Monthly Archives: May 2016

Labor Day Flights Tips For Save More Money

Even for those of us who love to travel, Labor Day can sneak up on a body. Last year, almost 36 million Americans packed up their favorite inflatable pool toys and traveled that weekend. My guess is, a whole lot of them booked their trips at the last minute: and spent way more money on their long weekend getaway than necessary because of it.

Warren Chang, Vice President and general manager of Fly.com—an airfare search engine—would remind us that it’s never too early to book holiday travel, which includes Thanksgiving and winter break, as well as Labor Day. Here are a few other tips he gleaned by studying company data:

Be flexible

If you can stay an extra day, leave on Saturday instead of Friday. Or, in general, just have flexibility with your travel dates. “It’s quite easy to save at least 25 percent if you just adjust your departure date [or] return date by a day,” says Chang. He studied a New York to Miami roundtrip flight, and notes that adding a day in Miami could drop the price from $244 to $153.

Understand “base loading”

Sometimes just knowing why flights are cheaper is enough to get us on top of our plans. “One of the reasons flights are cheaper right now,” says Chang, “is that airlines fully expect travelers to start looking for airfare as the holidays get closer, and they’ve priced [them] accordingly. They’re interested in what’s called base loading—selling a certain number of seats at a discounted rate so they have a certain percentage of the flight already full.” The logic makes sense: Airlines want to fill flights, but they’ll save pricey seats for last-minute travelers.

Full-on Norman Rockwell Americana intimates that the only thing to do on a summer weekend is lounge on the beach, on a porch, near a lake, or by a grill. But if you’re curious about, say, Europe, or Florida, know that those destinations might be less pricey, says Chang. The same probably won’t be true of places like Portland, Maine and Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Don’t wait till the 4th of July

Prices tend to take a big jump after the 4th, says Chang, when everyone’s minds seem to simultaneously turn to the next vacation—and airlines take advantage by hiking prices. “What you see is it just goes up along a curve,” he says. “As the date gets closer, the prices go up.”

Think about business travel destinations

In a long-distance relationship between Chicago and New York? Good news: Business hubs tend to have lower rates at the end of the summer, since corporate travel takes a dip in popularity and airlines are desperately trying to fill those seats.

Reserve cars and hotels now

It’s great to get a good, cheap flight now. But it’s the worst when you snag a cheap flight only to see that you’ve picked a destination with insanely expensive hotels. So check both before taking the plunge—and for goodness sake, book cars and hotels now.

And really, book your flight!

Fly.com data from summer 2015 revealed that New York to Miami flights were approximately $270 in late May, dipping to $250 by June 4th—and spiking to nearly $500 by the end of August. Think about how many golden inflatable swans and margaritas the saved $250 would buy you! So get out there and book.

Good At Bucket List Trip

For some, it’s drinking mint juleps at the Kentucky Derby or chasing tornadoes in Kansas. For others, it’s gorilla watching in Uganda or Brunello tasting in Tuscany. Just about everyone has a bucket-list trip in mind for their retirement. But planning is often a stumbling block.

A third of boomers expect to take a bucket-list trip this year, according to a recent AARP report. Yet nearly half of those who expected to take a big trip in 2016 did not begin planning it before this year, the data show. That includes 43% of those planning to travel internationally.

In another study, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Age Wave found that only 10% of those in or near retirement who expect to take a big trip in the next 12 months have done a lot of planning. That figure is just 4% for those who expect to take such a trip in the next five years,

The Boom in Leisure

Leisure travel is set to boom as boomers scale back their workloads and retire in coming years. Retirees will spend nearly $180 billion in 2016 on leisure travel. Over the next 20 years that number will total $4.6 trillion. AARP found that 99% of boomers expect to travel for leisure this year, and they typically have four or five trips in mind.

This coming travel surge is part of a trend away from material things and towards experiences. Increasingly, boomers want their travel to provide a “peak” experience—often part of a bucket-list trip with friends and family. Such trips are most common during the first two years of retirement, when 78% of retirees say they finally have enough free time and 92% say they finally have the freedom to do what they want, according to Merrill Lynch.

