Posts Tagged ‘hotel’

How to Save Money Dining Out, Traveling or At Home


Whether you are on the road traveling or touring your own home town, dining out can be a real wallet drain. You are at more of a disadvantage when you are in new unfamiliar places with limited resources and in a rush. But you can still enjoy dining out without busting your budget even while traveling, vacationing, or touring your own town by simply keeping a few easy tips in mind.

 

A Hotel restaurant may be convenient, but… that little bistro or cafe down the block may be a far better value. For example, we randomly selected the Hilton Hotel on Ave. of the Americas in NYC. We checked the weekday breakfast menu at the New York MarketPlace Cafe. The full American Breakfast Buffet is $35 per person. The lowest priced item on the breakfast menu was $12 for granola with yogurt, berries and honey. At the Europa Cafe, just two blocks away, you won’t get the Hilton atmosphere, granted, but you’ll get a lot of local flavor and a spinach and cheddar cheese omelet with potatoes, toast, and coffee or tea for $7.53 – that’s a savings of $27.47 over the hotel cafe. Europa Cafe’s large homemade granola with yogurt and fruit is just $4.25 – which is a $7.75 savings over the New York MarketPlace Cafe.

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Hidden fees can appear on your dining tab. Before you pay or sign ask if a gratuity has already been added in. This applies anywhere, including in your own home town neighborhood. Some countries customarily add a gratuity in, or a “service charge”. Often a gratuity is included for larger parties of 6 or more. Ask your lodging hosts or hotel ahead of time how much of a tip is customary. Watch for extra platting charges for splitting an entre; it might be worth it to order something small and pack the extra to go, instead of incurring a $6 fee that you get nothing in return for. Ask before you order if they accept credit or debit cards, and if there is an extra surcharge for using them.

Ask your hosts or hotel if there are any specials, vouchers or coupons for restaurants.  However, when asking for a recommendation, keep in mind some concierges get kickbacks for sending you to pricy tourist traps so be sure to ask for their unbiased opinion and suggestions.

Some establishments may offer lower prices or freebies on certain holidays, or on specific days of the week, or during certain hours, like before 7:00 pm or after 9:00 pm. Check the specific restaurant you are interest in online for any current promotions, and also check online for coupons and specials at sites like Restaurants.com.

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Eat off the beaten path. Head for eateries in areas that outlie the more popular busy tourist centers. These restaurantuers livelyhoods depend on serving local residents and business people quality fresh regional dishes for reasonable prices daily, and that works in your favor.

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Street Food. This can be a great way to have a quick sample of local cuisine at a real bargain, but this can also be tricky.  You want to be sure the vendor is well equipped, hygienic, and the food is good quality and fresh.

Catch this video from a curbside cuisine expert for tips on how to do that:

Cook in. Of course, a big dining money saver is to prepare at least some of your own food. You can do this, even if you’re traveling.  Shop at local farmer’s markets or nearby grocery stores and prepare a picnic. Creating your own meal just once a day can easily save you $35 or more, per person, per day.

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How to Get Free Gasoline! Gas & Travel Savings Perks

No matter what we “hear” on the news and in reports, the price of gas has remained high in the U.S. for several years, and that’s most likely how it’s going to remain. The gas price-crunch is a discouraging situation for those planning vacation travel that includes any driving. But there is some good news: there are ways to find deals and save some money when filling your car’s gas tank. One resource for savings is our own SpendLessTV.com’s Car & Gasoline Channel which is loaded with videos giving tons of tips on ways you can get better gas mileage and find the best prices at gas stations. Another way to receive some fuel tank savings AND enjoy your vacation at the same time, is through hotel promotions. Hotels are feeling the travel pinch too, and in an effort to entice visitors, hotels are appealing to traveler’s gas pump price woes! Here is an excerpt from the July 15, 2011 edition one of our favorite resources, the Bottom Line Personal Newsletter, which lists some current hotel promotions via USA Today:

Hotels are offering gas discounts.  Many US hotels are promoting fuel-related discounts this summer to entice travelers. Promotions include free gas gift cards, discounts on rooms when you provide gas receipts and special deals for people who carpool or take mass transit.
Examples: At Affinia Manhattan in New York City, guests can get a $20 gas gift card if they show a mass transit ticket and receipt.  Napa Old World Inn in Napa, California, gives guests who carpool a two-bedroom suite for the price of a standard room through July.  At the Barefoot Resort in Myrtle Beach, south Carolina, guests can receive a $50 gas gift card and free night if they book a seven-night stay and check in on a Saturday.

We did a Google search using the term: travel and gas promotions 2011. We found tons of current deals listed… worth taking a few moments to do an online search, or place a call, to see if your destination may be offering a special.

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How to Save Money at Theme and Amusement Parks

Whoo Hoo! Theme parks, amusement parks, rides, thrills, adventure, fantasy… all spells big vacation bucks! Or does it? There are ways to save while spending time in amusement and theme parks whether that’s for a week long vacation or a day-trip adventure. Here are the expert’s pointers to getting the most for your thrill-packed dollars!

