Monthly Archives: September 2015
1. Check the latest travel advice and subscribe to receive free email notifications each time the advice for your destination is updated.
2. Take out comprehensive travel insurance and ensure it covers you for the places you plan to visit and the things you plan to do.
3. Before travelling overseas register your travel and contact details online so we can contact you in case of an emergency.
4. Make sure your passport has at least six months’ validity from your planned date of return to Australia. Carry extra passport photos in case your passport is lost or stolen and you need to replace it while you’re away.
5. Check with health professionals for information on recommended vaccinations and other health precautions. Remember that vaccinations can be an entry requirement for some countries. Also find out about taking medication overseas – certain medicines aren’t allowed in some countries.
6. Make sure that you have the right visas for the countries you are visiting or transiting and check any other entry or exit requirements.
7. Check to see if you’re regarded as a national of the country you plan to visit, and whether dual nationality will have any implications for your travel plans.
8. Make copies of your passport details, insurance policy, travellers cheques, visas and credit card numbers. Carry one copy in a separate place to the originals and leave a copy with someone at home.
9. Obey the laws of the country you’re visiting even if these seem harsh or unfair by Australian standards. Don’t expect to be treated differently from the locals just because you’re Australian.
10. Keep in contact with friends and family back home and give them a copy of your itinerary so they know where you are.
As the busy summer car-rental season begins, prices are expected to climb. “In early June through the end of August, these rates will spike,” said Neil Abrams, president of Abrams Consulting Group, which tracks the car rental industry. Last July, for example, the average rate for a weekly airport rental of a compact car booked seven days ahead was $369.62, or 56 percent more than the $236.73 charged in March, according to the Abrams Travel Data Index. Here are some tips to keep costs down.
Let go of name brands. Look beyond Avis, Hertz and other big national chains to independent agencies like Payless and Fox Rent a Car. Because of lower operating costs, their cars, which can be found at Web sites like CarRentals.com and CarRentalExpress.com, typically cost 15 to 30 percent less than rentals from mainstream agencies. Another company with an unfamiliar name, at least to most Americans, is the German agency Sixt, which has begun opening branches in the southeastern United States, including in Atlanta, Miami and Orlando, Fla. To boost brand recognition, the company, whose fleet includes BMWs, Mercedes-Benzes and Volkswagens, is offering deep discounts. For example, a Mercedes C-class cost $38.81 a day in late May at Sixt’s Orlando airport location, according to a recent search. By comparison, the lowest rate offered by Hertz for the same dates was $50.57 a day for a Kia Rio or similar economy car.
Dig for virtual discounts. Search for discounts and coupons on sites like Promotionalcodes.com and CouponWinner.com, or type in the name of a rental company and “coupon code” into Google to see what turns up. Rental car companies offer discount codes to members of frequent flier programs, and other organizations they partner with, including AAA, Costco and BJ’s, so check those sites if you’re a member. But don’t stop there. Most major car rental companies allow you to combine discount codes with a coupon code. For example, a full-size car from Hertz over Memorial Day weekend at Washington Dulles airport was $255.71 in a recent search. Plugging in the discount code 62455 for United Airlines frequent fliers and Hertz’s promotional coupon code, 168210, brought the price down to $160.02.
Track rates through Autoslash.com. This site, which continually checks for lower rates and coupons until your trip date, can be used in one of two ways: You can track the price of a rental booked elsewhere, or you can book directly through Autoslash, which currently works with Payless, Sixt, Fox and E-Z Rent-A-Car, and the site will apply any discounts it finds.
The drawback with the second option is limited inventory. Major companies don’t like the idea that Autoslash capitalizes on the fact that consumers can usually change or cancel car reservations at any time without penalty. Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group, as well as Hertz and Advantage, recently pulled its inventory from the site, as my colleague Ron Lieber recently reported. Enterprise, which owns National and Alamo, won’t let AutoSlash list its cars either.
