Feb 15, 2011

Maximize your travel

John and I travel compulsively and have since the 1980s. Now that we have retired we are on the road six to seven months a year. Over the years we have developed ways to keep our traveling expenses down.

We belong to an amazing number of customer loyalty programs but try to concentrate on Continental Airlines and their partners. Our credit card also gives us miles on Continental. We are using some of our miles for this winter’s trip. Our other credit card helps to accrue credit at the InterContinental family of hotels which includes Holiday Inns. We picked IC Hotels because they have one of the largest selections of hotels worldwide. We charge everything. The trick with credit cards is to pay them off each month.

We save money by visiting places in the off-season and looking for discounts. There are coupons for US hotels, restaurants and attractions in free booklets at visitor centers and other stops along major highways. Also, most telephone books have a section with coupons.

A guidebook is not only helpful in planning a trip but offers many money-saving tips. Most official tourist office web sites have a list of free things to do. The Hong Kong Tourist Board has wonderful free tours. Museums usually have one day or evening when admission is free. Greeters programs in NYC, Toronto, Chicago, Buenos Aires and several other locations offer excellent free walking tours. We make most of our arrangements ourselves and try to deal locally. Dealing locally helps the local economy especially in third world countries and cuts out the middleman. The Internet is a wonderful thing when planning. If I am unsure about a place I post a question on the forum at Virtualtourist.com. I have received valuable information from other travelers especially with how to get from Point A to Point B.

We travel with our net books so we can plan as we go, e-mailing the family is cheaper than phoning, and we can store our images from our camera. We also save our images on the Kodak Gallery where we can share them with the family and have the pictures waiting for us when we get home.

Connecting with the local people enhances travel. Ask the hotel receptionist about farmer’s markets, school performances, and other local events. There are “meet-the-people” web sites. We like to visit schools.

In the United States we love to letterbox especially with the grandchildren. There are thousands of secret boxes hidden all over the United States including Oswego County. Go to letterboxing.org, click on a location, and then follow the clues. They usually end up at an interesting location.

Eating out can be expensive. We don’t eat out every night when we are home nor do we when traveling. Most hotels provide breakfast. Buying a sandwich to eat in a local park is not only inexpensive but is restful. For dinner most evenings we get something from a local deli or store. Some of our favorite meals have been on the patio or balcony of our hotel.

Before we head to a foreign country we print out a Financial Cheat Sheet from a money conversion site so we know the value of the money we are dealing with.
Travel, like everything else, is a matter of priorities. There are, and were, many things we did not do or purchase so there was money for travel.