Now, that I’m an empty-nester, I am ready to travel more and enjoy this next season of life. I have been researching travel sites and finding ways to stretch my travel dollars. I’ll be sharing my travel tips, packing hacks, websites I use for research and inviting my savvy readers to share their travel tips here with us for Travel Tuesday.
It is no secret that travelers want to get back out there, myself included. It is also no secret that we are still in challenging times. Pack your patience, flexibility, and contingency plans.
After exploring your options, the best course of action might be to get help from a travel agent to help navigate ever-changing health requirements and protocols, and cancelation policies. Ask about travel insurance and find out what the policy will and will not cover before purchasing.
I took a cruise in October from New York to Quebec and it went very smoothly with just a few small glitches. Our family was not quite ready for overseas travel but we have a big trip planned for next May.
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Travel Tuesday Steals and Deals – Tips, Hacks, and Discount Travel Sites for Cheaper Travel
Many travel insiders say that Tuesday can be the cheapest day to travel and to purchase travel. Check back as we plan to update this post often with more timely travel tips and deals!
How to Get Hotel Discounts
Hotel Booking Sites
Take a look at popular hotel booking sites such as Trivago, Priceline, Kayak, and Expedia. A reader told me about a free hotel app called Tablet Hotels which offers discounts on luxury hotels. I was playing with it today and found it very easy to use. I have my eye on an expensive hotel near me and I am tracking prices and waiting to see their deals.
Call the Hotel
Once you narrow down your options, call the hotel directly and ask them if they can beat that rate. I have often found that cancellation policies are easier to come by from the hotel directly.
Often seniors, government employees, students, members of the military, and AAA members may qualify for discounted hotel rates when traveling. Ask the hotel before booking or look for deals on websites such as AARP, Military.com, and AAA.com.
Stay a Few Blocks Away
Staying in the center of the city is usually at a premium price. Look at maps and transportation and consider staying a few blocks away.
If you have flexibility, consider staying from Sunday through Thursday and not on the weekend in popular resort destinations. We stayed at a beachside hotel a few months ago and I saved $150 per night for Sunday and Monday instead of Friday and Saturday.
Check Last Minute Sites
Sites like HotelTonight and OneNight specialize in helping last-minute travelers get cheap hotel rooms. Download their apps and check availability. Put in today’s date so you can get a feel for potential savings.
Check with your Credit Card Company
Check your point balance to see if you can redeem points for your stay. Also, see if they have special offers for cardholders. I often use American Express Travel for perks such as early check-in and late checkout, room upgrades, free breakfasts, and parking.
Sign up for emails
Once you have narrowed down your choices, sign up to receive emails ahead of your stay. You may receive a special offer to entice you to complete your reservation.
Home Exchanges and Other Unique Ways to Save on Lodging
By now, everyone who travels has heard of Airbnb. Here are more ideas to save on lodging when you travel. Some of these sites have a membership fee.
Vacation Rental By Owner – find the perfect beach house, condo, or cabin.
Consider trading your home with another family. Home Exchange has options in more than 150 countries.
“Use the Search Homes page to find homes that match your travel plans and exchange partners who share your interests, by using our advanced search criteria. Create your Wish List of members that you’d like to swap with.”
Sabbatical Homes for Rental, Exchange, Sitting & more.
The site has more than 100,000 listings in 55 countries. It is a great site for those who are tied to an academic cycle or those who enjoy being close to a university. It is a favorite site for academics, writers, artists, and friends.
Intervac – Home Exchange offers home exchanges and B&B style accommodations for those seeking an affordable way to travel. The organization has 30,000 members.
“Home exchange simply means that you and your family agree with a family from a different area to live in each other’s homes during your holiday. Swap your home and travel (just about) everywhere in the World. No money changes hands between the exchangers so you can have free accommodation!”
If you are a pet owner, these sites may be perfect for you. You trade house sitting and pet sitting with other pet lovers. You travel and your pet stays home!