Avoid the airport. Off-airport locations are typically cheaper than airport locations, which tend to tack on fees that can raise the price by 30 percent or more. For example, a compact rental from Hertz at Boston Logan International Airport over the Fourth of July weekend was recently listed at $50.49 a day, or $219 a week with taxes at Carrentals.com, a unit of Hotwire. By taking the subway to the Arlington stop and walking a couple of blocks to the local Hertz lot, a traveler could cut costs to $39.98 a day, or $146.65 with taxes for the week.
Reserve the car for longer than you need it. This may sound counterintuitive, but tacking an extra day on to that weekly rental or even adding a couple of hours to extend it over a weekend — with no intention of returning the car that late — can actually lower your rate. The strategy takes advantage of lower prices aimed at leisure travelers who are more likely to travel on weekends, said Marty Paz, a telecommunications manager from Las Vegas who has become something of a car rental pricing sleuth since he began avidly renting cars to pad his frequent flier account. (Last year alone he rented more than 100 vehicles, accumulating a quarter-million miles.)
Mr. Paz said you are essentially tricking the system into thinking you’re booking a two-day weekend rental, which typically has a lower base rate, with the goal of returning the car early. For example, the rate for a midsize car rental from Alamo at the Las Vegas International Airport, from noon on Thursday, June 7, to noon on Friday was recently listed on Alamo’s Web site for $35.95 (or a base rate of $27.27 plus $11.41 in taxes and fees). But extending the return time to 2 p.m. — two hours after the weekend rates “officially” kick in — drops the base rate to $15.18 a day. Though the overall estimated cost shows an additional $10.12 extra in hourly charges, you can still return the car at noon and get the lower rate, said Mr. Paz, who added, “Oops, you got there early.”
Negotiate. Even after you’ve booked the best possible rate, it can be worth swinging by the rental counter to see if you can finagle your way into a better car. “You don’t ask, you don’t get,” said Mr. Abrams, the rental car consultant. Success with this strategy can depend on everything from the type and number of cars on the lot to the mood of the clerk, he added. But some companies are happy to put you in a bigger, or less popular, vehicle for the cost of a compact — if it’s in their interest.
“I frequently need minivans for the volunteer activities I do with teens,” said Marty Paz, the car-rental rate hacker, who has noticed by perusing the parking lot that there is often a glut of minivans at one location he frequently rents from on the weekend. “Often times I’ve reserved an economy car for a Friday and just offered graciously: ‘If there’s a van, I’ll take that. I don’t mind,’ and for the price of the economy car I get the minivan.” (A larger vehicle, of course, will require more fuel.)
Prepay. Taking a page from hotels, rental car companies are offering discounts of up to 20 percent to travelers willing to prepay. In a recent search for weekly rentals at Boston Logan International Airport in mid June, for example, Hertz was offering economy cars for $173 a week at the “pay now” rate. The “pay later” rate was about $30 more. The trade off for locking in a low-rate? Cancellation penalties ranging from $10 with Budget to $50 if canceling within 24 hours with Hertz. And don’t forget about Priceline.com and Hotwire.com, which offer deep discounts to travelers willing to be locked into a preset price before finding out the rental car company.
1. Slow Down
Plan for a slower pace than you might usually attempt if solo or as a couple. Be realistic about what you can see and do with kids in tow. Don’t try to cram too much into your itinerary. The less you feel you have to see, the more enjoyable and stress-free for everyone.
For the most part, the pace of the trip should be set to what your youngest child can handle. Build into your agenda time for stops along the way for bathroom breaks, snack breaks, and nap time. If you can avoid cranky children it will make for a much more pleasant experience.
2. Determine Your Preferences
Sit down with your whole family and discuss your ideas and interests. Memorable trips are those where each member of the family gets to experience something they love. Talk about budgets, expectations, and how you can work with the dollars available to plan an exciting family trip.