Tickets:

Purchasing your amusement park’s passes or tickets in advance, before you get to the ticket booths, can offer a real savings. Check online for specific special offers at sites like ThemeParkInsider.com, AmusementPark.com or MouseSavers.com. Do an online search using terms like: coupons theme parks, or coupons discounts Disney.

Timing can make a huge difference. If you can go “off season” you’ll save money and avoid crowds. The time of day may also make a difference for example, discounts are frequently being offered for visits after 4:00 p.m.

Opt for multi-day passes and package options. Also, before you purchase passes, consider how you want to handle your dining and food options. You nay want to include a food pass as part of  your admittance package as well. (see below “Food: Off-site may not be better for food”)

Ask for discounts: Ask if they accept membership discounts from groups like AAA, AARP, Sam’s Club or Costco, veterans, emergency workers, unions, etc. No harm in being creative and asking whatever you can think of!

  • Check with your credit card company to see if they have a promotional deal in effect.
  • Your employer may also have discount offers.
  • Always ask if there are price differences for seniors and/or students and/or children/youth.
  • Groups receive discounts. Find out what qualifies for a “group” discount; if you qualify you could receive some nice savings.
  • Locals may receive discounts. Many parks offer discounts to local residents, be sure to ask about this if you live nearby.
  • Celebrating a special event, birthday or anniversary?
    Discounts may apply, or a special acknowledgement, coupon, freebie or upgrade.

Lodging: Both on-site and off-site offer advantages, and either may end up being better for lodging. It’s well worth a little time do to some research on hotel and transportation rates and package deals that are offered both in the park itself, and in surrounding areas a little ways out from the park.  If inquiring on lodging in an area outside the park perimeter be sure to  ask if there are discounts on their room rates, and in addition, ask if they offer discount packages for park admission, and/or transportation to and from the park. Sometimes a package deal from the park with lodging on-site will be the better option but you won’t know until you check.

Food: Off-site may not be better for food. Sometimes a pre-paid package for all you can eat on-site is the better bargain. This really depends on how you anticipate spending your days and nights. If you plan on being on-site for the bulk of the time, a pre-paid package will probably be the way to go.  But if you plan on splitting your time between the park and touring or relaxing around the pool or shore, you may be better of on your own.

Shopping:  For souvenirs off-site and in nearby towns will almost always be the better way to go.

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Road Trip Money Saving Travel Tips

ROAD TRIP!! There is something about the allure of the road;the freedom to be spontaneous, to take that side road just because you decided in the spur of the moment that you couldn’t possibly miss the world’s biggest ball of string or the museum of gum wrappers, or you just have to taste some local barbecue or explore that hidden waterfall. The opportunity to view the world and enjoy the scenery close and up front is often irresistible.  But even though it may seem like a more affordable mode of travel, a road trip can still be more pricey than what you had anticipated, especially with gas prices on the rise.  Well, we can’t steer you clear of potholes, but we can help you avoid some of the steep prices with these tips on how to save money while keeping your eyes on the road.

Off season. Just as it is with any other mode of travel or vacation planning, traveling during the “off season” will be a big money-saver on everything from lodging to renting a vehicle to park admissions and tourist attractions.

Book Early. Especially during the “on season.” This applies to hotels, parks, camp grounds, etc. It also applies to renting an RV. The earlier you book, the better deal you may be able to secure.

Consider a travel agent. Travel agents often have special promotional packages available to them that you cannot find elsewhere.

Go for smaller when renting a vehicle. Consider the size of your party and the amenities you’ll need, then determine the smallest vehicle you can rent to accommodate that. The smaller the vehicle, the more you’ll save on rental costs and fuel costs.

Rent RV time in bulk. Check the rental packages for buying your time in bulk, they are often better rates.

Check the RV or car rental company’s terms on mileage. Know before you go. There may be limits and penalties. Some discounts may apply to in-state only travel. Ask if any mileage discounts or specials may apply to the trip you are planning.

Avoid Purchasing Extra Equipment. Unless you are going to be doing this type of travel often, it may not be worth it to purchase extra equipment like bike racks and camping equipment. Check with your RV or car rental dealer to see if they offer packages which may include such equipment. You may be able to find good deals on this type of gear from other sports and camping equipment rental companies as well.

Rent an RV direct from an owner. You may be able to save mark-up fees and extra charges by renting a vehicle directly from the owner. One site which does this: 2RVGuys.com. Another which may also have mobile homes available is homeexchange.com which specializes in swapping homes, apartments, boats, and sometimes recreational vehicles.

Be sure you’re getting the most out of your vehicle. Before you leave and frequently during the trip, make sure your vehicle is in good condition, some estimates indicate that a poorly tuned engine uses up to 50-percent more fuel than one which is running well. Make sure your tire pressure is correct; low air pressure can be a considerable gas waster.

Easy does it. You’ll save wear and tear on your vehicle, and save on fuel costs (and traffic tickets) if you keep your speeds under 60 mph; make your accelerations easy and smooth, and ease into stops. Heavy on the pedal and blasting quickly from traffic signal to traffic signal burns up the fuel fast!

Overpacking the car can be a real fuel drain.  The heavier the vehicle, the more fuel it requires, so keep it light.

Food and snack shopping at pricey service stations and convenience stores add up; shop from farmer’s markets or grocery stores to create your own light meals, snacks and drinks.

