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The vacation season is looming, and many of you have probably already booked, or are thinking about planning your summer trip. I thought I would write an article about how to avoid troubles when you are travelling and how to save a bit of cash.

Below is a guest post by Anna, creator of Bargainmoose.ca, a Canadian blog for shopping deals, freebies, coupons and more. Anna  wants to share some tips on avoiding travel trauma and saving money while holidaying.

The vacation season is looming, and many of you have probably already booked, or are thinking about planning your summer trip. I thought I would write an article about how to avoid troubles when you are travelling and how to save a bit of cash.

Here are the top 10 tips:

1. Book early bird flights: Though flight delays may seem like something completely our of your hands, there are a few things you can do to minimize the chances of problems. If you are booking a short jaunt with the likes of Westjet, Air Canada or Porterair I’d recommend booking a flight which leaves early in the morning. There will be less chance of your flight being delayed due to knock-on effects of delays in earlier flights, or due to mechanical failure. Also, if you book with an airline that has many flights scheduled that day for your particular trip, it will be easier to switch flights if needed.

2. Fly direct: If you can, fly directly to your intended destination rather than stopping half-way at a hub airport. If you must have a stopover, you can check ratings of Canadian airports at flightstats.com. However, you do have to weigh up costs and convenience for this option. A direct flight may not be geographically or economically feasible.

3. Minimize baggage: As many airlines now charge extra for checked baggage, you can try and minimize your costs by reducing the amount you are carrying. For example, if you are travelling in a family of 4, you might be able to squeeze your luggage into 2 cases only. This all depends on your destination and how much luggage you think you will need. There are some good tips for packing light at Onebag.com, such as “parkas aren’t needed in North Africa!”

4. Check country info: There is very useful information for Canadians on Voyage.gc.ca– simply select the country where you plan to travel and you can see all the travel reports and warnings about that particular area. For example, the site tells you about things like terror alerts, safety information, fraud issues, entry requirements and more.

5. Use surprise hotels: By surprise hotels, I mean the name your own price feature on Priceline or Hotwire. If you don’t mind not knowing the name of the hotel until you have secured a deal, these sites are excellent for saving cash in popular cities across the world. I have a full guide on Priceline here which is worth a read. Savvy shoppers can  get a proper branded hotel at a fraction of the regular cost. Once you have booked, you find out the name of your hotel and can carry out further research.

6. Check hotel reviews: If you have a specific hotel in mind, check independent reviews from travelers who have already stayed there, by doing a simple Google search. Sometimes these personal views can give you invaluable information which will help you decide whether or not to choose that particular hotel. For example, if hundreds of people on Tripadvisor or Hotels.ca are constantly giving the hotel good ratings, then you are likely on to a winner.

7. Use google maps & streetview: With recent advances in Google maps and streetview, you can literally see exactly where you are going! You can use the tool for all sorts of things, such as checking out the area of your chosen hotel, planning a walking tour around various attractions, or even something as simple as finding your way from the airport. Who needs to spend dollars on maps and travel guides when you have the power of the internet!?

8. Car rental discounts: If you plan on renting a car, don’t just go to the first site you come across and book it. Compare prices at all the well-known car rental companies, such as Hertz, Avis, Thrifty, Budget, Enterprise, and Alamo. Make sure you note all the extra costs, such as insurance or GPS rental charges, when you are price comparing. And ALWAYS google for a coupon code to save even more. A few hours of work here can lead to potential savings of hundreds of dollars.

9. Credit card car rental insurance: Quite a few credit cards also give you extra insurance when you are renting cars, instead of having to pay extra to the car rental company. Check if your current card covers you for this feature. If not, you could consider changing to a new credit card as it could save you quite a lot of money.

10. Be prepared: My final tip is very generic – be prepared! We have such a wealth of information available to us on the internet, there’s really no excuse for a poorly planned trip. Planning and research will make your trip go smoothly and if you can minimize the hitches on your end, then things are more likely to go according to plan for a stress-free vacation!

Article comments

Gerard says:

I enjoyed this. But let me be a bit of a contrarian here, especially for flexible travellers:
1. *Don’t* book an early bird flight if it means you have to take an expensive taxi instead of public transit. Many cities now have excellent express airport service for a buck or two, but it often won’t get you there for your 6 am flight.
2. Fly *indirect* if you have the time; you’ll earn more reward miles. Sometimes it even makes sense to split your trip into two separate flights. For example, for about the same price as Toronto-St. John’s, you can often get Toronto-Miami and Miami-St. John’s tickets.
3. Yes, minimize baggage! Ideally, carry-on only.
4. Check country info: Sure, why not. (I tend to fly to safe countries, so I don’t worry about this.)
5. Use surprise hotels: Yes, and make sure you learn the booking tricks. But don’t be afraid to try hostels, or university dorms. And there are more and more cities with low-cost shabby-hipster hotels (like McMenamin’s in Oregon) for about $40-50 a night.
6. Learn to read between the lines on hotel reviews. Beware 5-star ratings when everyone else gives it a 2. But, but, be aware that reviewers may have very different priorities than frugal travellers. There are often very negative reviews from people pissed off at high parking charges (I don’t have a car, so I don’t care), “rude” employees (South American travellers in particular seem to expect a lot of fawning for their fifty bucks), or “dangerous” neighbourhoods (some American travellers freak out if they come to Canada and the hotel is near either public housing or brown people). Again, use your flexibility to save money by not adopting somebody else’s scorecard.
7. Use google maps and streetview. Yes, yes, yes. A nice extra use for google maps: “get directions” and hit the little train symbol, and you find out how to get places on public transit.
8. Car rental discounts: I don’t drive, but I really enjoy getting the feel of a city by taking transit. And there are some cool routes out there (the #534 LA-Malibu!). Check out your destination’s transit website before travelling.
9. Credit card rental insurance: again, not relevant to me, but also check out credit card travel insurance.
10. Be prepared. Yes. It’s so much easier than it used to be!

I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this post. I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well. The tips you posted are great. Keep it up!

I always do a little giggle when I see some passengers bring like 3 bags on a trip. Come on! What’s up with 3 bags?!

Better yet, 3 Louis Vuitton bags! Nice!

young says:

@financial samurai- lol!!! Yes, three Louis vuitton bags is quite a sight!! Really, those bags cost as much as a vacation x3 in itself!

Doctor Stock says:

How about: don’t forget to exchange your money before you leave… it always seems to cost more later.

young says:

@Doctor Stock- good point! Or better yet, have a USD account (if you’re Canadian) and load up when the dollar hits parity =)