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Oregon Family Magazine

Valuable Travel Deals and Steals

01/31/2014 ● By Sandy Kauten

Plan ahead for big travel savings

Planning goes a long way towards creating effortless and affordable travel options. Whenever possible, take your time when scheduling your family, business and couple travel plans; just as you would for a party, event or business meeting.  The time spent in the pre-planning stage can result in valuable savings, serious upgrades and more!

There are several “slow” times each year within the travel industry.  This is when savings can be substantial if you’re able to capitalize on booking during these times.  While some hotels, airlines, resorts, etc. may require you to travel during these times, they often offer a travel window within in which, your trip must be completed. These “magic” times of year are right before the holidays (October to December, excluding Thanksgiving, of course), and right after New Years (the beginning of January until right before spring break.) While travel increases and some venues may “black out” President’s Day weekend or Valentine’s Day, these blocks of time are notoriously slow performers in the travel industry. 

The other times of year when travelers can reap major benefits are more specific to the locale.  Look for extremes when it comes to weather – the cold, hot, humid, winter, dark, rainy, etc. seasons will garner the best savings if you’re willing to put up with what many consider less than ideal situations.

Travel is a very personal thing and what works for one person or group, may be less than ideal for another. Check out the following tips to help you save a little time, effort and money for your next trip.

Make sure you do your Due Diligence take your travel planning to the next level.  Leave nothing to chance.  Know your ideal dates, if leeway exists to secure a better deal, how many travelers, their ages and if anyone in your group is eligible for any discounts. Be sure to research resorts, hotels, the area, restaurants, etc.    

Online versus Telephone bookings – can make a world of difference when it comes to price. If you’re not sure which way will yield you the best deal – try both! Many resorts offer online deals, while some deals are unadvertised and can be secured by asking for them while speaking with a representative.

Never rule out alternatives when it comes to making travel arrangements.  Due to the economy, travelers have found houses, condos, apartments and room rentals to be huge money saving options to hotels and resorts.  This is especially true when traveling for special events when communities have been known to raise prices, or for prime resorts and destinations. When looking at house rentals research reputable companies and make sure you are dealing with the owner or person legally responsible for booking the rental.  Depending on the destination, savings can be 50% or more. 

Evaluate whether you need travel/car rental insurance.  Insurance can be the difference between spending a little as a potential safety net or being left in the cold if plans go awry or an accident results.  Travel insurance is often a mere pittance in comparison to extensive travel plans. What happens if poor weather hits at the beginning of a trip, someone unexpectedly becomes ill or get injured, or an accident results with a rental? Any of these things could be a bump in the road or catastrophic to vacation plans.  Weigh whether you are comfortable leaving it to chance or research the various types, level of coverage and costs associated with insurance.

You may be able to stack deals for huge travel savings.  Deals exist for veterans, active military, seniors, groups and more. When making reservations ask venues if they are offering discounts, if they can be stacked, or which deal will yield the most bang for your traveling buck.  Once reservations are booked, check back frequently to see if any better deals are being offered before your travel dates. Most hotels or resorts will allow you to change your reservation or rebook it for the current price, or offer a refund of the difference.  With airlines, changes can result in hefty fees, so be sure the savings are worth it in the long run.

Select hotel programs and credit cards offer discounts, upgrades, free nights and rewards. Many hotel groups allow reward points to be transferred to airlines for excellent values. Study how each chain’s or credit card’s program works and which features will provide you with the most cost savings. Multiple cards and programs can be used for different opportunities. When using credit cards, if cards are paid in full each month, dollars can accumulate quickly if cards are used for everyday purchases like groceries and monthly payments like cell phone, internet and utilities.  

Alleviate any extra baggage fees by packing light. Look for a hotel, resort, villa or rental with laundry facilities.  Not only will you be able to pack lighter than normal, but you’ll be able to return home with clean clothes! Some are coin-operated, offer facility-handled laundry service or come with your unit for your convenience.  

Verify your travel arrangements a few days before you take to the road, sky or rails. Review hotel, plane, and daily itineraries to make sure your plans are correct, you’ve not been bumped, or your reservations have been lost.  Be sure to print and/or email yourself and a friend a copy of the directions, reservations, etc. as a precaution. Printed information can be damaged and electronic devices can be lost.  Make sure your “copy” is not checked in with your baggage.

 Investigate more affordable options if your destination or proximity to a specific location is not set in stone. Incredible deals can be found if you’re willing to change your hotel to one off the beaten path, or go to a less popular island, or can select a moderately priced resort instead of one with deluxe accommodations. It depends on where you’d like to spend your money. If you’re traveling and simply using your hotel room as a place to sleep, then saving money on your room for fun family excursions may be smart.  However, if your room is where you plan to relax, lounge and socialize, you may prefer to spend more on your lodgings for comfort’s sake.

Negotiation is the key to successful travel deals at any time of year. Once you’ve researched the destination, locale and your personal preferences, you’re armed and ready to tell your travel agent, resort representative or reservations clerk exactly what you’re looking for. Depending on the size of your family, Expedia has a service where you can list your wants and needs and hotels and resorts will bid for your business, freeing up your time for the more “fun” aspects. .

Go right to the source. While many killer deals can be found through travel sites like Expedia, TripAdvisor and more, many resorts and hotels will price match, or even best these websites.  This is especially true when it is getting close to travel dates and they have a number of available rooms. 

Shuttles, taxis, parking, car rentals or on-site transportation can wreak havoc with travel budgets. Be sure to determine how you can and will get around when making plans. Daily hotel parking fees, weekly car rental rates, or bus fares can be pricey. Having to adhere to a bus or shuttle schedule can also impact sightseeing or family activities.  If handicap accessibility is required, make any arrangements in advance to ensure travelers can take advantage of everything a destination has to offer.

 With a little pre-planning, travel deals can be found at any time of year.  When flexibility and advance notice can be worked into the equation, the world can indeed… be your oyster. 

Happy Trails and Super Savings!