Watch out when using your debit card at gas stations, they may withdraw more than the amount of your purchase to hold on deposit until after the transaction is completed by the bank.

Use the proper grade fuel for your vehicle. It’s not worth using a supreme-grade fuel if the manufacturer doesn’t specifically require it  or if the car is performing well on regular-grade fuel without engine knocks or lugging.

Service stations in the U.S. change prices between 10:00 am and noon. So keep in the know on price trends; if prices are on the rise, get there before 10:00 am, and if prices are dropping get there after noon.

Gas prices usually rise on the weekends. If you can, try for weekdays to fill your tank.

Use gas finding apps to locate cheaper stations nearby, andkeep in mind if you’re driving a heavier vehicle like a camper or RV, it may not be worth driving too far out of your way.

Gas discounts can be had from various sources. For example, some super market shopper loyalty programs have partnered with gas companies and your accumulated grocery shopping reward points are good toward fuel discounts at those stations. Another discount resource: save an easy 10% off your fuel bill if you purchase gas gift cards in advance from a discount gift card site like ShopAtHome.com or GiftCardGranny.com.

Lodging. Even though you might be staying in your vehicle you may still need to secure a reservation in a campsite, trailer park, hotel or motel along the way. Try to plan ahead for those, particularly during the traditionally busier times of year as parks can often be booked several years in advance.  Check the internet, or road assistance groups like AAA, for coupons and special discounts.

Make sure you have a good road-side assistance program. The small monthly premiums of these programs can save you thousands of dollars in towing and repair fees, and can be well worth it for the convenience alone.

Insurance. Check with your car and homeowners or home renter’s insurance company to find out specifically what you and your vehicle will be covered for. Depending on your existing coverage, you may or may not need an additional Traveler’s policy for the trip.

Anytime you are making a reservation for anything – ask, ask, ask. Ask if that’s the best they can do for you, and if there are any special offers or discounts that are being offered which you may not be aware of.

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Save Money on Travel Lodging, Hotels, Cruises

As the cost of travel continues to rise, the price of lodging can run up your expenses quicker than you can keep track of.  Even if you do secure a great price on a hotel room, consider that if you’re traveling with a family you may need more than one room. And the tally for dining, parking, tips, surcharges, phone, minibar, entertainment, sightseeing, and transportation… can really add up.

Hotels are masters of creating an environment where your value judgment can be quickly clouded. In this excerpt from an article by for Wired.com, “The Curse of Mental Accounting” author Jonah Lehrer addresses how this happens and the ways in which our assessment of worth can be easily manipulated:

Needless to say, mental accounting also explains my expensive internet connection. In the end, expensive hotels are able to charge insane amounts of money for Cheerios and wifi because these exorbitant charges get posted to the mental account of the hotel bill, which will be hundreds of dollars anyways. As a result, the charges don’t seem quite so crazy. (This also helps explain why cheap hotels are so much more likely to offer free internet and breakfast buffets. Sometimes, we get more when we pay less.)

If you plan a little ahead of time, and arm yourself with the knowledge of what to expect and the many approaches you can use to help bring those expenses into your control, you can have a wonderful time enjoying, dining, touring museums and historical sights, or just lounging and relaxing without paying astronomical prices to do it wherever your are staying.

The key is to think ahead about what your real desire is and what your real needs will be, and then follow the travel pointers and video tips we’ve assembled here from some of the best travel experts out there… and then go for it!

Lodging:

Hotels can be pricey, we all know this. The place to start is online. Compare prices and deals through sights like tripadvisor.com, hotels.com or cheapoair.com. After you find a few prices, check the hotel’s website for special offers. Then, check sites that offer promotional discount coupons like yeahtravel.com. or FabulousSavings.com And finally, call the specific hotel directly (not the central booking agency if you can avoid it, though it’s becoming more difficult to do this). You have a better chance at negotiating or receiving price-matching, perks or upgrades and securing more favorable cancellation terms when you speak directly to the hotel. Hotels can pay a commission of up to 30 percent to online booking sites, so ASK if they have a better deal than what you’ve found online or if they can match it.

Our number one top solid sure-fire way that consistently gets discounts, deals or extras on hotel stays is to simply ask. There are almost always discounts available, but they will not volunteer that information. However, if you ask, they are usually more than happy to try to accommodate  you. It will never do you harm to politely ask.

  • Ask the hotel directly if there are any specials or discounts available that you may not be aware of.
  • Ask if they accept membership discounts for organizations like AAA, AARP, veterans, seniors, frequent flyer loyalty programs, etc.
  • Mention that you’re a loyal customer if you have frequented the hotel or the chain before.
  • If the hotel has a loyalty program of their own, you may be entitled to receive a savings or promotional deal. If you are not a member, you can sign up on the phone when making a reservation or right then and there during check-in, and if it is free to join, you have nothing to lose.
  • If you’re at the front desk in person, either at check-in or checkout, and you are asking for special considerations you won’t get very far if you are inconsiderate with your request; ask quietly to avoid putting the agent “on the spot” when other guests are within earshot.
  • The hours between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. can be particularly busy for the reservation desk. It’s check-out time, and the agent may not be able to take the time to try to work with you, so try to avoid calling with special requests or attempting to negotiate between those hours when you can.
  • Some requests are better made at check-out, for example: it’s easier for an agent to remove Wi-Fi charges from your bill than it is to wave them in advance.
  • If you need more than one room, ask if they could give you a break.
  • Ask politely if an upgrade might be available, or if the parking might be included, etc.
  • Want a more spacious room without paying more? Request a corner room.

