Sunday, July 5, 2009

Frugal Travel: Pre-planning Tip #1 - Transportation

Let's face it. Traveling at reasonable costs requires not only good planning but also requires you be persistent. Go after what you want and don't give up. Over the next few posts I am going to share some great pre-planning tips I learned from Erin Huffstetler. Let's start with a big one: transportation.

Transportation is most likely one of the biggest expenses when you travel. There are costs associated with getting you to your departure destination and with the mode of transportation used. And then when you arrive you need transportation not only to get to your lodging destination but also just to get you around town. Besides traveling off peak and using discount providers, here are some other ways to pre-plan to reduce costs.

1. Save on car rentals.
  • Book early. The cheapest rental cars go fast. Don't get forced into an upgrade. Book your car as soon as you have solid plans.
  • Comparison shop. The rates between the website, toll free number, and local dealer are not always the same. Be sure to check all three.
  • Reserve the smallest car possible. Rent the smallest car you need and hope for an upgrade. Small fleets are often overbooked causing dealers to upgrade their customers.
  • Compare daily and weekly rates. There is a big range between daily and weekly rates. Check both to ensure you get the best price.
  • Use a non-airport facility. Check out local renters that are not exactly at the airport. You may find you save the price the airport renters charge for convenience.
  • Skip the rental insurance. Your car insurance providing often provides coverage for rentals. Be sure to check first. You may be saving big on extra insurance you don't need.
  • Fill the tank yourself. Some rental companies charge a fee for returning the car without a full tank. Be sure to know what's in the contract to save yourself some money.
2. Save on gas.
  • Rely on local transportation. Not only does traveling using local transportation (subway, bus, etc.) allow you to see everything as the locals see it but it save you some headache on parking too.
  • Rent a bike. Where are you going? If going to a beach or other tourist-focused areas why rent a car when you can rent a bike? Its also can be an easier way to get around town.
  • Seek gas card offers. With the increase in gas prices some hotels have begun to offer free gas cards to offset the cost.
  • Walk. Pick a pedestrian friendly destination. Many big and small towns can be easily explored on foot.
  • Look for a shuttle service. Bigger hotel chains often have shuttle service. Take advantage of it. And get a tour guide as a bonus.
3. Save on airfare.
  • Be flexible to consider off peak schedules.
  • Look into flying into near by airports. You can save by arriving in one airport and leaving from another.
  • Online search alerts. Sign up for pricing alerts and also search day before and after where you can get some really good deals.
  • Avoid online service fees by doing research online and then book with airline.
  • Sign up for last minute email alerts from airlines for some great last minute deals. They often reduce prices at the last minute to get rid of any remaining empty seats.
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