Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ten Tips to Save Money on Travel

American Express knows a thing or two about travel, and not just because the one of the Amex cards you should never leave home without is a green card. These top ten tips for saving green -- dollars -- are from Amex Business Travel for business travelers, but they work for leisure travellers as well.

Plan Twice, Book Once - Airlines are charging $150 or more if you change your ticket after it's been booked, and many hotels now charge "no show" fees of $50 or more -- as much more as the cost of your entire reservation. So, double-checking appointments before booking can help you save on these potential added charges.

Pack Light - Minimize checked baggage fees by packing and checking less. For longer trips, the cost of dry cleaning may be cheaper than checking extra luggage for additional shirts and pants. Also look into overnight delivery and luggage forwarding services -- for materials or samples to bring on a business trip, or your skis, snowboard or golf clubs for a leisure trip.

Check Your Paperwork - Make sure your passport is current and that you have any necessary visas for your trip in advance. Expired or missing paperwork can delay your trip and add expensive charges for expedited applications. Most travel management companies can provide visa/passport support before you travel.

Be Flexible To Find Savings - For travel to or from an area with multiple airports, search alternate airports or use this option in your online booking tool. For example, in New York City, fares may be less expensive enough at JFK to offset the incremental taxi fare difference for a trip to LaGuardia.

Watch for Waste - Millions of tickets go unused, even though most non-refundable fares are valid for travel for up to a year. While there may be change fees, you can still save money by not letting these unused tickets go to waste.

Stay Together, Save Together - If you are arriving on different flights than your co-workers, friends or family, plan ahead to arrive around the same time and meet at an airport lounge. That way you can travel to the hotel together and save the cost of multiple taxis or shuttle services.

Big Ticket Items Can Mean Big Savings - If you are planning a complex international or multi-city US itinerary, use a travel agent. It will save you planning time better spent on your family and/or your business, a travel professional is better equipped to find the best airfare deals to ensure you get the lowest fare, with or without a land package.

Plan Ahead, Stay In Touch - The earlier you book air tickets and hotel rooms, the more likely you’ll find a lower rate. Ask for price guarantees -- many airlines and hotels offer you a lower rate if the price for your trip drops after you’ve booked it.

Stretch Your Stay to Stretch Your Dollar - Some airlines are bringing back "minimum stay requirements," so you can safe money by postponing your return trip from a Friday until a Sunday or Monday. Or, take the overnight red-eye flight home -- that's usually the least expensive flight of the day for an airline.

Oldies But Goodies - If you are bumped, be sure to get a free voucher, and try to travel in the so-called "off-season" or "shoulder season" for lower travel costs.
And a final tip from me -- Evelyn Kanter -- buy travel insurance to protect you if you have to cancel a trip.