Bidding on a room can bring huge savings through websites like priceline.com, but we advise to use this only if you are familiar with the area where you will be staying, because it is not until after you confirm the non-refundable purchase, that you  find out which specific hotel you have purchased.

Get to know a new or unfamiliar location by searching websites like tripadvisor.com which offer user reviews and photos. But don’t rule out travel agents. They will often be your best bet for accurate information as well as inside deals.

“Ask for Unpublished Rates” says GetARoom.com founder Bob Diener. He suggests to call the hotel directly and ask for the “Unpublished Rate,” which can save you 20% or more.

You can avoid many extra hotel fees. Be aware that  there are many items that may incur a fee which you may not have been informed of. Ask at check-in for an itemized list of everything they may charge you for, for example: daily newspaper delivery or an extra bed or crib.

Minibar expensescan add up quickly. Some minibars are equipped with a sensor, and you end up with a charge when an item is simply moved – even if you don’t use the item. Find out first before you check-in if that’s the case for your hotel.  Better yet, ask them to remove the mini bar contents and any other “offers” that look like they are “gifts” but aren’t, like that bottle of wine or water, the bag of snacks, or the enticing “gift basket” sitting on the counter. You can even request this to be done before you arrive.

Ask the hotel for a referral to a nearby grocery store, and supply your own snacks and drinks at a fraction of what the hotel charges.

Hotel videos and DVD rentals steep prices can be a drain, especially if you’re traveling with kids. Try renting from a nearby shop for far less.

Hotel Alternatives:

Staying in a home can be a real money saver.You get to experience a location as a resident would, an enriching addition to any travel experience. You can prepare your own meals and snacks and dine in sometimes. A family can be together without needing to secure separate or additional room rentals. Friends can all stay together and share expenses. Deposits are usually required, but would be refunded after your stay if there has been no property damage. Catch the video from the Better Business Bureau for safety pointers.

  • Rent a house or a condo. Home owners list their homes, vacation homes, or timeshares for rent.  Some resources: homeaway.com, vrbo.com, resortquest.com, and interhomeusa.com.
  • Home Swap. If you are a renter or owner of a house, condo, yacht, villa, apartment  or RV consider a home swap, or staying in a home as a guest. Often a vehicle is included in the swap. You pay nothing more than the membership fee.  Some resources:  homeexchange.com charges a minimum enrollment of three months which runs about $47.85.  homelink.org offers a yearly membership fee of about $119.00.
  • House Sitting. If you don’t have a home to swap, it is still possible to stay for free by house sitting. Seasoned traveler Nora Dunn writes about her house sitting experiences for CareOne Debt Services blog and lists three house sitting job listing Web sites.

Smaller sometimes is better. Consider a smaller hotel, pensione or bed and breakfast, ranch, or guest house. Many are privately owned and operated with detailed and friendly pride. They are usually less expensive than a major hotel chain or resort. Often a meal is included. A resource: BedandBreakfast.com.

And, even smaller: Micro Hotels. Ultra small hotels are popping up all over. Typically these offer very, very tiny paired-down rooms, with starting rates as low as $75 a night.  When they began showing up they were often geared toward the younger traveler, but with the growing budget-savvy trend for travelers, there are now many “luxury micro” hotels emerging which provide luxurious amenities. If you aren’t going to be spending much time in your room anyway, this option can offer you tremendous savings. Do an online search using the term “micro hotel” and you’ll find many. A few examples: NYC’s The Pod and The Jane. NiteNite is in London. Yotel, is in London, Amsterdam and just opened in Times Square in NYC, Spring 2011.

Location, think outside the perimeter. If your vacation plans are taking you to one of those popular busy tourist spots or attractions, try this: find your destination city on the map, but before booking your hotel there, check for outlying areas and towns a short distance from that spot. The hotel, dining and shopping rates may be considerably less, but you’ll still be very close to where you want to tour.

A word about all inclusive and Cruises:

All inclusive destinations or cruises can often be a bargain, not only in price but if you’re looking for just about as “worry free” a time as you can get, this is probably your best bet. However, it pays to plan ahead, and that also includes all inclusive vacations. There can be many pitfalls and there are always hidden costs. Find out before you go exactly which services and products are included in the “all inclusive” fare, and which will run up extra charges, like salon and spa visits, top shelf drinks, higher end restaurants, and yes, even disembarking charges. And be advised that port-of-call tours provided by the cruise line are “offered” at premium high-end prices compared to local tour operators you could secure on your own.

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The Best All Around Never Fail Money Saving Tips for Travel

The price of travel continues to rise. But you can have a wonderful time enjoying your travel and all the adventure it brings from museums and historical sights to just lounging and relaxing without paying astronomical prices to do it. Use these all around great travel money saving pointers assembled from the best experts in the field, on everything — lodging, touring, shopping, dining, and transportation, you name it… you’ll be surprised at how much savings and value add you will receive.

