ConsumerWatch: Booking early, seeking discounts cut vacation costs

ConsumerWatch: Booking early, seeking discounts cut vacation costs

July 28th, 2012 by Ellen Phillips in Businessellenphillips

Ellen Phillips

Continuing to piggyback on how to save money while traveling this summer, here's another offering on how to not let your summer vacation break the bank.

• Always check your destination's online visitor's bureau to find out what's going on in that city. Even better, the bureaus often offer coupons and specials not picked up by other discount sites.

• Call the specific hotel in which you wish to stay and ask for a discounted rate; you may be pleasantly surprised. If you've already checked online, tell the desk clerk (or manager) the best price you've found and ask if he can beat it.

• Book flights at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. Airlines usually raise prices over the weekend, and the unbooked tickets are put on sale at sometimes deep discounts. Additionally, if you subscribe to an airline's website, you'll receive fare deals and occasion frequent flier points (minimal though these points are).

• Save up to 50 percent by taking the train. If you're close to an Amtrak, you can really

save money since fuel costs are much less than those for planes. The trip may take longer, but you won't be so cramped and stressed and can see some beautiful scenery along the way.

• Avoid the middle man on vacation rentals. Go directly to the property owners themselves. Not only do you eliminate booking fees, it also allows you to negotiate directly with the owner.

n Warehouse clubs may offer great deals on rental cars. Costco, for example, offers up to 30 percent off rentals from Alamo, Avis and Enterprise. BJ's gives a free upgrade, plus 30 percent off Hertz and Budget. Also, check out your college's alumni association, AAA memberships and AARP, as well as available entertainment books; each offers a discount.

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears every Saturday. Email her at consumer watch@timesfree press.com.