Travel Smart, Savings and Tips
By Charles Hopkins
Published 11/28/2007 | Travel
Most travelers know that some of the best bargains are in the
off-season, when poorer weather or the start of school makes
So when do you travel to get the best deals? That depends. Peak
season varies from region to region. Summer airfares to popular
maintain areas, parts of Canada, and Europe can be high. But summertime
travel to warm weather destinations...Florida, the Southwest, parts of
Mexico, and the Caribbean...can be a bargain. If heat isn't a big deal
to you, why not take advantage of lower costs? Summer in the United
States is winter in Australia and the Galapagos Islands (as well as a
lot of other places), so travel deals are available. Yet you can see
and do many of the same things as in the peak season.
Midweek stays at resorts are often less costly than weekends; but
city hotels that cater to business travelers have high rates during the
week and bargains on weekends. The best airfares often require a
Saturday night stay unless it's a local hop. You'll sometimes find
better domestic fares in the middle of the week or during off-hours on
weekdays (late at night, early in the morning). Weekend flights almost
always cost more. Here's the catch: If you have to take off two days of
work in order to get a midweek flight or book a midweek resort stay,
and you lose either pay or vacation time, what have really saved?
You'll need to consider those factors as well.
When it comes to lodging, consider the "shoulder" season..the time
between peak and low travel periods. If you book a stay early in
shoulder season, you can get a deal and probably still have the
benefits of the same weather and opportunities available during peak
But sometimes programs are not available in shoulder season. At
many guest ranches, for example, families can cut costs in June and
September, but there may not be a supervised children's program or as
many children to make friends with. If you have older kids who would be
out riding with you anyway, this is an excellent time to visit a guest
ranch, as it's often less children's program so you could get in
adults-only time, the money you save by traveling during the off-season
may not make up for that loss.
Keep in mind that deals can be had at almost any time of year and
that bargaining skills are not just for use in foreign marketplaces. At
many hotels it's standard practice to quote callers the highest rate
first. Reservationists are often told not to volunteer deals unless
specifically asked about them. To get a better deal after a rate is
quoted, ask if there's a better price available. There usually is. If
you've seen a special deal in a newspaper or flyer, you should mention
it. Ask about discounts for group members. You're likely to have the
best luck bargaining with reservationist at the hotel itself as opposed
to those at a nationwide number, but try both. If no one will offer a
deal, find a different hotel. You can almost guarantee that your costs
will come down if you negotiate. After booking your stay, check
periodically to see if new deals have come up in newspaper travel
sections. Ask your travel agent to continue checking airfares in case
of special promotions. But don't obsess about it. Vacation is all about
letting go and being laid-back.
Did you know in advance the last time your child got sick? Probably
not. And it's a sure bet you won't know the next time either. In the
everything-that-can-wrong-will-go-wrong scenario, picture your child
breaking out with chicken pox the day before you're scheduled to leave.
And then there's the possibility of lost or delayed luggage, theft of
baggage or important documents, and medical mergencies en route. These
delays it's hard to tell which airlines have come out of bankruptcy and
which are just filing. The same is true of tour operators. So what
happens when the company you shcedule with goes belly up? You're out of
luck unless you purchased travel insurance (some credit cards include
travel coverage, too, so check yours). Most curise lines, tour
operators, and many outfitters will either offer a specific insurance
pachage in their information kits or be able to suggest one. Travel
agents can do the same thing for you. You will not get your best deal
from those vending machines at the airport, so try to arrange for
insurance when booking your trip.
Of course, some unforseen problems are not covered by travel
insurance, such as your boss's deciding at the last minute that this is
a bad time for you to be away. Read the fine print so you know exactly
what you're buying and what it covers.
Check with your travel agent, cruise line, tour operator, or
outfitter for refund policies. Some offer no refunds. Others give
refunds on a timeline the closer to the trip date you cancel, the less
money you'll get back. Find out what the refund policy is before you
decide to sign up.
Paying gratuities is usually a voluntary gesture that's based on
performance and service. Many people who work in the travel industry
depend on tips as a major part of their compensation. Tour guides, for
example, make a decent living only if they make decent tips. If you
travel with a guide in a city, on a river, on a walking or beking tour
you should tip unless the service is not notably poor.
Some tips, however, are built into the pricing structure and are
included on your bill. There are ranches with mandatory tips for
wranglers and other staff, and there are retaurants that automatically
add a gratuity to food bills. And with some types of travel--cruise
ships, for example--tipping falls just short of mandatory. Exactly
what's expected will usually be spelled out in the brochures.
It's a good idea to check guidebooks and consulates about attitudes
towards tipping in foreign countries; what we mean as a than-you might
be taken as an insult in some cultures. And it's important to note that
some resort have a policy of no tipping. When in doubt, always ak.