Always, always, always… ASK. We can’t stress or repeat this tip often enough. It’s our Number One money saving tip, and it will never fail to bring you some savings, more value, or both. Be friendly, courteous, polite, and ask:

  • Is there a special offer or promotion going on that I might not be aware of? Do you accept loyalty, membership discount or award programs like AAA or AARP or ____?
  • Is there any possibility that an upgrade might be available?
  • Is there anything else like parking which you can offer?
  • If you are using more than one room, ask if they would permit a break for a multi-room booking.
  • Is there a break if I pay with cash?
  • If you are not a member of their specific loyalty club, you can usually sign up right then and there during check-in, which is especially nice if it is free to join.

When asking for perks or discounts in person, please ask quietly, often the staff at the desk may be able to accommodate you, but they may not want the entire lobby to know it.  And keep in mind that asking at for “extras” like parking compensation or to have internet charges waived is often easier to facilitate at checkout; agents may be more able to credit you than to wave the fees initially.

When thinking about potential discount opportunities, think about anythingthat might apply, use your imagination, the sky’s the limit… ask if they give a discount for it or if they could provide consideration for it. Examples:

  • Local residency
  • Public service and/or emergency workers
  • Union membership
  • Senior discounts or Youth or Student discounts
  • Convention rates
  • Group rates
  • A university or college in town you are visiting
  • A local major business or industry you may be associated with
  • A specific holiday or event in town
  • A specific event in your life like honeymoon, anniversary, birthday
  • Membership in their loyalty program or any other loyalty programs
  • Airline frequent flyer memberships
  • Remind them if you are a returning customer

Always, always, always… check online first.

  • Check several booking and price comparison sites like orbitz.commomondo.com, hotelscombined.com, hotels.com, and tripadvisor.com for lodging, transportation, airfare.
  • Do internet searches that include terms like: coupon, discount, promotion, promo, deal.
  • After you’ve searched for prices elsewhere, check the hotel, resort, theme park and airline’s own websites so you can compare prices, and then call them directly so you can negotiate.
  • Check their facebook page and twitter page.
  • Sign up for email newsletters so you can be alerted to special member deals.

Travel to a destination during the “off season.” Off season works two ways:  you can benefit from traveling during YOUR off season, OR during the off season of your destination. For example, the southern hemisphers’s “summer” is the northern hemisphere’s “winter.”  So, here are examples using New York City: Travel from NYC to Rio, Brazil during the NYC winter months and you will be hitting Rio’s “ON” warmer season, so rates may be high. But travel from NYC to Rio between May and October and you’ll be hitting Rio’s “OFF” season, because it’s their winter your stay may cost less.

Other than hurricane season, there is no real “OFF” season for a Caribbean destination, however: Dec. – April is considered an”ON” season because there are so many folks in the north who want to get away from the cold, so prices from NYC to the Caribbean will be pretty steep. But travel from NYC to the Caribbean during the NY warmer summer months, June through Sept., and you’ll find fare and hotel packages in the Caribbean to be considerably lower.

Watch for crazy specials. You can often find quick deals and specials to honor holidays like Valentine’s Day. But also keep a watch out for unusual events like the Summer Solstice on June 21, or a total eclipse of the moon or sun. And think ahead to rare occurring dates, like 11/11/11. This would apply to airfare, cruises, lodging and even restaurants.

Use credit cards over debit cards. Carry cash for most daily transactions and tips. U.S. dollar bills generally are accepted most everywhere. Some countries don’t accept debit cards, so check ahead. Using credit cards for major purchases like tickets and lodging will offer more protection over debit cards. You can also put in a stop payment request should you need to. And a credit card can be a handy tool to use when bartering. When you make a transaction using your credit or debit card, the rate of exchange you receive will be calculated by those companies. Check with your specific credit or debit card company for their policy regarding their rate of exchange. Some credit and debit card companies may charge a foreign transaction fee which is an additional fee for using the card out of the country.  Find out if yours does. Bring the card with the lowest rates and fees.

Freebies and discounts do exist.

  • Don’t pass up the booklets and coupons featuring local merchant discounts on everything from food to flamingo dancing to fantasy theme parks. These are available from the local tourist bureau or visitor center, and often hotels carry them.
  • Ask your lodging hosts or the hotel concierge if they have additional coupons or vouchers to offer and what events might be going on nearby. However, when asking for a recommendation, keep in mind some concierges get kickbacks for sending you to pricy tourist traps so be sure to ask for their unbiased opinion and suggestions.
  • The local telephone book and newspapers often have activities and event listings along with specials and coupons.
  • Magazines like, Time Out Worldwide and the Entertainment Book are great resources for discounts and free event listings.
  • Do an online search. Enter your destination where the blank is when using the search term: free events ______. Or: free activities _____.

Travel Insurance. It’s up to you to consider if spending from $25 to $100 on travel insurance is worth it, but if tickets and sometimes non-refundable hotel or cruise deposits alone may be costing you a couple of thousand dollars, it may well be worth that little extra to be sure you aren’t left in a lurch should a circumstance change causing the trip to be cancelled.

