Friday, December 21, 2012

Trip Planning Mistake - Underbudgeting

You've probably heard the old adage about taking half the clothes and twice the money. While a bit extreme, it is not that far off the mark.

If you have a trip budget, don't max it out up front with your fixed, pre-booked expenses such as air, hotel, car rental, cruise or tour. As you travel you will find yourself faced with many other expenses, some of which you not have been able to plan for. For instance ...

U.S. domestic airlines now charge for meals and snacks. For a domestic flight, your checked bag will cost you a baggage fee. A second checked bag will cost even more.

Did you check to find out if the cost of your hotel room includes all taxes? If not, you may be in for a big surprise when you check out. Want to connect the Wi-Fi in your laptop? There may be a fee for that. If you are traveling internationally, may hotels and B&B's list room prices PER PERSON, not per night.

And then there are ATM fees, tips, local payments (on international travel), car rental fees, hotel service shares and any number of small (and sometimes big) fees.

Think your cruise fare pays for your entire trip? Better check again. Most cruise lines now add tips to staff directly to a passengers account. Yes, you can change the amount and even stop it. But you need to know about it to take action. Want a beverage other than water, tea or coffee? There is a charge for that. Want to take a shore excursion? There is a charge for that too.

Plan for the unexpected. The unplanned taxi ride or the extra battery for your camera that you lost. Depending on the number of people in your party, plan an extra $25 to $50 per day for unplanned expenses. It will be nice if you come home with the extra money but if you do run into extra costs, at least you will have planned for it and have the money for it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Avoiding the 24-Hour Cancellation Fee

Most of us know that if you cancel your hotel reservation last minute ... which could be up to 48 hours ahead ... you may end up with a cancellation fee.

Want to avoid that? Call the hotel and tell them that you don't want to cancel ... just move the reservation to the following week. Then call the hotel back, trying to get a different person on the phone ... such as calling at a different time of the day ... and cancel the reservation.

Viola! No fees.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Trip Planning Mistake - Trying To Do Too Much

 It is true you've got a limited amount of vacation time. And it is understandable you want to get the biggest bang for your buck. So you cram as much as possible into your sightseeing itinerary.

But there are some good reasons to leave some time for the unexpected.

When we travel to meet up with any cruise or tour, we always fly into the starting city at least one day early. We've experienced too many late flights to add that kind of anxiety at the beginning of our vacation. Yes, it appears to cut the vacation a day short but if it is a new city, it gives us time to explore before starting the next phase.

If you are doing an independent itinerary, and your time is your own, leave room for that fantastic deserted beach or locals-only cafe you just discovered. Some of our best experiences have come about by talking with other travelers who advised us to "not miss" a certain museum, park or event. For us, it is very often the unexpected and unplanned that remains the best memory of our trip.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Trip Planning Mistake - Allowing Too Little Time Between Flights

Airlines have what they call "legal" connection time between flights at various airports. So when you book a flight with a connection, itinerary options you are given follow those rules, leaving you 20 to 30 minutes for changing planes in airports like Atlanta and Chicago.

Sometimes it can work out OK. Flight times are padded to allow airlines some leeway, ensuring that they arrive "on-time," keeping their on-time performance numbers up, so they arrive early. But one way they do that is by shutting the gate early. I've been on several flights that have pushed away from the gate five minutes early. So even if you arrive early, your connecting flight may be departing early.

Allow at least an hour between connecting domestic flights and two hours between connecting international flights. Allow even more time if you have to change terminals, such as from one receiving international flights to one handling domestic flights.