Archive for the Category »frugal traveling «

  Travel Tip Tuesday: Think You Can’t Use Frequent Flier Miles Last Minute? Think Again!

I just booked a flight 30 days out using my frequent flier airline miles. No – that’s not a typo – only 30 days out, to the day.

It reminded me of a tip I often give: If you have an account with an airline, let’s say American, don’t just check with American to see if there open seats for using ff miles. Check all the partners – For example, American is partners with Air Tahiti, which has flights to Paris from LAX. Who would have thought to check with Air Tahiti to go to Paris?

Auckland, New Zealand

American is also partners with Air Pacific, and Qantas….. so if you are flying to New Zealand, you have more than one option. Air Pacific doens’t only fly to Fiji! You could book a departing flight on Air Pacific, and returning on Qantas.

THe catch here is that you have to go to mulitple websites because one airline doesn’t show its partners availabilities.

I realize this involves soem finesse, and it often gets complicated doing all the research about partner airlines and available flights to frequent fliers.  So in this instance, I would recommend calling the airlines., Yes, there will be a $25 or so fee for doing so, but if you can save $1000 on a flight and book with your miles, it is worth it.

Happy Travels!



  Travel Tip Tuesday: Getting the Best International Fare


Thinking of taking a trip abroad soon?

Well, according to some travel research, there is a better time to do your ticket shopping.

According to Kayak travel website,  international airfares are at their lowest 34 days before the departure day. Another research group from Expedia found them to be lowest between one and three months out.

I found Kayak’s results to be true recently, but I am clearly not a scientific sample, it was just one incident.

Whatever you do, try not to wait until the last week – that’s when fares typically rise.

So according to the number crunchers, if you are thinking about a trip to Europe over spring break, this week will be the good time to look! (Another reason this is a good time is that airfare to Europe is most expensive in the summer.)

Happy Travels!


  Would You Travel During Hurricane Season? Here’s a Smart Way To Do It
"Hurricane Sandy"

Hurricane Hits the Caribbean from

Hurricane Sandy is on the East Coast….heading for the North Atlantic… after blasting the Bahamas and Cuba.

Cruise Ship

Cruise Ship

Dozens of cruise ships have rerouted itineraries…. and ships that port in New York are heading northward to beat the storm.

But what if places you wanted to visit are eliminated due to bad weather? It is not exactly the same cruise for which you paid.

This is a chance we travelers take when we book travel  near the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico between July and November. There are plenty of good reasons to travel during this period – prices are generally lower because it is hurricane season, and in many places not much rain.

One way to protect yourself, and I am a big fan, is to buy travel insurance. Some insurance providers sell a plan called “Cancel For Any Reason, ” which really follows it’s name. If your cruise ship is rerouted to places you’ve already been and don’t want to see them again… or some other reason….you can usually cancel two days before departure. It depends on what kind of plan you bought as to how much money you get back.

Hurricane Sandy in Florida, from Orlando Sentinel

Even if you don’t think anything could happen to you on a “safe” trip, there could always be a health issue or disruption from home that may preclude you from your plans.

Typically, you should count on insurance costing about 10% of your trip.

Here is an example of one policy that I found, so you can see if it would be valuable to you.

For two people traveling on a trip that costs $2000 per person, here is the coverage PER PERSON, even though the cost covers both people. This is one of the more comprehensive coverage plans:

Cost: $429 for the two travelers.

What it provides:

–$1,000,000 in emergency evacuation

—75% non-refundable costs if you employ “cancel for no reason”

–$50,000 in rental car collision

–$2,000 in trip cancellation

–$3,500 in trip delay

Plus, baggage coverage, regular medical coverage that doesn’t involve evacuation, etc.

If nothing else, wouldn’t the $429 be worth the peace of mind?

There are plenty of websites to help you:, and are just two.

Have a great weekend, and you on the East Coast, stay safe.

  Travel Tip Tuesday: Book Flights Now For Thanksgiving


If you are planning on traveling for your turkey, and haven’t booked your airline ticket, you should do it ASAP to save money. According to Cheap Air, ticket prices are already 6% higher than the same time last year. Fares will only go up as supply dwindles.