Don’t be afraid to mention a problem.  If you didn’t receive what you should have, or conditions were unbearable, absolutely ask management for help in solving your problem. Again, we stress to be polite, courteous and willing to compromise. In a recent experience of our own, we accepted reimbursement for the hotel parking fees in lieu of the hotel cafe being closed on two mornings when it was supposed to have been open, their failure to deliver a room service order, and supplying us with frayed, torn and ragged towels; none of which is unbearable by any means, but they were a nuisance and not worthy of the service or the quality of the hotel or their prices. Management was grateful for our speaking up was happy to try to please us.

Tipping. Who to tip, when to tip, how much, how often, and in what currency…  We admit to often feeling insecure about that protocol.. so we’ll leave it up to the experts to advise …

  • More tips from the experts in this video:
  • Tipping Tips– Peter Greenberg

Volunteer. Volunteering is a great way to do something wonderful while being able to travel for less or in some cases, for free, and also receive a tax deduction.

More money saving travel posts: Money Saving Mobile & Cell Phone Travel Apps

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7 Money Saving Winter Travel Tips

The winter travel season is a full one, containing Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s, Martin Luther King Day, President’s Day, February/Winter school breaks, and Valentines Day – plenty of opportunities for travel. While any warm weather sunny destination would be a welcomed change from colder weather locations, a snowy spot with great skiing and winter sport activities is also a big draw. And don’t forget cruises, a year-round welcomed travel adventure. Wherever you may be thinking of venturing, these pointers on winter travel will make it less stressful and easier on your budget for smoother sailing, or skiing, or…

14 Tips to Save Money on Cruises –  14 top travel savings tips to get the most from your vacation budget while onboard cruise ships from travel advisor, Jason Cochran.

Ski Resort Savings – Budget friendly ways to save on winter getaways and vacations from Orbitz.com Travel Insider, Jeanenne Diefendorf.

How to Afford a Winter Vacation – Title says it all!  A little planning will take you far toward making your winter vacation a reality. These 5 money saving pointers on budgeting & travel planning will get your where you want to go!

How to Plan a Winter Vacation – Booking a vacation over the holidays? Amy Ziff, Travelocity.com Editor-at-Large, gives insider tips for getting the vacation and savings you really want.

Travel Planning Tips – Thinking about booking that vacation?  Bob Atkinson, travelsupermarket.com’s travel expert, gives his top ten tips to make it easy and as easy on your budget as possible.

Avoid Hotel Money Traps – Did you know that your hotel is rigged with money traps? Christopher Elliott tells you the top 3 traps to watch out for so you can save money while traveling.

Use Credit Cards to Save in Bartering – Here’s an simple unconventional use of credit cards that could add up to big some money savings during vacation travel… or maybe anytime, from travel reporter, Peter Greenberg.

More travel money saving pointers in SLTV post:

Link to this article:  http://is.gd/zcWcoZ

 

Want Awesome Service? Communicate…

OR … How to get more value for your money,  have great customer service, and improve the brand and product experience for the next guy (who actually might be you), just by being a great and responsible consumer… (no coupons necessary!)

SpendLessTV blog: Good Consumerism = Hotel Discount

Reality check: Unfortunately, the actual hotel lobby does not quite resemble this crisp,  bright and cheery photo featured on the Marriott website.

Courtyard by Marriott – Tremont , Boston, Mass, USA

The hotel sits in the Boston theater district, a landmark building with a lobby reminiscent of opulent glamorous  days with vast entryways, tall ceilings slathered in detailed carvings and adorned with crystal chandeliers.   Wow, this is going to be really nice! There’s a steady stream of families buzzing about who have come for a college visit weekend. Boston, which has more colleges per square inch than any other city in the world, gets pretty busy during these college event times, which is why we booked our hotel way in advance, and why, after the first impression wears off,  the hotel’s glaring signs of wear-and-tear and dingy tinge we notice are disappointing but understandable given this barrage of constant college traffic and the age of the building.  But rather than dwell on the frayed carpet and furniture that’s reminiscent of a 1970’s movie set, we keep our focus on the beautiful architectural details in the lobby and high hopes for a comfortable room.

During our check-in we asked our usual favorite question: are there any further discounts we might not be aware of that we might be entitled to?  We were told we were getting the best possible rate with AAA Members and  local university discounts.  Okay, now on to the room.

Again, given the age of the building, and the fact that we’re in town to tour the college, not to luxuriate in the room, we are willing to make do with some of the emerging additional minor glitches: rattling elevators, no wifi (just plug-in,  but at least it was free), some funky caulking in the bathroom, more of the B-movie set furniture, dull beige something-or-other colored walls, the sprinkler pipe sticking out of the wall with an intrusively large “do not use a hanger on this” sticker posted next to it, and the security latch lock on the door was dangling off the wall with screws sticking out.

When we return to the hotel late that evening, the lobby was filled with a pounding and rumbling sound which we assumed must be a train or subway nearby.  Nope, no train…  no subway… dance clubs… three of them surrounding the building.  No problem, we’re on the 7th floor.  Wrong.  Pa chong, pa chong, pa chonga..till the very very late hours (or early hours).  The next night the same thing, only louder.