Travel experts have found that the most successful family vacations are those that involve both parents and children in choosing destinations and planning for their trip. Through these conversations, you will learn more about each others needs and find destinations and activities to suit the whole family.
3. Be Flexible
Avoiding holiday periods and traveling off-season can yield big savings on flights and accommodation. Even if your kids are in school, consider traveling just outside of major school holiday periods.
Give yourself the best chance to capture a cheap flight. Leaving a few days or even weeks before or after your ideal date could mean the difference of hundreds of dollars. Think about using airfare sales to help determine your family’s vacation destination and time of departure rather than the other way around.
4. Pack Smart
Pack the bare minimum because you can always buy it there. Roll clothes and stuff socks and underwear inside shoes. Wear your heaviest clothes on the flight. Encourage kids to choose and pack their own clothes to minimize complaints and to teach travel skills.
Select versatile and comfortable clothes and color-coordinated separates so if something gets dirty you only have to change part of the outfit. And pack bags with what is needed first on the top — a change of clothes for dinner, pajamas, or what is needed during the day including a change of clothes in case of accidents.
Hot Tip: Halve your clothes, double your budget
5. Hotel Tips
Pick a Kid Friendly Location – Stay in a safe and central area that’s close to local attractions, food outlets, the beach, the park, and all preferably within walking distance. This will save you time, money, and your kids from getting bored.
Stay More Than 1 Night – Many hotels provide their best deals when you stay over more than one night.
Stay over Sunday – Many hotels receive Friday and Saturday night bookings from leisure travelers and Monday-Friday bookings from their business travelers, so there can be a void on Sunday nights.
Check for Family Deals – Always ask about discounted rates, free meals for children, and an upgrade at check in – they can only say no.
A Pool and games room – Kids love both of these options. Does the pool have any special features (like a slide or waterfalls)?
Make Sure it Has a Lift – Carrying strollers, toys, and luggage up several flights of stairs is NO FUN!
What’s the room configuration? – For our family of four two double beds is required or a portacot. If you have a baby make sure this is available, and for free.
Coupons and Discounts – Check out the brochure shelf in the lobby and any tourist literature in your room for ways to shave a few bucks off the price of your family vacation.
Enroll in a Loyalty Program – Many hotel chains are now offering free loyalty programs with incentives like earning free rooms after multiple stays. If you travel often and stay at the same chain, or one of its participating partners, you may save on future family vacations.
Check the Dining Options – Does the hotel restaurant and room service have a kids’ menu?
TV Channels – Does the hotel offer several family-oriented cable stations, like Disney, Nickelodeon, AMC, Discovery and Lifetime? Is there a movie library with kids’ movies?
Bathtub? – You’ll want to be sure that your room will include a bathtub.
Laundry – For longer vacations, check to see whether the hotel has coin operated machines for hotel guests.
6. Consider a Cruise or All-Inclusive Resort
With activities to appeal to every generation, food choices to suit all ages, and itineraries that can be full-on or you just sit around and do nothing, a cruise or a resort can eliminate daily decision making that can cause conflict. Look for Kids Eat Free, Stay Free, and Play Free deals.
7. Consider Apartment Rental
Most big-city hotel rooms were not built for families with young kids. They usually have no refrigerator or microwave, floor space is at a premium, and neighbors can hear every tantrum. But with an apartment you get more space, thicker walls, a kitchen, a washing machine, and separate bedrooms.
These extra facilities on a long stay can make your trip so much more enjoyable.
8. Do a Test Run
If this is going to be your first serious trip as a family, consider starting with a shorter trip such as a weekend away or even just a day trip to the zoo as a trial run. This will help you figure out packing choices, daily routines, how fast you can move around, and how you all get along and interact together.
9. Set a Budget
Travel with kids does not have to be expensive. Decide on a comfortable budget that works for your family and include items such as souvenirs, entertainment, and a few unexpected activities. Once again involve your kids to make sure they feel comfortable with your travel plans.