“HouseCarers has been securely matching Homeowners with House Sitters since October 2000. We have researched the practice of house sitting and created acceptable guidelines to help our members make informed decisions. We use the power of the internet to connect our members across the United States and around the world.”
“Helping pet lovers travel – Keeping pets happy at home, sitters stay for free and owners travel without worry.”
How to Find Cheaper Flights
If you can be flexible with the dates you need to fly, you will often see a big discrepancy in the fares. If you are open to the dates, alternate airports, and layovers, you may be able to save enough to offset the inconvenience. Check alternative dates and airports when possible.
Factor in baggage fees and other fees when comparing fares. Often a cheaper fare does not include baggage fees which have really gone up lately!
Pro tip – If you have the flexibility to get bumped from an oversold flight in exchange for compensation, let the gate agent know.
Flight Tracker Apps
These are the two apps I use to track flights. They are free to use. Just enter your flight information and get notifications when the price changes.
Search for cheap airline tickets, hotels, and car rentals with our award-winning travel app. Search everywhere, find the best time to book, and set price alerts. You can also search the Skyscanner website.
Hopper has long since been one of the more useful trip planning applications on the market, with a variety of features that help you find the lowest-priced airfare. Its forecasting software tracks airlines’ ever-changing ticket prices in order to predict prices and alert you when it’s the best time to buy a ticket.
Car Rental Hacks and Alternatives
Beware of Hidden Car Rental Fees
Car rental companies have found a new way to tack on extra fees, according to an article by Ellen Creager in the Detroit Free Press. Many companies are charging from $10 to $13 a day to add an extra driver. Often these extra charges are hidden in the fine print so ask about this if two people are planning to share the driving on your next trip.
The websites of companies that charge for a second driver are using language such as “there may be charges for additional drivers.” You might see additional fees ranging from $10 – $13 a day with some of the most popular car rental companies.
There are some exceptions. If you use a Costco, AARP, AAA, or USAA card when booking, the fee is often waived. Some frequent renter programs and corporate bookings will include the benefit of a free second driver.
Most renters never notice or know about this extra fee until it is too late. If your spouse or partner is driving and they are not on the rental contract, this could cause a lot of problems, even if your own insurance company covers the cost of the accident. Be sure and ask about this at the time of booking.
Car Rental Alternatives
See if Zipcar is available in the area you are traveling to. You can drive cars by the day or by the hour plus gas and insurance included. Get a $25 free driving credit.
Turo is a car-sharing company. Simply enter a location and date and browse thousands of cars shared by local hosts. When I was buying a car a few years back, I used Turo to drive two different cars I was comparing. By renting the cars over the weekend instead of just for a quick test drive, I was able to make the best decision. The site was very easy to use. It is similar to Airbnb but for cars.
Find Fun Things to Do
Pro tip – buy tickets ahead of time so you are not spending your vacation time or risking that the most popular tours are sold out. We used them in Vancouver for several tours and they were excellent!
Viator is what we used on our trip to Vancouver and Alaska. You can read reviews and get tips from travelers who have gone before you.
Don’t forget to check Groupon in the city you are visiting. Just log in to your Groupon account and change the city. You can search for restaurants, events, and attractions.
Travel Tips and Packing Hacks
Make a List and Keep It Handy
Write down your packing list and keep it somewhere where you can easily access it such as your phone or computer. If there is something you forget to pack, add it to your permanent list for next time.
Use Your Samples and Travel Size Products
I keep a bag just for travel. When I get samples for beauty products, a free toothbrush from the dentist, hotel shampoos, etc. I put them in my travel bag so I can leave my full-size products at home.
Mix and Match
Choose a color scheme and pack items that go together. I like to pack black and tan clothing, or navy and cream so that you can make several outfits and it cuts down on the shoes you need to bring.
Take Care Of The Important Things
Photocopy your important documents such as passports and ID. If you are not going to be using certain credit cards or store cards, take them out of your wallet and leave them at home. Make photocopies of the credit cards you do take and note the phone number you need to call if your cards get lost or stolen.
