I am not a fan of rollercoasters, in fact, I think I might go so far as to say I can’t stand them. And just listening to the bad economic news lately is making me feel like I’m stuck on a never-ending rollercoaster ride. But, there has been one good outcome of all this craziness: I’ve picked up some new cost-saving habits (or refined some old ones) so that my family can keep traveling this year. Hopefully this will give you some ideas on how to stretch your family’s travel budget.
My sister and I travel together regularly and joke that we never end one trip without a plan for the next one we’ll take together. But planning does not mean booking and I’ve noticed in the past six months that my hyper-planning habit is paying off – I’ve saved significantly on hotel rooms and flights by planning early. If you choose to visit a destination months in advance, you have time to research prices for flights, hotels and other travel services. You will quickly get a sense for typical prices at that destination and that can be powerful information because it allows you to determine whether any deals or special offers you find are really good value or not. For example, even though I’ve known for many months that we needed to attend a family wedding in the U.K. this month, I waited and I watched airfares weekly (or more) and booked when the price hit what I believe is an all-time low fare on the Seattle – London route ($199 return + taxes and fees with British Airways).
Online Tools for Savvy Travelers
If the idea of checking airfares or hotel websites frequently seems like just too much effort to you, fear not, the internet can be your knight in shining armour. If you use tools like Hotwire‘s Trip Watcher in your initial search, you can choose to save the search and Hotwire will keep it active over time, sending you regular updates of changes in prices as they occur or in a weekly email.
Bid Aggressively on Priceline.com
In my trip report on our New Year visit to Whistler, I mentioned that we used Priceline.com to find last minute accomodation and that due to this, we paid peanuts (comparatively) for a room at a four-star hotel in a premium location on a holiday weekend. Wendy Perrin mentions in her article on The World on Sale that 2009 will be a year when stunning travel deals are available and hotels particularly will be managing pricing aggressively, but that special offers and promotions will be targeted to clients with whom the hotel already has a relationship. Our “neighbors” at the Whistler Hilton had booked their room at a steeply discounted rate through a promotion which the Hilton chain had offered only to members of the Hilton Honors program. Strangely, this family’s promotion price was almost identical to the amount we had bid on Priceline. I’ll be using this strategy of bidding super-low amounts for rooms at premium hotels for at least the rest of this year.
Watch out for Deals and Special Offers
I’ve got subscriptions to services provided by Farecast and TravelZoo where I receive an email telling me about deals and promotions on airfares, hotel accommodations and tickets to shows and attractions. The information is customized based on my location – there’s no point in me receiving special offer fares from NY when I live in Seattle! I’ve also signed up for promotional emails from a couple of airlines who I fly with regularly and I’m watching out for deals and offers on emails and mailings from credit card companies. Most of this email I read and delete, but I feel that my subscriptions are a lazy way for me, as a consumer, to keep in touch with what’s going on in the travel industry.
Think Outside the Box
As I mentioned recently, my boys will likely travel as unaccompanied minors to visit relatives this summer. Enough said. When we travel to the U.K., we will be staying with family. If we take some vacation time this summer, we’ll likely spend it in our own state, exploring the parts and places we haven’t yet visited. I don’t consider this a ‘staycation’ – anything but – there’s many parts of Washington I still haven’t visited and I’m sure I’m not the only one who suffers from the “Well I can go there any time” approach to the region where I live – except I rarely do.
I hope you find some of this information useful. For me, I need to force myself to get off the crashing economy rollercoaster so I’m going to take a leaf out of my friend Beth’s book and stop listening to the news for a while