A few weeks ago, I shared some of my cost savings tips for travel in a post from my “Small Savings” series. Here is part two, and the last of it (for now…I keep thinking of more!).
Travel in the times right before/after “peak season”. Ever notice when you look into a hotel’s rates…that sometimes you find that they’re in three buckets – high season, regular season, and low season? These seasons are supposed to correspond to popular holidays, and also the best times, weather wise.
However, the weather has changed a lot lately, if you haven’t noticed – it’s been hot in months that used to be cold, and vice versa. Rainy in dry season, and dry and rainy season. I almost never book at peak season prices anymore if I can help it (Thanksgiving and Christmas being the exception..hey, I have to use those vacation days!). Instead, I try and book either in regular season or even low..researching the weather patterns in the last few years. So far, it’s worked out fine.
Book through the right agent. Despite what we’ve been taught by Priceline commercials, it’s not always better to book through discount brokers, especially with luxury properties. Fair or not, you stand a much higher chance of being booked into that small, noisy room by the elevator…and the hotel may be less likely to respond to your complaints as well.
Instead, either book directly, or if it’s a luxury hotel, I recommend booking through a service such as American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts (available with the Platinum and Centurion cards) or a Virtuoso agent (which I use, as I no longer have a qualifying Amex). Bookings at valid hotels through the latter two usually gets you breakfast for two, and another amenity – all for no extra charge above what you’d pay on the hotel’s own website. Now you know why I always indulge in great calorie laden breakfasts, whenever we travel!
Brand names don’t always equal quality. I find this especially true for accommodations, less so for airlines – I’ve rarely been impressed by a U.S. carrier and never disappointed by Singapore/Cathay, which is pretty much in line with their reputations. For hotels though, quality and experience can vary widely. I am a huge fan of the Four Seasons, but there are a few properties in select locations when Four Seasons would be very low on my list. Unfortunately, almost all Ritz Carlton’s have been disappointing for me (except New York) and I’d much rather stay at the Double Tree down the street where the prices are lower and there are great cookies!
So do your research for each location – and don’t just assume that because it’s a luxury or well known brand, that it’ll be good. Properties can vary greatly.
Book hotels close to local food options. This isn’t necessarily a savings on the hotel front, but can be overall for a trip. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been booked in some random, out of the way hotel in a commercial district (usually for business travel) and the only thing to eat is expensive, unsatisfying room service. That adds up quickly, and plus the food isn’t even very good!
The combination of plane travel and jetlag can prove to be very tiring, and some days after a long morning and afternoon of sightseeing, the last thing you want to do is navigate a metro with multiple stops, or pay a huge cab fare to grab a bite. That’s why if I have any control over the hotel choice, I’ll always book it near lots of walkable food choices nearby, even if the hotel is a little more. When we were planning our trip to Barcelona, we were originally booked at the Hotel Arts – a beautiful hotel by the beach. In December though, not many beach restaurants are open. Even though the Mandarin Oriental in central Barcelona was quite a bit more, it ended up being worth it, for all the local food in walking distance. I have no doubt that had we stayed at the Ritz we would have spent quite a bit more on room service and cabs!
And my final tip…(for now, because I keep thinking of more)….
Splurge on extraordinary experiences. No this isn’t a savings at all, but just a reminder that travel, especially pleasure travel, should be something special for you. Does that necessarily have to involve you staying at the George V, having all your meals at L’Arpege, having a daily facial at Institut Dior? Of course not! Honestly, even if I had unlimited resources, I wouldn’t opt for an itinerary like that – it takes the fun and joy out of an experience being “special”, a splurge.
When you travel, you are taking time away from your day to day life, to indulge in a different experience. So I think it is natural to splurge on something that would be very meaningful to you – maybe a fancy meal out, or a nice souvenir for yourself, or a private tour, or a historic hotel. Think about what would mean the most to you, and in my opinion, spend a little more and treat yourself. You’ll then always have those memories to remind you of your trip.
Thank you for reading and as always, please share some of your travel savings tips as well!