Pack Your Carry-on
Place medications, personal care travel-size items, and extra underwear in your carry-on bag. Pack things to do like an extra book, a phone charger, and some snacks if you get delayed. If your luggage gets lost, pack what you would need for the next day in your carry-on. I save empty prescription bottles to take just enough medication for my trip.
I asked friends and followers for their favorite packing hacks and here is what they shared:
A multi-plug extension cord
A shower hook on a suction cup
Clothespins, binder clips or chip clips for keeping drapes closed, hanging up wet clothes, and keeping snack bags tidy
A small roll of black electrical tape to cover all the light sources in a hotel room that can keep you awake or dark sticky notes for the same purpose with no residue
A phone tether strap
Over-the-door shoe bag/organizer for toiletries and small items (this was great to have on our recent cruise).
A white noise machine, an eye mask, and earplugs. There is a white noise app you can download for your phone too.
A golf ball to roll your feet with after a long day of walking
Duct tape in case your suitcase gets damaged and for packing breakable items to take home
An RX for CIPRO antibiotic from your doctor for just in case
Small battery fan
Mole Skin for your shoes to help with or prevent blisters with a small pair of scissors.
Battery-powered tea lights to use as a nightlight
On a cruise, heavy-duty magnets
Travel toilet seat covers
A universal sink stopper and a bar of Castile soap for hand washing clothes in the sink
A small first-aid kit
Packets of instant oatmeal and protein bars.
A plastic clear document envelope
Extra reading glasses
Tide pen and Magic Eraser
Reusable shopping tote
Ankle brace and Ace Bandage
Travel Checklist for Infants
• Extra Bottle Nipples
• Breast Pump and Corresponding Parts
• Baby Food and Cereal (if eating foods yet)
• Baby Spoons
• Baby Lotion
• Baby Wash and Shampoo
• Portable Changing Pad
• Portable Crib or playpen (if you’re staying at hotels, you can call ahead to see if they have one to use)
• Two to Three Sets of Clothes for Each Day
• Hat (if you will be in the sun much)
• Small Toys/Books
• Teething Supplies (Orajel, Teething Tablets, Children’s Motrin, etc.)
Travel Checklist for Toddlers
• Two Pairs of Clothing/Day
• Finger Food Snacks (Rice Puffs, Yogurt Drops, Crackers, etc.)
• Small Spoons/Forks
• Sippy Cups
• Diapers and/or Pull-Ups
• Small Bag of Toys, Coloring Books and Stickers
• Comfortable Shoes
• Jacket/Coat or sweatshirt
• Bathing Suit
• Small Night Light
• Favorite Blanket/Toy
• Toothbrush and Toothpaste
Travel Checklist for Older Kids
• Toothbrush and Toothpaste
• Clothing (One pair for each day plus two extra pairs)
• “Play” Shoes
• Bathing Suit
• Portable DVD Players/Video Game Console
• Movies and Video Games
• Body Wash
• Shampoo and Conditioner
• Makeup and Perfume (cologne for boys)
• Cell Phones
• DVDs and Video Games
• Chargers for all electronics
• Coloring Books and Crayons
• Mind Teaser Games
• Drinks and Snacks for the Vehicle
• Maps and Brochures of the Destination Area
• Insect Repellent
• Tylenol/Motrin, Allergy Medicine and Daily Vitamins
• Sunscreen (for kids and adults)
Bring a small flashlight- you can pick one up at a dollar store. These are great to have on your nightstand in an unfamiliar hotel room. If you keep it in your carry-on, you can also use it to quickly find what you need while on the airplane.
Bring sanitized hand wipes and share them with your seatmates. This is a great way to make new friends and spread kindness not germs!
Zip ties- a few of these may come in handy if your luggage handle breaks.
Cloth reusable bag – great for use as a beach bag or picnic bag.
Now don’t forget those charger cords for all your gadgets!
Watch for more travel Tuesday tips, ideas, and even fun destinations, and be sure to share your travel tips with us!
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