Okay, so where am I going with all this?  Yep, you guessed it…Ask. Ask for the service provider to stand by their service agreement to you. Ask for compensation, ask for consideration, just ask politely for a remedy.  (see SLTV’s blog entries: How to Get Great Hotel Service and Save Money, Too! and The Single Most Helpful Tip for Shopping)

At check out we brought the broken latch to the front desk, politely brought up the noise issue, and pointed out that we had booked the room well in advance to ensure having a room, but now hotels nearby are offering even lower rates, and asked for some compensation for the inconvenience of the broken lock and noisy conditions. And… we received an $80 credit.

This isn’t meant to be a review or pan. We’ve generally found Marriott hotels to be an excellent value, and we were really surprised by this facility. We do appreciate that the Marriott front desk staff was willing to listen and empowered to offer reasonable amends. This speaks well for Marriott’s customer service policy, and is why we will continue to patronize Marriott.

The fact is that other than the broken latch lock, we never even brought up the general state of disrepair.  We were willing to completely accept many of the inconveniences. But we also have our limits. The noise was our tipping point, and keeping this to ourselves would not only have been a disservice to us, but it would also have been a disservice to future guests, and to the hotel as well.

What you pay for and what you expect in return is, to a large extent, an ‘agreement’ between you and the service provider. It’s their business to serve you, but it’s up to you to negotiate those parameters.  Service providers need to hear from you about what’s working or not working, if you will or will not be returning, and why.  This ensures that you and others will benefit by getting better service, more value, and better opportunities for deals in the future.  One of the most effective and positive ways you can advocate for yourself , keep your service provider in the know, and receive benefits is to simply ask ask ask! Politely asking is also a way of politely informing.

And, take it one level higher by using social media to let companies (and everyone else) know how your experience was, and how responsive they were or weren’t.  It’s a great way to ensure future value and quality. (see SLTV’s co-founder, Michael Fishman’s blog entry: Using the Social Web to Maximize Customer Experience)

Being budget-conscious does not mean you need to compromise on service, and being a good customer never hurts.

Related videos:

Be a Customer Who Gets What You Want – Gary Vaynerchuk, entrepreneur and marketing guru, comments on how consumers benefit from being good customers.

Keep Your Customers! – Ryan Lee, business marketing specialist, gives excellent concrete tips for any business to keep their most valuable asset, their customers,  coming back for more.

Cost Effective Marketing for Small Business – Joe Polish, President of Piranha Marketing, reveals invaluable top techniques to market your business more effectively & efficiently.

How Behavioral Economics Can Boost Your Bottom Line – Dan Ariely a professor of behavioral economics at Duke University, explains how we perceive value

PS: Please indulge me as I take a brief slightly off-topic break: This post wouldn’t be complete without a shout out to the absolute highlight of the hotel: The Encore Lounge, a piano bar off the lobby (Courtyard by Marriott – Tremont , Boston). Amtrak train conductor by day, musical comedy Dame by night,  Colleen Powers had us completely enthralled with her impeccable timing and spot-on observations (no one escapes her keen and cutting wit). Jimmy on piano followed her every cue and didn’t miss a beat when backing up the locals taking a turn on the mic. The entire scene – was completely entertaining.  And, now to bring us back on topic: It’s a tremendous entertainment value, with no cover charge!

Link to this article: http://is.gd/sdUzKQ

How to Get Great Hotel Service (& Save Money, Too!)

Hotel Angeleno, part of the Joie du Vive group, Los Angeles, Ca

Travel is full of opportunities…to overspend.  Transportation, lodging and food – all necessary and can come with a pretty high price tag, especially when one can’t plan their travel around discounts, specials, or off-season. Recently we were able to find some real travel savings by following a familiar  tried-and-true simple approach.
We had booked a hotel stay for 4 nights.  After two nights we realized we needed to extend our stay and booked an additional 3 nights. The additional 3 nights were over a weekend and the rates were lower than the first four mid-week nights.  So, our final bill would be two rates: 4 nights at the the mid-week rate, and  3 nights at the weekend rate.
At check out we shared some light conversation with the front desk staff, as we had often done often during the stay, (tip: never hurts to be nice, and become a real person to them, not just another room-charge)  but this time conversation  turned to the topic of the hospitality business.  We inquired about who actually ran the coffee shop and restaurant, ( tip: never hurts to be interested in them) and we did make a suggestion about what they might consider doing should the coffee shop fail to open again as it had one morning during our time there. (tip: gently suggest that they have not been perfect and you have been somewhat put out) We mentioned having been repeat guests, and that we would be returning in the future.  (tip: remind them that you are a future source of revenue, and publicity) A delightful conversation actually.  One of the staff members even asked if we would please make an entry at Trip Adviser.
So when we pleasantly asked if there might be anything they could do to help bring some balance to the difference in rates we were being charged, they pleasantly tried to accommodate our request.  And…we ended up receiving a $50 credit for each of the 4 nights with a higher rate.
Score!  We saved $200 – just by asking! Of course being nice and sharing a few laughs didn’t hurt, either.  But we were very pleased by their efforts and by the fact that the staff were willing to listen and empowered to take action, and we let them know it  (tip: always let them know you are appreciative).
And, we absolutely will be staying there again in the future.
Our travel section has video tips on everything from travel insurance, to coupons, to packing for a road trip, to finding the best seat on an airplane. Here are a couple not to be missed:
Rare interview                                                                                                           Arthur Frommer Shares His Top 10 Bargain Travel Tips
Best Sites for Flights – Trip on a Deal
Visit the sltv Travel Section

sltv blog: How to Get Great Hotel Service

Hotel Angeleno, part of the Joie de Vivre Hotels group, Los Angeles, California, USA