Hot Tip: Every now and then blow your daily budget. We go away to experience things and create lifelong memories. Don’t limit yourself to just traveling for the sake of traveling. Go splurge on a famous restaurant, see a big concert, attend a mega sporting event, go on a safari, jump out of a plane, do something incredible.
10. Build in Some Private Time or “apart” time
No matter who you are, everyone needs a break from each other at some point. While the goal of your trip is to create shared memories, it is also important to remember that children need time to burn off energy and enjoy the company of kids their own age.
Likewise, us parents need quiet periods for rest and some adult company as well. Keep this in mind and be a little flexible on your trip, as children’s moods and interests can change constantly. If you and your children find something you’d rather do, be spontaneous and go with the flow.
The key to avoiding the aggravation that comes from travel planning, as well as enjoying the cost-savings and even gaining a few perks along the way is simple. All you have to do is choose a corporate travel agent who:
1. Is well connected in the industry.
It’s true that “it’s not what you know, but who you know” is as important in corporate travel planning as it is in the entertainment industry. You never know when that one special connection will come through for a CEO, guest or employee. Your corporate travel planner should give you firsthand insight into vendors and accommodations.
2. Understands and knows value when he sees it.
From last minute travel arrangements to leisure trips, the price for travel fluctuates by the hour. An experienced travel planner knows value, knows when to wait and when to snatch up a reservation pronto.
3. Can project manage, coordinating and rearranging the most minuscule details without losing his mind or dropping the ball
Whether one person or a group is traveling, the devil is in the details. Work with a travel agent who is a proven multi-tasker. One who can reserve 15 airline seats together, 15 hotel rooms on the same floor, etc. without overlooking any minute detail. Group travel planners worth their salt are hard to come by.
4. Thinks clearly and rationally in the midst of “crazy”.
Weather, blackouts, national emergencies, a meeting running late and a multitude of other circumstances can impact travel plans. Even in the craziest of travel nightmares, the perfect corporate travel planner keeps his wits and has workable solutions up his sleeve.
5. Respects your privacy, keeping your info safe and secure.
Think about it. Your corporate travel agent has access to a vast amount of private data, and should have the latest security tools in place to protect it.
6. Is capable of developing, implementing and sticking to a corporate travel policy.
If you have a corporate travel policy in place, you want an agent who takes the time to understand and follow it. If no such policy exists, one can be developed. The benefits of having a policy include evaluating your company’s budget and needs and avoiding needlessly high travel costs. Not to mention the little perks only a travel planner can deliver.
7. Can handle big and small accounts.
Small companies don’t want to feel ignored. Large companies need the assurance that their travel planner can handle the volume. The best agencies can do both seamlessly.
8. Has a personal touch but is backed by a powerful agency.
When there’s talk of airlines charging passengers to use the toilet, it’s a clear indication that the idea of service is dying. Some feel it’s been dead a while now. A corporate travel planner brings humanity back to travel. No, the customer service rep on the other line may not care that you’ve missed a flight, but your personal travel planner sure will. And when they’re backed by a robust agency (like Tzell), they can make things happen!
9. Is willing to develop (and maintain) relationships.
Planning corporate travel is personal. Work with an agent who cares enough to keep track of personal preferences. One who promises to be there when you need it, no matter what time it is. One who answers calls and acts quickly. One who’s smart enough not to burn bridges, knowing the impact it has on clients. One who invests in building relationships with key sources, which prove valuable to you.
10. Cares about people.
This one goes without saying (hopefully).
Dan’s been collecting and posting video tips for almost two years, and he recently added the tenth tip. Here they are, in chronological order.
Tip #1: Stop the germs. Airplanes are cauldrons of bacteria and viruses, but with an ounce of prevention you can stop the germs cold (pardon the pun). You’ll need a small bottle of hand sanitizer and tube of Bacitracin. Sanitize your hands, then put a dab of Bacitracin on your finger tip and use it to coat the inside of one nostril. Repeat for the other nostril. Doctor-recommended, this wards off all the evil sick-makers.
