I'll begin taking you to different locations again the first Tuesday in January. But this week, I thought I'd offer you a few of my favorite travel tips.
* If you're planning in advance, don't book airfare the first day you look. I have found Wednesdays seem to be the cheapest day to book airfare. I have found that weekends are the most expensive days to book airfare.
* Travel sights may not always have the best deals. If your a frequent traveler, you'll want to use your rewards cards, these tend to be more beneficial as far as return. If you are just traveling once or twice a year, travel sites may be of benefit to you. But just because you see a great deal by them, doesn't mean you can't get an even better deal booking with the airline or hotel directly. I always call and say, I saw this deal on **** travel site, can you beat it, or should I book with them? They have to pay those travel sites money on those bookings, so I have found most of the time they will match or do better. However, I have also been told by a few, that the travel site offers better deals then they can do. So just shop around a little!
* If your going to become a frequent traveler, or even travel 3-4 times a year. Sign up with a rewards program. I have found I can get 1 or 2 flights a year free just from being in them. Additionally, I have been able to fly first class for free more often than not, because of being in the rewards program.
* First cheapest is not best!!!! I would rather pay an extra $50-$100 a night to insure that I am in a bed bug free, cleaner room. But that is me. If you are searching for hotels, and you see a rate that is ridiculously cheap, chances are there is a reason for it. Check for reviews, I prefer the reviews on sights like Expedia and other travel sites, because those I know come from actual people. One thing is certain if a person has a bad experience, they will come back and talk about it. Rarely do people post good experiences. So I search and if I find very little to no negative, then I know that is a place that is likely okay to stay.
* Hotels also have cheaper rates at different times during the month. For some reason I've noticed cheaper rates on Thursdays, and not around Holidays. However, I won't commit to only that date, as I have also found the same similar lower rates on other days mid week.
* Check for deals - Some hotels have a book 3 nights get 1 free. I love these!
Look for Free Wifi, Free Breakfasts, Free Parking. Additionally some hotels can offer discount packages to area attractions.
* Check the details when booking. You find a hotel that has a great rate, but forget to look at the fine print and show up to pay $40+ a night for parking, $15 a day for wifi, forced valet and a bunch of other charges you don't really need.
So look into this first, FREE PARKING is something I always search for. Additionally to free parking, I prefer places that let me park my car rather than pay for Valet.
(Note: If you do have to pay for Valet, I highly recommend when they take your car you give them $1-$2 (This is the average tip rates for valet). This sends them away to park it in my opinion with a better motivation to not ding the car up!
* My biggest tip is, book online and only book the cheapest vehicle. (Unless you absolutely know you'll need a large van or truck.)
Second, say no to all the extras when they try to upgrade you at the rental center.
Why do I suggest this. Well last year of the 14 cars I picked up for rental and originally only asked for the cheapest car. I only once ended up with that cheap car. In fact sometimes I said no to all the upgrades and then the person handed me the keys to a nicer vehicle and said "Well we are out of those cars, so it's your lucky day, you get a free upgrade".
* Bring your own GPS. You can rent these with the cars, but this can cost you $6+ a day and that can add up. So if you already have one, just use your own and save yourself the money!
TIP: Always bring a detailed map with you! GPS can sometimes take you off the main path and sometimes has a tendency to take some very scenic (no one around) routes. Keep a map handy so you know to reroute yourself if good old GPS tries to take you into the boonies:)
* When you pick up your rental car, make note of all the dings (even small). I have found that some rental places will have just washed a car and it hides the dings. Also at night, it can be hard to see dents and stuff. So take your time and look it over before leaving.
* I noticed years ago, I always took way more than I actually needed. So I started packing differently. You may or may not like my tips, as these are only suggestions.
* 5 days or less I always pack everything into a wheeled carry-on, and I put any extras into a smaller backpack. That way I never have to deal with lost luggage, I can take everything with me.
My best packing ever was I packed for 12 days in 1 carry-on and a backpack!
* I like to wear the same clothes on my way there, and on my way back. So I call this my airline outfit. Saves space on a separate outfit.
* Roll socks and underwear up into your shoes or roll into the spare area's left after you pack.
* If I am going for 5 days or less, if bringing jeans I will wear them more than 1 day and just pack a new shirt for each day.
* If you are going somewhere like a beach or place where you know you will need more suitcase room, or if you are going somewhere that you know you'll be bringing lots of stuff back with you. That is when the extra checked on luggage is needed.
On your luggage, make sure to make some big noticeable mark on your bag, maybe colored X of fun tape.. something easily distinguishable. Chances are a dozen people will have a similar bag, and it's so much easier to grab yours if you have some type of mark on it, so you can grab and go quick:)
* Always put your name and contact info on all pieces of luggage, even your carry on!!!
PLAN A FEW THINGS TO DO AHEAD OF TIME
* Arriving somewhere new, and just going wherever is always fun. But if you don't have an idea ahead of time of what is in the area, you might miss out on something incredible. So find a few things that you might like to do, and grab any info on them that may be helpful. How far of a drive from where you are staying, cost, hours of operation, if reservations are required.
* Although it's great to have a few options of places to see. Make sure to leave yourself time to relax and do whatever! Some people like to plan out every minute of their trip, which is fine. But I have found, that having some free time, and relaxation time is sometimes just as great as going non-stop.
Because I am a runner, and do a lot of race traveling trips, here are a few things just for those traveling to races.
* Book a hotel close to the start line. Yes they will cost more, but races start so early in the morning and some places there are dozens of road closures. Why deal with hassle and stress when you're already full of nerves for the race. I prefer booking one that either I can walk a few blocks or less than a mile to the start, or one that has a pick up bus at.
Sometimes I book a hotel close to the start for 2 nights and then, move to a different less costly one for the rest of the trip.
* Plan a way to get from the finish line back to your hotel. Whether that means bringing cab or bus money, or checking that the race offers a free shuttle. Or maybe park at the finish and take a shuttle to the start.. If you plan this out ahead of time, the day is so much less stressful!
* Pack all your race gear first, and make a check list so you can cross check as you pack that you remember everything.
* Print out to pack and take with you any expo details, waivers etc....
* Leave room in your bag or suitcase for things you might pick up at the expo's or souvenirs.