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May 03, 2014

Weekend Travel Thread: Bang for Your Buck Edition [Y-not]

Greetings, travelers! Welcome to your weekend travel thread. Today's topic is how to get the most bang for your buck and is brought to you by the "budget traveler":


Having recently been completely reamed on my last-minute trip back East, I thought today we could share tips and stories for the budget traveler.

Now that I'm older, I don't tend to have to worry too much about cost when I travel. That's not to say that I am wealthy, it's just that I've developed certain habits and priorities when I travel. I have a sort of internal budgeting mechanism that keeps trips affordable such as flexibility in travel dates, experience with hotel chains, and money-saving habits while I'm actually on the road.

Of course, when I was much younger the way I saved money on traveling was to not travel at all! Or to use cut-rate airlines... anybody else here remember People Express Airlines? Yeah, glad those days are over!

All of those things get tossed out the window when you get a call from home (2,000 miles away) and have to book a flight, hotel, and car in three hours and hop on a plane.

Some of you probably travel a lot for work (as I once did). That can certainly make things cheaper. You're probably members of airline, hotel, and rental car clubs. You may even have a lot of "points" accumulated upon which you can draw when the need arises.

The rest of us occasional travelers need other ways to keep costs down. Here are a few tips I picked up this week:

Four secrets to getting the lowest rate from travel websites:

Some of the tips at this Wisebread article are pretty intuitive. For example, they recommend you clear your history and go into "private browsing" mode so the websites aren't able to track your level of interest in a particular flight. They also suggest you check fares with and without your frequent flyer ID.

Others might surprise you:

Last year, Orbitz made the news when it became apparent that they were showing different search results for Windows users and Mac users.

According to media coverage, Orbitz pushes higher priced options to people who make their bookings on Apple devices. Apparently, Orbitz noticed that Mac users spend up to 30% more than Windows users on travel and are 40% more likely than Windows users to book rooms at four- and five-star hotels. In this particular case, personalization meant that Mac users are sometimes shown more expensive hotels on Orbitz.

Fortunately, whether you're using Mac or PC, the price for any particular hotel room on Orbitz is the same. Orbitz only plays with the order in which the hotels are displayed, showing the pricier hotels first for Mac users. In other words, you can change the search results simply by choosing the option to sort the results by price.

Also courtesy of Wisebread, here's their ranking of the top travel reward credit cards. My husband uses a couple of these and they're ok, but I still prefer cash back credit cards. Do any of you have one you particularly like?

How many of you use hotel booking sites? I've only had limited experience, when I was doing business travel, but that experience was negative enough that I will not use them. The biggest problem I found is that if you have to make a change to the reservation, you're boned. This can really be a problem if the person who booked the room (an administrative assistant, for example) is not available to make the changes. I also frequently run across negative reviews for hotel rooms in which they traveler complains about requests made through these sites not being honored. Plus, when I travel for pleasure, I'm usually pretty particular about where I stay. I'll tolerate an inconvenient set of flights more readily than a badly located or cut-rate hotel.

What has been your experience?

In any event, here's a round up of reviews of hotel booking services. Priceline and Hotels dot com fare the best. Expedia is in the lower half in their ranking. I really don't have enough experience using these services to have an opinion one way or the other.

What I have found is that often a bed and breakfast can provide a much more acceptable stay for a short trip, particularly in an expensive city, than will a chain hotel or motel. And you'll usually get a "free" meal out of the bargain.

Alternatively, if it kills you to spend $150/night for a lumpy bed with overstuffed pillows, there's always camping! This site provides a list of free campsites in the U.S.

Here's a sample review for a site in Utah:

Dispersed, free camping near Losee Canyon in the Dixie National Forest of Utah. A vault toilet and a seasonal corral area available at the Losee Canyon trail head about 700 feet away. The area's must see trail, Arches Trail, is also at the trail head. Flies can be a bit of an annoyance as there is also a giant pile of manure at the trail head.

There are 3-6 camping areas nestled in the tree line along a secondary dirt road. Getting past two trees right at the beginning of the left turn off may be a issue for larger RVs. As we are less than 30' it is hard for me to judge.

There is also a camping area on the main grade.

I am not a camper, but this seems like a very useful site to me. It also gives me an excuse to post a link to some nice photographs of southern Utah.

What are your strategies for keeping travel costs down?


To wrap things up, courtesy of Sister Y-not, here's a Judgmental Map of Baltimore (go to the link to embiggen):

BaltimoreMap.jpg

She reports that it's pretty accurate. (She'd know. She's a probation officer! lol)

There are maps for some other cities at the link. (I need to get off my duff and do one for Salt Lake City sometime.)


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posted by Open Blogger at 06:09 PM

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