you can save a bundle.
Another thing to save while traveling is time at the airport. Lines at security can be unnerving, but there is a way around them. While the greater majority of passengers will have to wait on obnoxiously long lines, take off their coats and shoes and shuffle through the magnetometer, you can avoid some of that.
Go on line and look up the Global Entry card. That’s issued by the government and can be used for ID whenever you travel. Returning from an international flight? While everyone else is lined up to go through Immigration, you move to a virtually empty line, insert the card in a kiosk, place your hand on the screen answer a couple of questions and a receipt is printed permitting you to proceed to customs. When a 747 unloads that could save you an hour.
The caveat here is that after filing for the card, you will have to appear at a Customs office at a designated location for a personal interview and for them to take a biometric of your hand. If you have a criminal record, check to see if you are eligible.
The other method is to contact your airline and apply for a TSA Pre-Check. Most airports have a separate line for Pre-Check that will avoid the general queue. You also will not have to remove coat or shoes. The Global Entry card is frequently accepted here as well.
by Bob & Sandy Nesoff
Members: North American Travel Journalists Association
American Society of Journalists and Authors