While numerous ways to research travel exist, they don't replace experience. Some people have worked in the industry for years, and their insights are invaluable. These tips could save you money and time.
1. Use Your 24-Hour Booking Grace Period
You can cancel your ticket for a full refund within 24 business hours of booking. If you booked on a Friday or Saturday, you've got until Monday to cancel. This grace period is airline-dependent, so you should check the booking policy of your carrier.
Sometimes, airlines automatically give you flight credits when obligated to provide a refund. It's always worth reading the fine print and contacting customer service.
2. Look for Open Jaw Tickets
You may not have heard of this strange travel term. This ticket gets its name because if you were to draw your stops on a map, it would look like an open jaw. It's a multi-city ticket where you can stop at one or more destinations on your way to your final stop.
For example, you'll catch a flight from New York to Rome, but with an open-jaw ticket, you can also have a layover in Barcelona. You also don't have to fly back from Rome; you can choose a different city.
3. Book Hotels With a Concierge
You can use the concierge if you're staying in mid-range and luxury accommodations. A concierge will know the city and often be able to provide excellent advice on where to go and what to see. You can contact them before booking so they know what you are looking for.
4. Get Complimentary Accommodations at Connecting Airports
This is airline dependent, but some carriers have a policy that if there is no available connection of less than eight hours, the transit time in the airport and the layover is up to 24 hours. Airlines offering this include Air China, China Southern Airways, Emirates Airlines, Etihad Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Gulf Air, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian, Sri Lankan Airlines, Turkish Airlines, and XiamenAir.
5. Avoid Traffic Fines and Insurance Issues When Renting a Car
The great thing about Europe is that you can easily drive from one country to another because, in many cases, there's no ocean to cross. When renting a car, ensure all the countries you plan to visit are covered in the rental agreement.
Before renting, you should also consider any fees associated with driving from country to country. While some highways do not have tolls, others, such as in Switzerland, require a sticker on your windshield. You might get a surprise fine if you don't have one, but don't worry; they are easy to purchase.
6. Avoid Hotel Cancellation Fees
Most hotels have a cancellation policy, especially if you need to cancel at short notice. In most cases, rescheduling is complimentary, so if you reschedule your booking to a later date and then cancel 24 hours later, you'll avoid the cancellation fee.
7. Avoid Third-Party Booking Sites
This is a trap that I've fallen into myself. I used Alternative Airlines because they offered some great payment options. However, they're located in the U.K., so if you need to make any changes, don't expect a quick response. Book directly with the airline you plan to use for the best customer service and guaranteed straight answers.
8. Car Rental Through Costco
Costco doesn't just have great prices on food. Many seasoned travelers use Costco Travel to rent cars at their chosen destinations. You can save hundreds of dollars using Costco instead of big-name rental car agencies.
9. Member Perks at All Inclusive Resorts
Instead of paying for memberships at all-inclusive resorts, you can book through a family member or friend's membership. You can also search for a Facebook group dedicated to the resort you are interested in and search for “booking through a member.”
The legality of this can be tricky, so make sure you're reading all the fine print to avoid violating terms that could make you miss your vacation and get your benefactor booted from their membership.
10. Make Sure Your Details Match Your Passport
This one is important! When making any reservation, your details match those on your passport. It can save a lot of headaches when your documents are being checked by immigration and security. Also, ensure that you have at least six months before your passport expires, as it's a requirement in some countries.
11. Ask for the Pillow Menu
Yes, some hotels have a pillow menu you can call and select from. This is helpful to make sure you get a good night's sleep. So many people don't realize it exists, but it does.
12. Check for Free or Extended Stopover Programs
Some airlines let you have extended stopovers (layovers) for free. This allows travelers to explore the city they are in before they continue on their trip. This is airline-specific, so research ahead of time.