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Thursday, August 19, 2010

August is International Air Travel Month! 8.18.10

Quito

Thanks for visiting my travel blog! Here I will share my money saving tips for all aspects of travel, as well as give recommendations on travel clothes, accessories and other gear. As you may know, I enjoy life and all it has to offer, which includes traveling as often as I can. Unfortunately, like many of us, I don't have a big savings account, but I still want to get the most out of trips with my husband and stay in nice hotels and eat good food. I'll be posting weekly updates on how to save money when reserving airfare, hotels, cruises, restaurants and car rentals. I will also be adding general travel tips and useful travel items that I found and take with me on my own travels. For more deals, join me on Facebook (Shereen Travels Cheap) or follow me on Twitter (www.twitter.com/shereentrvlschp).

Jet plane

Airfare can be a huge chunk of your vacation budget. You will want to save as much as possible, right? I mean, I sure do. Traveling on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday is a tried and true way to save on plane tickets. Sometimes, you can save hundreds by just switching your travel dates to fly on these days. Of course there are plenty of other ways to save, too! Try some of these money saving tips:

  • Sign up for the free frequent flyer programs for airlines. You can sign up for just a few or any that fly out of your home airport, this way, you will be the first to know about exclusive deals and promotions via email. You may be eligible for other perks, too. The best part about frequent flyer programs is that when you fly, you accumulate the equivalent amount of miles flown in your account, which can then be redeemed for free airplane tickets. You have to pay a small fee to exchange them (around $25 and can vary with the airline), but it’s still much less than a full-price ticket. Most airlines offer round-trip coach tickets starting at 25,000 miles and many airlines are now allowing you to buy part of your ticket with miles and make up the purchase price with actual money. Usually, you trade in 12,500 miles and it pays for the first half of your ticket. So, say you are flying round trip from Boston to Los Angeles, your Boston to LA ticket would be covered and you would pay for your trip back to Boston out of pocket.
  • The average “cost” of an airline mile is set at $.02, so 25,000 miles gets you a $500 ticket. Anything less than that is considered a waste of using your miles, so make sure you’re getting your money’s worth out of your free ticket by using it for rates of $500 or more, if you can afford to do so. You don’t want to use it on a ticket that’s on sale for only $325 R/T if you can help it. This is one of the only times that you can make your rewards points for anything worth more money, so take advantage of it as best you can.

Sleep

There are a lot of things to consider when finding a place to stow your belongings and lay your head at night. Price may be the biggest factor, but it doesn't mean the less you pay the crappier your stay. There are plenty of budget and moderate hotels that offer wonderful service and surroundings if you know where and how to look. I like to weigh all my options when deciding on where to sleep: does it have a restaurant? Is it close to what I want to do? Is it convenient to public transportation? Does it offer free breakfast? Free WiFi? Is it on a busy street? Do the rooms offer kitchenettes? All these questions are important, but here are some ways to save on hotels you want to stay in at your chosen destination:

  • The more inclusive extras you can get on a vacation, the further your money goes. Free breakfast saves you around $10 per person per day! Here’s an excellent example of a hotel with perks that save you money and brings up the value of your room rate:

    >>Enjoy European luxury in the Southwest. Stay in the London Bridge Resort on Lake Havasu for $119/night and receive daily family breakfast and a family boat tour. The resort is exclusively suites and offers a 9-hole golf course, full-service spa, restaurant, lounge and more! You have a view of London Bridge that was shipped over and relocated to the desert. Book by Aug 31st for travel through Dec 31st.

Getting Around

You aren't always lucky enough to be in a place where you can walk all over, or even want to if you could. There are many transportation options that are inexpensive, no matter where you are headed. Look at your options and weigh the pros and cons. I don't usually take taxis on vacation, because they cost a fortune, but some places they are really reasonable. In Quito, Ecuador we took a cab ride up to the Teleferiqo, which would have cost us at least $30-40 at home, but only cost us $10, including tip!

  • BackTrackWe walk and drive a lot and sometimes (okay, lots of times) we get lost. You ever pull into a giant mall or theme park parking lot and hours later totally forget where you parked? Well, they have created something just for those of us who do that: Bushnell BackTrack Personal GPS. The BackTrack can save your starting point in the memory and then whenever you’re done with what you are doing, it can lead you back to your car, the bus stop or your hotel. The tiny downside it has is that it doesn’t work indoors, so try not to park in a parking garage if you want to use it. Otherwise, it’s about the size of a stopwatch, fits in your pocket and comes in a variety of cool colors. I can see using this at home as well as on vacation.

Are we?

This, and "I'm bored" are among the worst things to hear when you get to your destination and realize that you haven't planned enough stuff to keep your family amused. Getting there is just the first job on your to-do list for your holiday. I'm not saying you have to pack your days to the gills until your family curses you as they crawl into the hotel room, clutching their aching feet and wishing they had stayed home, but enough to be busy doing something at least part of every day. This gives you the flexibility to do other things you find along the way or just relax the rest of the day.

