by Mattie Yallaly
When planning a trip or vacation, travel services such as air transportation, ground transportation, and accommodations are often used. Booking all these services in tandem can be a bit daunting, especially when coordinating on someone else’s behalf. Depending on the goal and destinations involved, travel can be very personal and dependent on the traveler’s preferences. However, a few nuggets of information make that task a bit easier.
Commercial flights are popular due to availability and pricing compared to chartered aircraft. There are some booking practices that may leverage the best options and pricing:
- Book 21 days in advance, or at least 14 days. This typically yields the best pricing on flights less likely to be cancelled or modified.
- Consider flexible dates or airports. Especially in large metropolitan locations, a better flight may be obtained if a little more ground travel can be tolerated. Or, if traveling to a popular tourist area, it may be worth flying into a less convenient airport and utilizing a rental car to your destination. Side benefit: you may get to experience some excellent scenery or find a unique unexpected locale as a bonus.
- Remember to utilize points/miles collected. Often points can be paired with cash to make the purchase.
- Leverage price alerts and fare sales from merchants.
For some, “clean, safe, and quiet” is all that is required for their lodging. However, others find that there are certain amenities that drive their final booking decisions. When booking on behalf of others, a checklist of hotel options may help determine the traveler’s preferred properties. Pricing is often a focal point, and there are some tips that may tip the scale:
- Be a loyalty/rewards member. There is typically no fee and includes additional benefits such has highspeed Wi-Fi, room upgrades, as well as points.
- Work directly with the hotel. Especially in off-peak season, hotel properties are more likely to reduce the nightly rate. For best results, reach out in the late afternoon when less busy but before 5pm.
- Research is your friend. Know the online rates and start with the best option. Search if a better rate can be obtained.
- Flexible dates can be instrumental. Even if you do not practice yoga, having some flexibility may be helpful to get a better nightly rate.
Once you arrive at the destination, travel usually shifts to the road. So, the next question is rental car or taxi/rideshare? Rental cars are a great convenience but come with fuel costs, possible parking fees, and a capable driver if handy. Taxi and ride share options offer quick transportation without the add-ons of fuel, tolls, parking etc. The final decision comes to the needs and preferences of the traveler. If a rental car is needed, there are a few tricks to stretching those dollars:
- Book the rental at an off-airport site. Airports can tack on heavier fees that tend to add up fast.
- Lock in your rental early. Much like flights, waiting until the last minute exposes the traveler to the consequences of supply and demand.
- Verify insurance coverage prior to renting. Often, personal car insurance has a rental clause or even the credit card used to cover costs. Check out the fine print; it just may save some dough.
- Utilize club memberships for additional discounts. AAA, Costco, other clubs, and even banking institutions may offer discounted rates.
- Be sure to take pictures of any damage prior to departing the rental lot. This provides a date/time stamp for documentation.
Exploring different destinations are such an exciting opportunity to see new sights, gain new experiences, and maybe finding that new “favorite” place. I hope these tips help make travel a bit easier to plan and execute.