Discount Travel Tips
Many consumers are eligible for discounts on travel expenses that the industry may not advertise. Airlines, bus lines and rental agencies count on this lack of knowledge to maximize their profits.
Whether you're planning on taking a plane, train, bus or car to your next travel destination, there are a few ways of saving even more money than you may have been lead to believe by your travel agent or ticket agent. While the travel industry's main objective appears to be serving the greatest number of passengers with the least amount of aggravation, it is still a for-profit enterprise. Discount ticket offers and other 'deals' offered by airlines and others are really marketing strategies- calculated risks that may pay off later in higher customer loyalty or increased passenger volume. There are other ways of saving money when planning a trip, but the travel industry is under no obligation to share these with you. You may have to take a few risks yourself to take advantage of these unadvertised savings tips.
1. When it comes to promotions, out of sight is not always out of mind. Every once in a while, you may see a busline advertise an amazingly low fare to any city it serves. The caveat has always been that you must book the trip several weeks in advance, with limited refund options. For some travellers with firm travel dates in mind, this is indeed a bargain in itself. But what you may not know is that these 'bargain rates' may be in effect all year round, not just when the television or radio advertising is at its heaviest. If you have firm plans at least a month in advance, it pays to ask the ticket agent about any discounts on early bookings. Don't limit yourself to only the time period mentioned in an advertisement.
2. Dare to be bumped. This is a risky venture, but the people who do this regularly claim that the benefits outweigh the risks. Their strategy works something like this. Say you want to visit San Francisco as strictly a personal vacation. You have no fixed arrival or departure time in your head, you just plan on going. Some people find out what flights to San Francisco are notoriously overbooked, and they deliberately wait until the last moment to buy tickets for that flight. The worst that could possibly happen is the flight leaves on time with you on it. No harm there. But if you 'win' the bump off lottery, the airline may offer you a few amenities to cushion the blow of not making your original flight. These may include a free upgrade, or a pile of frequent flier miles or whatever. It's not illegal, since all you did was buy a legitimate ticket and got bumped, but the airline personnel may catch on if you start getting habitual about this.
3. Another money-saving 'trick' with a moderate risk factor takes advantage of another quirk in the airline's system. Your travel choices are quite limited, but if your destination city fits this scenario, you may enjoy a substantial savings. The major airlines all have certain 'hub cities' that are their main headquarters or major transfer sites. Cities like St. Louis, Atlanta and Dallas all fit into this category. If you are planning a short trip to a city you know to be one of these hubs, you can save some money on your ticket with a little research. Booking a flight directly from your city to St. Louis, for example, might be fairly expensive. But booking a flight to Chicago that has a changeover in St. Louis may actually be cheaper, if the airline uses St.Louis as a hub. You must carry on your luggage, since you are obviously not going to Chicago. Airlines have become a little more savvy to this ploy, and have started a few safeguards of their own to cut down on its overuse, but there really isn't much they can do to stop you once you leave the plane in St. Louis.
4. Rental agencies may not quote the lowest rate over the phone. Much like the restaurants that carried two menus, one for the locals and one for the tourists, many rental agencies have flexibility built into their quoted rates. Hotels quote the highest rates allowed by the company over the phone. Airline ticket agents may not match the offer you found on an internet search or through a travel agency. The bottom line is, do as much in-person booking as you can. Go straight to the ticket counter and make direct eye contact with the salesperson. Let them know that you're a seasoned traveller as well as a local. Make the exchange as human as possible, and wait for the discounts to start. Certain prices are fixed in stone, and there's nothing that you can do about those, but other rates have a bit of flexibility built into them. You stand a much better chance of getting these unofficial discounts if you are face-to-face with the representative who can offer them.