Tip #2: Bring down the noise. Forget the expensive, noise-canceling, bulky headphones. Get some E-A-R soft foam disposable earplugs. There are five good reasons why these trump other solutions: they’re far cheaper, far less bulky (thus easier to pack), easy to replace, takeoff- and landing-friendly (non electronic), and you can actually sleep comfortably wearing them because you don’t have to wrangle big earmuffs.
Tip #3: Eat smart. Dan has four road rules for eating in airports. First, look for where the airline personnel—pilots, attendendnats, etc.—are eating, and follow their lead. Second, go for protein over carbs, because it takes longer to digest and burn, and therefore lasts longer. Third, always choose bottled water as your preferred beverage (never soda, it messes with your tummy). Fourth, if you’re at a loss for what to eat, go with the always-safe chicken quesadilla.
Tip #4: The rule of HAHU. Every once in awhile I, like Dan, bring a family member, or members, along if it’s someplace cool, or I have multiple international dates spread too far apart for return trips home. Family travel is made easier by the acronym HAHU. H is for hustle. A is for anticipate. HU is for “heads up.”
Tip #5: Sanitize the tray! The folding tray table is rarely, if ever, cleaned. So it’s rife with unsavory artifacts of human presence and food debris. Carry some antibacterial wipes with you and wipe that tray before you use it for anything. Then wipe it again. (Warning: be prepared to be unpleasantly surprised at the amount of dirt on your wipe after using.)
Tip #6: Stay connected. For frequent travelers and heavy laptop workers, Dan recommends a wireless broadband USB modem, such as those made by Sierra Wireless. It’s a potentially better solution for several reasons. More and more it’s easy to find WiFi spots, but they generally require accounts. There are a number of different providers, which means you need to remember all your accounts and passwords, and you’ll be paying several different fees. The wireless USB modem uses any cell signal, so you can use it anywhere, and you pay one monthly fee. It may be more expensive, but the tradeoff is convenience.
Tip #7: Zip through security. First, if you have any reasonable claim to a premier status, get in a premier line, it’s worth a shot. Second, when you show your ID and boarding pass, ask the agent which line they think will move the fastest. Third, get in any line with more male solo business travelers. Men have fewer accessories to discard and are hyper-competitive, which means they tend to view the security line as a race. Finally, avoid any line with married couples traveling alone on leisure… you’ll miss your plane.
Tip #8: Avoid the TV. Unless there’s show you can’t possibly live without seeing, the one thing you should never do upon entering your hotel room is turn on the television. Before you know it you’ve wasted 90 minutes. So step away from the remote. Just say no. Instead, Dan suggests trying one or all of these activities for “more enduring satisfaction”: call a loved one, get some exercise, or read a book.
Tip #9: Beat jet lag. To battle the fatigue of long-range travel through multiple time zones, focus on three key things: time, food and light. Time: trick your body into thinking it’s in the time zone of your destination by resetting your watch to that time as soon as you’re on the plane, and try to only sleep if it’s night at your destination. Food: eat less—if you’re offered food, eat no more than half what’s offered. It’s better to eat an appropriate meal when you arrive at your destination. Light: even if you’re dog-tired when you land, never ever sleep unless it’s dark outside. If it’s light out, stay up. And if it’s dark, go to sleep even if you’re not tired. To fall asleep, Dan has a foolproof remedy. Step 1: take one Benadryl. Step 2: Read The Economist.
Tip #10: Buy a local paper. One of the first things you should do as you venture out when you’re in a new country is pick up the local paper. Carrying a paper makes you look a bit more like a local, which if you’re in a big city can be a good thing by making you less conspicuous and thus less of a target for any unsavory characters that may be lurking about. Also, you might actually learn something from the paper, even if you can’t read it, just from looking at the pictures. Finally, it will make great wrapping paper for any gifts you might pick up.