Nov 26, 2012

Getting the most out of your travel dollar

Often I am asked how we manage to travel so often.  The short answer is that I do all the planning myself and have for more than 20 years. However, it takes a lot of time.  When people book a tour they are paying someone else to do the work. We can usually travel several weeks for what it costs two people to take a seven-day cruise. Also, we tend to stay in a location for many days and most packaged tours and cruises do not allow that. The internet has made it so much easier.

1.     Air travel:  Fly on Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday and stay over on a Saturday night. Tickets are usually less expensive off-peak. Tickets prices are usually lower midday on Tuesday when fare sales go into effect. In the past I have purchased air tickets from consolidators and bucket shops but airline websites now offer the best price more often than not.  My favorite consolidator went out of business because they could no longer compete with the airlines. Budget airlines offer good deals.  We frequently fly Air Asia.
2.     Accommodations: Many web sites offer deals on rooms but watch out for the hidden costs. offers some great last minute deals if you bid on the price and so does  Bid low and work your way up. Groups three or more, especially if traveling with children, should check out apartment stays at,, and  Many come with access to a kitchen eliminating eating out for every meal.  For the budget traveler there are many hostels with no-nonsense accommodations and most no longer have age requirements.  And, for the adventurous rock-bottom budget traveler there is It is a good way to meet people. Hotel web sites often offer early booking and long stay specials rates.
3.     Customer loyalty programs: This is the key to keeping expenses down. Joining is free and usually offers some perks. I always join even if I think it will never come in handy. We get extra benefits from our two credit cards: one with United Airlines (one free bag allowed) and one with Priority Club. The Holiday Inn family has the most hotels worldwide and we have earned many free nights. Check out their point and dollars option. 
4.     Food: We don’t eat out every night at home so we don’t eat out every night on the road. Think local. Look for farmers’ markets. If a microwave available we get ready-to-eat meals from the supermarket delis.  In Alaska and Iceland food was so expensive that we ended up having great meals purchased from the frozen food and/or deli section.  Boiling water is usually available everywhere making Cup of Soup a choice and, in Asia they sell great meals where all we had to do was add water.
5.     Tours:  We try to book everything locally.  Many destination web sites have free walking tour guides. Hong Kong offers a slew of excellent free guided tours. Some places offer free city walking tours such as NYC’s  We have taken several of these worldwide. Most walking tours are reasonable. Search “local tours” and your destination. Our “Walk This Way” tour of Manila with Carlos Celdran was one of our best all-time tours.
6.     And then: Look for coupon books at road stops, in airports, and on line. It is a wonderful world… don’t miss it.