According to a spokesman at FareCompare any ticket for 500 miles that is $120 or less is a TOTAL bargain. For 500-1500 miles, $300 or less is cheap.


Of course, keep in mind the old travel secrets for the busiest travel days of the year – if you can be flexible in your booking dates, that can pay off. Leave Tuesday or Thanksgiving morning  instead of Wed evening if possible…and come home Saturday or Monday.

Try to book the first flight of the day  and fly non-stop so you don’t get caught up in delays that may occur as the day goes on.

By the way – if you are one of those who likes to collect free tickets, then book during the busiest time possible – you are more likely to be asked to volunteer your seats in exchange for airline credits or tickets! I have seen this happen many times flying over Thanksgiving.

Most of all – good luck getting to where you want to be…with whom  you want to spend time. :)


  Travel Tip Tuesday: Work Your Hotel for Better Prices and Experience

There’s some good news/bad news for we travelers who like nice hotels.

Ravel Hotel, Long Island City, NY

Good news: Hotels are spending $5 billion in improvements in 2012…. renovating lobbies and rooms, and installing flat screen tvs, high speed internet service, and nicer beds. Yay!

Some higher end hotels like the Bel Air in Los Angeles, the New York Mondrian SoHo, some in the Four Seasons’ chain are even adding iPads – a nice convenience that allows guests to order room service, call for a taxi, set a wake up alarm, or request a bill for check out.

The bad news: Why are they doing all this? Hotels have seen higher occupancy than in years past, and are charging higher room rates and fees. So the average traveler needs to be equipped with road warrior knowledge to make smart travel decisions:

–When booking a room, instead of settling for high prices, do a little homework without spending way too much time. If you find what you think is a good price on a travel website, call the hotel desk directly – not the 800 number – and ask if they can do better. They have access to exactly how many rooms are left, and a manager can make a pretty good assessment if they are going to sell out – or if he or she should cut you a better deal to get your business.

Those travel websites take a mark up, so you won’t be paying for that by going directly to the front desk.

–Also – when asking for recommendations for activities or restaurants, use a reliable website like Trip Advisor or Yelp to read reviews from locals. Or ask someone at the hotel other than the concierge. I have found concierges often recommend the same places… and aren’t always the better ones, just ones who are marketing to the concierge, or places they have known about for years and haven’t bothered to update their repertoire. Many times, they are more expensive.

Have a great day!




  The Best Time To Book A Flight

I am often asked the best time to purchase an airline ticket. Although is is impossible to be totally accurate, since sales can happen at a moment’s notice, a recent study sheds some light on ways for you to save money on air tickets. found that booking flights 21 days before departure will garner the best prices. A study back in January said 6 weeks in advance brings you the lowest prices…. however, this more current study found tickets about $28 dollars cheaper 21 days before.

One thing both studies did agree on: Booking the week of travel is when tickets skyrocket – by around 30%. With airlines cutting back on flights, there is more demand and less supply, so they can raise prices.

Even considering the 21 day better fare conclusion, I still would suggest getting your holiday plans together now since that is a crazy-busy time to travel!

Anyone going any place interesting?

  Travel Tip Tuesday: How to Beat the Two Night Minimum Follw up

Happy Tuesday!

I am writing a follow up to last week’s post about how to stay at a hotel and pay for only one night when they have a two night minimum. One of my followers wrote me with another great tip that I will publish.

She is a travel agent, so tried this for a client. She spoke with the hotel directly  – which is something you should always try instead of going through a reservation service. She asked the hotel for a different rate for one night – for example, if the hotel was $250 a night with two nights minimum, she got the one night for a little more money – $290. It paid off for that traveler to spend $290 on one night, rather than spend $500 for two nights.

Thank you Tracy at!

Anyone else with good tips you’ve found?

  Hotel of the Week: Summer on Sale

If a topsy turvy stock market… high gas pries.. and expensive airline tickets have you looking for a bargain vacation, you have to know where to look. The deals are there!

First,  use social media  – Twitter, Facebook – to be a regular follower of your favorite hotels or airlines. That way YOU don’ t have to work that hard, the deals come to you.

For instance – I subscribe to the Joie de Vivre hotel group, and they are having a 25th anniversary sale on their properties. Joie de Vivre is a boutique brand, more fun and funky than high-end luxury.