Yet few are doing much research or even budgeting. Other than Trip Advisor, a site that 75% of boomers visit, and specific branded sites such as that of a resort or hotel, online resources don’t get a lot of use from retirees, AARP data show. The vast majority do not use mobile apps, Open Table, Groupon, social media, or blogs to help them plan. Two-thirds of retirees have not created a travel budget, according to the Merrill Lynch report, while AARP found that a similar percentage say changing airfares won’t get in the way.

Plan for Peak Experiences

Maybe living seat of the pants is all part of having greater freedom and flexibility, and not being tied to any one decision. Yet that is highly impractical for any travel that includes airlines, lodging and cruises, and, for overseas travel, obtaining visas. And when multiple parties accompany you, travel hassles can increase exponentially. Of course, multiple parties are usually a feature of bucket-list trips, since spending time with friends and family is the top reason to travel, AARP found.

Just as crucially, lack of planning means boomers may be missing out on huge savings through travel credit-card awards programs, frequent-flyer awards, andmoney-smartapps. So make sure you choose the right trip for your budget. Then consider these three ways to make the most of your bucket-list trip:

  • Plan for the most peak experiences. Perhaps you’re break away from another beach vacation and go hang-gliding or white-water rafting. Before the trip, talk about the details of any special outing with your travel mates to stir up excitement. And make sure everyone has the equipment and training they need for the adventure.
  • Plan for a mishap. Once-in-a-lifetime trips often take you far away to remote locations. Guess what? There won’t be a hospital around the corner, and even if there is it probably won’t take your health insurance. Consider buying medical evacuation coverage, which provides emergency transport to a top facility.
  • Plan for a change of plans. A last-minute life change can force you to delay or cancel your carefully planned (and expensive) bucket-list trip. Understand which parts of the trip are refundable and under what circumstances. Cover the rest with trip cancellation insurance. That way you’ll get the chance to plan it all over again—and do it even better next time.

How to get affordable price for phone bill when you are traveling

Going abroad? Don’t just sign up automatically for an international data plan (or rack up international roaming charges, which can easily run $10 a day). There are better ways to save. Among your choices:

Use Wi-Fi and Apps

Best for light users in well-connected destinations.

  • How it works: If you need only to check email and social media occasionally, the cheapest option is to turn off data altogether and use Wi-Fi instead, whether at your hotel each night or at other hotspots during the day.
  • What you’ll need: Email works fine on Wi-Fi, as do Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. For calling and texting, though, you’ll have to use the same app as your loved ones. That could be iChat and FaceTime (for iPhone users), or Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, Viber, and Skype, which work on any type of phone.
  • Bonus tips: For getting around, the Stay.com app has city maps that list attractions, restaurants, and Wi-Fi hotspots; they’re available even when you’re offline. Heading somewhere more remote? Maps.me has downloadable maps for over 345 countries and islands.
  • Costs: Minimal, but aim to find free Wi-Fi rather than paying for access.

 

Get a SIM Card

Best for travelers who need calling and data for more than a long weekend.

  • How it works: With most newer smartphones you can unlock your device and swap your existing SIM card for a local version. Before you leave, call your carrier to unlock your phone and freeze your account for the duration of your trip.
  • What you’ll need: When you arrive, purchase a SIM card at an airport vending machine or a local electronics or convenience store. That gives you a local phone number, plus some calling time and set amounts of texting and data.
  • Bonus tips: To bump up your allowances, you can buy (and redeem) a card for extra minutes and data.
  • Costs: They vary. A card alone costs $6 in Rio de Janeiro, or you can get a SIM starter kit, with chip and some preset time/data limits, for around $45 in much of Europe. You’ll need a separate card for each country you visit.

 

Keep Your Plan

Best for Big Four customers who need the simplest way to get full access.

  • How it works: If you’re on the Big Four, you can get an international plan from your carrier. Texts and data are free (albeit slower) on Sprint and T-Mobile Simple Choice, but if you have one of the other two (or want faster speeds), you’ll pay extra.
  • Costs: AT&T’s pay-as-you-go option starts at $30 a month, with unlimited texting and discounted calling and data rates. Verizon’s monthly option starts at $25 for reduced talk, text, and data rates. Alternatively, the carrier’s TravelPass lets you use your existing plan for $10 a day in most countries (or $2 in Canada or Mexico).