Rock-bottom price for a rental car… First-class airplane legroom for free… and more
The travel industry does not make it easy for consumers to save money. Airfares, hotel rates and car rental rates fluctuate daily… hidden fees unexpectedly inflate bills… and historically high gas prices and a weak US dollar have made it even harder to plan inexpensive vacations. Still, there are ways for savvy travelers to save money…
These package deals can be considerably cheaper than anything you could find by purchasing airline tickets, hotel rooms and rental cars separately. Occasionally a hotel-and-airfare package actually is cheaper than airfare alone.
These sites’ package deals tend to be most attractive for travel to common vacation destinations, such as Hawaii, New York City, Orlando and Las Vegas.
The tricky part is deciding how low you should bid. Rental car prices vary greatly from city to city and even day to day, making it hard to determine a fair price.
I start by finding the best rental rate I can through major rental car company Web sites and 800 numbers. (Rental car companies often offer better deals over the phone than they do online.)
Next, I search for rental car deals on Hotwire.com, a Web site that often has very attractive rates. I take the best price I have found and bid 30% less on Priceline.com. Often, my bid is accepted. If not, I accept the best deal I have found elsewhere.
Also: Consider reserving an economy car, even if you would prefer something larger. Rental agencies often run out of economy cars and provide free upgrades to customers. This is not worth trying if you absolutely must have a larger car.
When I am unable to reserve a seat in the emergency exit row, I ask the gate agent to place me on the waiting list for this row as soon as I check in for my flight. You must be able-bodied to sit in the emergency exit row and physically able to open the emergency door.
Bulkhead seats — the seats at the front of a seating section — typically also have extra legroom. However, bulkhead seats often are reserved for people with disabilities, families with young children and frequent-fliers.
Helpful: Buy airline tickets as early as possible this year. Many of the major American airlines are considering mergers. Airline mergers tend to reduce competition and increase prices, at least for a while. It is better to lock in today’s fares.
Trim vacation costs by eating lunch in the fancy restaurants you want to visit but dinner in less expensive restaurants or even back in your room if you have a kitchen or can bring in takeout.
Scan the fine print of rental contracts and other travel documents for fee disclosures before signing. If you feel that a fee is not justified, say so — you may be able to get it waived.
If fees are not stated in your documents, explain that you were not told about these fees and request that they be waived. If this request is denied, dispute the fee charge through your credit card company after your trip.
When consumers book complex trips on their own, they often suffer missed connections or other unforeseen complications — these problems can be very expensive to resolve. Working with an experienced travel agent makes problems less likely and gives you an emergency on-call problem solver if something does go wrong.
Also, travel agents who are associated with large consortiums often have access to special rates for cruises and hotels that you couldn’t find on your own.