A few of my readers have asked me how I travel so often amidst our family’s financial crisis. I thought I’d give you a few pointers for Traveling on the Cheap.
Marry a crew member: Just like the shirt I saw in a magazine, “Marry me and fly for free!” Preferably a crew member who has student loans paid off, so you can fully enjoy the places you travel (i.e. staying in hotels, fancy restaurants, spendy tourist attractions) If you are already married, encourage your children who show an interest in aviation to pursue their dream. Or, look into non-crew positions through airlines to enjoy the pass benefits, without the expensive professional training. I have several friends that do JetBlue reservations from home and love it.
Do your research early: Prices can vary wildly on fares. Whenever I have an inkling that I’ll be traveling somewhere, I find daily rates for car rentals for less than $10 quite often. If you wait until the week before, it can cost you over $50/day, depending on the airport. Same with hotels – promotions changes all the time. If you don’t need the reservation after all, just cancel it before the deadline stated.
Price shop more than one website: The sites I use most often, with the most consistent success, are Priceline.com and Carrentals.com . I have had varying luck with other websites, and several nasty experiences using Travelocity.com. Kayak.com is a great one to compare prices at a variety of sites. Sometimes the rates are the same, but occasionally a promotion will be running that saves you a bundle. Be sure to read the terms and conditions, understand potential hidden fees.
Join Rewards Programs: Sign up for perks and freebies with the hotels and car rental agencies you frequent. Have a frequent flyer account for the airline you use most (unless you can non-rev, of course)When I get a free night, or a free rental, I try to use it in a more expensive area to get more bang for my freebie buck.
Be a tourist in the cities you have family members and friends: The cities I visit most often are Salt Lake City for my family, and Los Angeles for my in-laws. I always try to make arrangements to be without a rental car, but sometimes you gotta have one. Occasionally I wish that I could visit more exotic locales, but nothing beats a great visit with family and friends in a place I love.
Have a rainy-day travel fund: Sometimes insanely cheap promotional rates pop-up, and you can travel to some amazing destinations for pennies on the dollar. If you keep some money stashed away, you’ll be able to take advantage of these rare perks. Almost everytime I get a cash gift, part of it goes in my jar.
Be flexible: Sometimes adding, deleting, or adjusting an extra day to your travel schedule can mean big savings on flights. Pack snacks and thing to keep you occupied, just in case you get stuck on a delay, or bumped from a flight.
Be wary of travel club sales calls: I’m guilty of signing up for some too-good-to-be-true fly by night operations. Only one was I actually glad that I joined, but I really got taken advantage on another.
Coupons: If you visit certain cities often, buy an Entertainment book for loads of two-for-one deals on restaurants, attractions, hotels, and car rentals.