We have a love-hate relationship with travel … yes, you heard that right … travel bloggers that “hate” travel! Or at least the research and booking part of travel, so we’ve put together our “Book Smart – Top 10 Travel Booking Tips.”
Travel is a wonderful thing but it really does come with it’s own set of stresses! Over the years we’ve seen our share of travel-turbulence – lost in the middle of no-where thanks to GPS gone rogue, over-booked flights, hotels from hell, sleepless flights with screaming babies, but as Iain would say, “that’s all part of the adventure.” And it’s true, most of those niggly problems are quickly forgotten – because after-all – you’re on vacation!
For me, once of the biggest stresses is the planning and booking … because I’m the typical “A-Type” personality that plans everything to death. Couple that with being “frugal” and you have a recipe for tossing in the towel on travel.
#1 – Don’t Rely Solely on a Travel Agent.
While we’re not trying to put anyone out of work here, facts are facts – you’ll find better prices on flights and hotels if you sleuth them on the net yourself.
#2 – Comparison Shop – Utilize “aggregator” / travel-booking websites to comparison shop and find the best deal.
Websites like FlightHub, HipMunk, AirFareWatchDog, Expedia, Travelocity, PriceLine, Kayak, etc. will help you compare and prices, provide options you might not have thought about, and some will even send you alerts for price changes if you’re not booking immediately.
#3 – Consider the package deal – even if you don’t need it.
Sometimes you’ll find package deals are cheaper than the airfare alone, so don’t rule out researching the package deal options during your search.
#4 – Always be flexible.
Where ever possible be flexible about your travel dates and days of the week. Many of the travel-booking sites now allow you to search with the “plus or minus” feature which will show you fares for plus or minus a certain number of days – you may be surprised at the savings you’ll find.
#5 – Take a “Self-Catered” Vacation.
Don’t overlook the huge savings and flexibility that a self-catered vacation offers – we love them! (Read more about vacation styles here) Look for accommodations other than hotels – Vacation Rental By Owner, FlipKey and the like are excellent sources for holiday homes and cottages that will push you outside your comfort zone and into the fun-zone of this new type of experiential vacation (read more on Experiential Vacations here). Not only does a self-catered vacation save you on accommodations, you’ll save BIG on meals since you’ll likely have a kitchen, kitchenette or at least a fridge and a few small appliances.
#6 – Hotel Booking Remorse – A Thing of the Past.
Never fear because DreamCheaper.com is here to save the day! DreamCheaper searches for cheaper prices on the same room or better – and then re-books your hotel reservation for you. Read our full review of DreamCheaper here.
#7 – Airport Parking – It doesn’t have to be a nightmare or cost you a fortune.
Having been burned before by the standard Park-N-Fly option that charges you an extra day when your flight is an hour delayed and you pick up your car late we decided it was time to find a better option. Some people prefer airport limo services, shuttles or airbus offerings, but we find them a bit of a rip-off (especially if there are two or more of you going on the trip), and they require you to be at the airport WAY too far in advance for our liking. Our preference is Parking Access – much more economical than Park-N-Fly, covered parking on offer at many locations, and often times located even closer to the airport and therefore a shorter shuttle to the airport. The site is clean and easy to use, with plenty of options price-wise.
#8 – Rental Car Insurance.
Before you book car rental be sure to check your own car insurance. You’ll likely find that your own policy covers you for use of other people’s cars and car rentals. If you find your policy lacks this feature, it might be well worth topping up your policy with this option over the steep insurance rates the rental companies charge.
Alternately, you’ll find that most if not all gold and platinum credit cards offer car rental insurance. Again, check this out before you rent that vehicle so you’re prepared and will be able to say with confidence, “No thanks, I’m covered!”
#9 – Travel Insurance – Health, Baggage and Cancellation
Before you book, check out your options. You may have group insurance that covers all or most of your travel insurance needs. If you don’t, you may be looking at costly options depending on your age and duration of stay. We used to purchase our travel insurance through our travel agent at the time of booking, but noticed that the provider was actually connected to one of our financial institutes, so we did a little digging, and with a quick call to our credit card company and for a small annual fee we covered ourselves for out-of-province/out-of-country emergency health care, flight cancellations and delays, lost or stolen luggage, baggage delay, trip interruption … and wait, there’s more … it covers us for car rental insurance too! This is one annual fee for a credit card that we’re more than willing to pay – for a little more than what one trip would cost us to insure through the travel agent we’re covered for the whole year – everywhere we go. (Talk to your provider for complete details and be sure to carry documentation with you regarding the coverage – don’t assume anything when it comes to insurance.)
Still not sure if you REALLY need that insurance? Here’s a good summary from Airfarewatchdog outlining when you should definitely purchase the Travel Insurance – Is Travel Insurance a Waste of Money?
and finally, coming around to #10 we get back to the Travel Agent that we told you not to rely on…..
#10 – Most Important Air Travel Tip … Book with a registered Travel Agent!
Reason #1 – If you book through an airline and the airline goes bust while you’re out of the country, you’re on your own! If you book with a reliable. registered, licensed travel agent they’re insured for it and they will make arrangements to get you home.
Reason #2 – The internet is a big, scary place and there are so many options when it comes to flights, options and travel dates, you really need an expert to double-check what you’re doing. They’ll ensure you’re allowing enough time for customs clearance in the case of connecting international flights, they know about passport expiry date requirements (it’s not the same everywhere you go), Travel Visas, vaccinations and travel alerts for various destinations. They’re available to answer all of your questions and make your travel experience as stress and risk-free as possible. Our agent even ensures our dietary needs are booked – no special effort required on our part. They book our seat preference without extra costs and even made sure to use the Air Canada flight number instead of the code-share flight code so that we maximized our Aeroplan miles. How sweet is that! You can’t tell me that all of that would be easily available to you if you were trying to book yourself on the airline’s website or one of the many travel-booking sites.
Reason #3 – Most travel agents worth their salt will price match what you’re able to find online. NOTE: Be sure to find out what proof the agent needs so that you can take a screen capture and send it to them as proof of price. Our agent requires that we find the price and proceed through the process to the part where you’d start entering the traveller’s information – easy peasy!
Reason #4 – They’re FREE! For the most part you’ll never be charged anymore to book your travel through a travel agent – crazy but true.
Copyright © 2015 Iain & Gail Shankland / TravelBloggers.ca (at) Gmail.com
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