One of the hotels, the Saguaro in Palm Springs, is offering up to 30% off – But you have to book that by today!! There are other deals that don’t expire today, so visit the website.

I actually visited the hotel recently because I had read so many articles about it. Located right on the edge of town in Palm Springs, CA,  you can’t miss the colorful motel-turned hipster hang out.

Personality it is not lacking.

Hang out by the pool… or in the bar….Or wander into town. Palm Springs has changed a lot in the past 30 years…

I took my kids to lunch at a new restaurant there recently, LuLu California Bistro right on the strip. The vacation town isn’t as kid friendly as it used to be – more of an adult crowd with the families staying in Rancho Mirage or La Quinta – but LuLu was fun and had great people watching.

Other properties by Joie de Vivre include:  Hotel Vitale in San Francisco where I have stayed a few times… (near the Ferry Building!!) Carmel Valley Ranch in Carmel.. and Hotel Angeleno in Los Angeles. SO go to the website to check out the special packages to celebrate 25 years of Joie de Vivre. (I like the sound of that..)

For other summer deals, popular wisdom is – go where it is off-season. Cheaper to Australia (winter there)… or the Caribbean, where it is hurricane season. Typically the storms come end of summer, but you never know. For that reason I’d recommend buying travel insurance.

Atlantis in the Bahamas is one example of Caribbean deals – and good for families – $199 a night right now for summer.. and if you can wait until the end of summer, it goes down to $99 mid August! (Bahamas is not in the Caribbean, but considered part of that community.)

Mexico is another place on sale…Travelocity has some Playa del Carmen hotels on sale starting at $119 a night. Book me please.

Las Vegas is another place to look for hotel deals – The Wynn is offering rooms this summer from $139 a night Sunday -Thursday… and from $219 a night Friday and Saturday.

Go get your summer set! Love this time of year.

  Travel Tip Tuesday: Don’t Get Snowed on a Ski Trip, Here’s How to Save $$

Let’s face it – as heavenly as those mountain vacations are, skiing/snowboarding are expensive sports…the gear, lift tickets, travel expenses. Wouldn’t it be nice to reduce the cost?

Here are some tips to help you have a nice trip, and not break the bank.

1) Consider your parking situation at the mountain. Check with the ski resort – some charge less for parking on week days… and charge less for high occupancy vehicles. Translation: carpool. It can save you $10 a day in some places.

2) If you have children, buy their equipment on Ebay. I have bought every new set of kids’ skis on the auction website, and hand each pair down to the next child. If you only have one child, it may not be worth it to buy skis and boots since kids he or she grow out of them. Also, skis = extra baggage charges on planes,  so see if there are special package deals for rentals if you put your child in a lesson.

3) Consider flying Jet Blue or Southwest to your ski destination if possible – they still allow a second free checked bag. Otherwise, make your boots your carry on so you can put all the skis together in one bag.

4) If you own a credit card linked to an airline, check to see if that gets you any benefits when it comes to checking skis or extra baggage.

5) Instead of renting a car online, call the local rental car agencies directly- especially if you are renting last minute.  I have found they sometimes have cars that the online websites don’t list – for a better price!

Now all we need is more SNOW! Have a great season!

  Hotel of the Week: Affordable, Glamorous Hot Spots

So as we watch our financial portfolios plunge with the stock market’s gyrations, many of us become less likely to put down a chunk of change for that luxury vacation, or holiday trip to visit family far away.

But Conde Nast Traveler can help – the magazine publishes an annual “Hot List” issue of its magazine…it is a compilation of the hotels, spas, and restaurants with the most buzz right now..and places they consider worthy of visiting. I hosted a show “The Hot List” with them for the Travel Channel and got to visit some of the editor’s choices – they were top notch.

Waikiki Edition (Ian Schrager) Pool at Night

Part of the most recent list includes hot hotels around the world for under $300 – a welcome relief in such unpredictable financial times. To read about some interesting places that won’t break the bank, go to

To start off your weekend, I want to share a touching reunion after a long trip  – a happy dog reuniting with his soldier owner. I’ve seen these scenes on Huffington Post and YouTube, but they never get old. You know someone will be happy when you get home from a vacation, or call of duty! Have a good one.