As a Financial Advisor for almost 30 years, I’ve been blessed to travel extensively for both pleasure and business. The Covid pandemic has drastically changed the travel industry and has curtailed travel of all sorts for almost 2 years. I personally had to cancel 3 over-seas trips and multiple domestic trips. Now that travel is resuming, we are seeing increased expenses for basic travel expenses including air travel, hotel rooms, rental cars, and food expense. Below are some of my personal tips to get the most value out of your travel dollars:
#1. Use credit card points wherever possible – Many credit cards allow you to use “reward” points towards travel. I’ve found one of the best uses of travel points is on air travel. If you join a frequent flyer program many credit cards will allow you to transfer your reward points to your frequent flyer program. Then these points can be utilized for free airline tickets.
#2. Look at discount airlines who typically service smaller regional airports and fly to vacation cities. Many small to midsize airports will have one or more discount airlines that fly to vacation destinations such as Florida, Las Vegas, Colorado, New York, and a host of other locations that can provide great domestic vacations. These discount carriers are usually much less expensive than their full-service counterparts. In addition, many of them are full-service travel companies and can package a hotel and car with their flight, substantially less than making these arrangements individually
#3. When flying to your use destination use third party arrangements such as Uber, Lyft, Taxi, public transportation or private driver’s vs renting a car. Car rental prices have increased dramatically due to Covid. Many of the rental car companies sold many of their vehicles to survive Covid. The net result is the supply today isn’t meeting the demand. I recently reserved a car in Florida that pre Covid would have cost around $300-$400 for the week. I had to pay $1000 for the week due to the increases in cost. If you are not traveling from place to place you will likely be able to save money using third party vendors for transportation to and from the airport, and moving around your destination
#4. Look beyond hotels for your accommodations. Look at sites such as VRBO and Airbnb at renting a condo or home vs a traditional hotel or resort. I commonly find I can get a larger place to stay for less than a traditional hotel room. In addition, I will often eat breakfast/lunch in the condo or home since it has a full kitchen and divert the savings to choosing where I would like to spend my funds for a special dinner.
#5. Consider using a private guide/driver for site seeing. This will most likely cost you more than site seeing on your own but the time it saves and the benefits it provides often offset the cost. I have used private guides and drivers all over the world and without exception they have enhanced my travel experience and made it more enjoyable. This includes the benefits that many guides can take you off the beaten path for unique experiences. In addition, they will often be able to provide entrance to difficult to get locations or have a way to skip the inevitable lines for popular tourist attractions. If you choose to take my tip and not rent a car, they will often include the transportation from your hotel/condo/home front door and drop you back off at the end of your tour.
#6. Consider a Food Tour for dinner if you are in a major city. This has become one of my favorite ways to explore a city and have a memorable dinner. This may cost a bit more for dinner but often includes a tour of the city as well as enjoying different types of food/drink establishments. I usually include this at the beginning of a stay. This will often provide insight into special places I want to eat during the remainder of my trip. The guides are usually very helpful in making recommendations of restaurants and city highlights that aren’t on their specific tour.
#7. Consider using a travel professional to help you plan and book your trip. Most agencies charge nothing for their services. This is especially important as cruising opens again. A travel professional that specializes in the types of travel you are planning often can direct you to the best value for your dollar and match you with the specific cruise line, resort, destination, etc… that is the best fit for your budget, needs and dreams. If they are a large travel agency they may have blocked rooms, cabins, etc… at a discounted rate that they will pass on to their clients. I usually recommend to my clients, friends, and family that they check with 3 travel professionals. One on-line specialty agency, one large agency and one local agency to compare. Many travel professionals provide special perks such as on-board credit for cruises, special dinners, special tours/events, and even at times cash refunds. I’ve personally found a few hours of work can often save me hundreds and at times thousands of dollars. Finally, a true travel professional will be there to help make arrangements if travel hiccups occurs such as delayed flights, weather interruptions, etc…
#8 My final tip during these difficult times of planning trips is to purchase travel insurance. This adds to the cost of the trip but can literally save you thousands of dollars. Whenever possible I recommend “cancel for any reason” travel insurance. It’s like any other insurance. You hope you never need it but if you do it can be a lifesaver.