Travel is full of opportunities…to overspend.  Transportation, lodging and food – all are unavoidable necessities and can come with a pretty high price tag, especially during those times when one can’t plan their travel around discounts, specials, or off-season rates. Recently we were able to find some fantastic quality hotel customer service which lead to our receiving some real travel savings when we followed one of our favorite familiar tried-and-true simple approaches.

We had booked a hotel stay at the Hotel Angeleno for 4 nights.  After two nights we realized we needed to extend our stay and booked an additional 3 nights. The additional 3 nights were over a weekend and the rates were lower than the first four mid-week nights.  So, our final bill would be the combination of two rates: 4 nights at the the mid-week rate, and  3 nights at the weekend rate (tip: in addition to planning for off-season deals and discounts, if possible, try to plan for weekend rates which are often lower than weekdays).

At check out we shared some light conversation with the front desk staff, as we had often done during the stay, (tip: never hurts to be a nice real person and cultivate a relationship) but this time our conversation turned to the topic of the hospitality business. We inquired about who actually owned and operated  the coffee shop and restaurant, (tip: never hurts to be friendly and interested in them and their business) and we did make a suggestion about what they might consider doing should the coffee shop fail to open again as it had the previous morning, and also mentioned how pleased we were that the ragged frayed towels we encountered during our prior visit were no longer being used. (tip: whining is often not effective and never appreciated, but a gentle suggestion that they have not been perfect is more likely to get management’s willing attention) We mentioned that we’ve been repeat guests, and that we would be returning in the future.  (tip: remind them that you are a future source of revenue and [social media] publicity) It was a delightful conversation actually.  One of the staff members even asked if we would please make an entry at Trip Advisor, which we eventually did.

So when we pleasantly asked if there might be anything they could do to help bring some balance to the difference in rates we were being charged, they pleasantly tried to accommodate our request. And…we pleasantly ended up receiving a $50 credit for each of the 4 nights that were billed with a higher rate, and a parking credit.

Score!  We saved $200 – just by pleasantly asking! (yep, it’s “That Same Old Money-Saving Tip, Again”)

So often we encounter hotel staff who clearly don’t have the power to generate a remedy, which is an obvious indicator that upper management has provided little or no direction, training, or protocol for staff to follow so that they may graciously care for a guest’s needs (tip: encountering this is usually is a sign that management doesn’t care about providing quality hospitality service to their guests – which is a point to keep in mind when considering choices for your next hotel reservation, because pour customer care is no bargain).

It was immediately clear that the Hotel Angeleno’s staff was empowered to take action. We were really impressed by their desire to please, and we let them know it (tip: always let them know you are appreciative).

And, we absolutely will stay with them again in the future.

Jamie, sltv

Know before you go – videos with travel savings tips:

Arthur Frommer Shares His Top 10 Bargain Travel Tips – A rare appearance from the travel master himself, founder of Frommer’s Travel.

Best Sites for Flights – Tips from travel vloggers, Trip on a Deal.

Travel Insider Tips: Eating and Sleeping – Travel editor, PBS travel program host, author, owner Edmonds Travel, Rick Steves.

Visit the SLTV Travel Section– Our travel section has video tips on everything from travel insurance, to coupons, to packing for a road trip, to finding the best seat on an airplane.

Link to this article: http://is.gd/0TXwkw


 

Give (and Get: Travel Discounts & FREEbies)

sltv blog post: Give (and Get [discounts and freebies])

Give (and Get)
Here are three easy ways you can make a difference
by giving some volunteer time (and getting some fun and travel at discount rates or even for free, in return!)

Give a Day, Get a Disney Day, where 1 million people who give a day to help others in 2010 will get free admission to Walt Disney World, you could be one of them! Offer Expired

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You can get travel discounts and freebies through the Sage Hotel Group’s Give a Day Get a Night promotion. Just complete 8 hours of volunteer service to a registered 501(c)3 non profit organization by March 29, 2010 to qualify to receive 50% off the published room rate — or maybe a complimentary night (limited availability) at all 53 Sage hotels (Marriott, Starwood, and Hilton) across the country. Offer expired

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Here’s an opportunity to travel across the world and stay for free. Through a program offered by the World Wide Organization Of Organic Farmers, (aka: Wondering WWOOF) you can connect with communities across the globe that will offer you food and accomodation in exchange for work participation. You ‘ll experience cultural adventure while helping the environment. Work in areas of organic gardening from working with animals to wine making.  Started in the UK in 1971, WOOF has since become an international movement that is helping people share more sustainable ways of living.

More in this Video Clip:

For more easy ways you can keep on making a difference:Check out our blog post:

Link to this article: http://is.gd/0Gwgnk