  • FluxxI love games. I take quite a few with us on vacation: Nintendo DS, iPod Touch, card games and sometimes a book of logic problems. I like to keep myself busy, even though I know the first 3-45 minutes on the plane I’ll be trying to do the crossword puzzle in the in-flight magazine (if one exists). It’s not always fun to play games by yourself, especially if you are traveling with one or more other people. My husband and I discovered Fluxx 4.0. This game is awesome! It’s a card game with ever-changing rules. You start out with basic rules and a goal, like “Milk & Cookies”. Once you get the milk card and the cookie card, you win! But wait! You and your fellow players can change both the rules and the goals by the cards you hold in your hand, making it super fun to play anywhere you go. We play it on the plane, the train, the park, the Laundromat. You name it! And it doesn’t matter if you play with 2 people or 6. Everyone can play, though it says 8 and up. Fluxx is also available in different sets that you can play separately (or together, though we haven’t tried it yet). Variations include: Zombie, Family, Eco, Martian, Monty Python and Stoner editions.

Packing

If you're like me, packing is a super fun challenge to get as much useful stuff in my bag in as little space as possible. If you're like a lot of other people, packing is just a challenge. The more you practice, the better you'll get at it and you'll be a packing master! Here are some great tips to make the process go more smoothly for you.

  • Look for reversible clothing that can be turned inside out and present a new fabric or pattern. It doubles your travel wardrobe and packs in half the space. Genius! TravelSmith carries a lot of these pieces of clothing in stylish tops, skirts, jackets and more. They are reasonably priced and super comfortable to wear.

Gear

I'll be the first to admit my love of anything travel-related, and if it makes my life easier, does many things and is easy to pack on top of that, I'm in. Okay, not everything I think is essential is also multi-purpose, but a lot are. Here are some awesome items I find useful and want you to know about, too!

  • Belkin RockstarDo you have fights over who gets to listen to the iPod or the DVD player? Well, never fear, because Belkin Rockstar is here. This thing is great! With 5 earphone ports and a cool design, everyone can listen to music, or the movie or whatever else all at once. Unfortunately, it can’t help solve the fights about which band to listen to or what movie to watch, but I guess you can’t have everything.
  • Belkin Surge ProtectorEvery time I go to a hotel I think they must not want to add to their electricity bill by letting you plug in anything! There are 5 outlets in your room and every single one of them is occupied with stuff like the TV and 12 lamps. All I want to do is plug in my phone to charge and the only open socket is in the sink area next to the coffee maker. I don’t know about you, but I’m not plugging my phone in near a water source. Some, more innovative, hotels now have a socket in the lamp base on the desk. That’s awesome, but there are two of us and we often travel with more than one phone and several other electronics. Well, I found the Belkin Mini Surge Protector with USB ports. We now have two; one for home and one for travel. It has 3 outlets to plug in your laptop, phone, Kindle or whatever else you bring with you, and also 2 USB ports to plug in things like your iPod. It’s great, because it’s small, has a lot of use and the plug on the back swivels 360 degrees to fit and outlet space anywhere you need it.

  • iGoI love the Belkin Mini Surge Protector even though I also have an iGo. It allows me to plug in my iGo and my laptop at the same time that way. What’s the iGo, you ask? It’s only the best invention ever made for people who travel. Okay, maybe that’s not true, but it’s in my Top 5! In fact, I love it so much, I plug it to everyone I meet and buy one for all my traveling friends. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s having to round up all my million adapter cords for all my electronic devices. I also like to have my travel bag packed as much as possible all the time. The iGo is a great little adapter that has interchangeable tips for each device you own. You can get the wall plug and the car plug (which can both use the same tips) for around $30 and then each tip is sold separately and they are usually around $10 each. You can toss the tiny bag with 2 cords and all your tips into your travel bag for the next time you go anywhere and be set for everything you take with you from your iPod to your personal GPS.

Deals

I like to share great deals I find, even if I may not be able to use them, I would like someone to. This is a new segment that will also be implemented on my website, too. I hope they appeal to you.

  • Tuscan6 nights in a castle in Tuscany. Includes airfare from New York and a rental car, so you can make the short drive to Pisa, San Gimignano and Siena. For $799pp, you get a 2 bedroom suite in the property guest house or for $99 more, you can stay in the actual castle. Book by Aug 27th for selected travel dates in Nov-Feb. Visit the site to see prices to fly out of other airports around the country and to upgrade to an automatic car for $79). This deal is good over Thanksgiving, too, and is only a little more than just the airfare would cost you. Similar deals show up at $1,000 more per person.

  • AirTran has announced its new fare sale. From $88 RT. Yep, you read that right. Round trip! Purchase by Aug 24th for travel through December 15th. Valid for travel days other than Fri & Sun. Great coast to coast deals!

  • Summer isn't over yet! You still have time to book that summer getaway. Save up to 40% off hotel prices across the globe through Sept 6th. You need to book by August 31st! Discounts on hotels in Europe, Hawaii, Mexico and more!


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