Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Travel Tips

A friend asked me today..."You're always traveling somewhere; that has to get expensive. How do you afford all this traveling?"

Being a fan of live competitive figure skating is not cheap. Going to events often requires cross-country (or even continent) travel, week long stays in hotels, rental cars, airfare, and of course the tickets themselves (and skating championship tickets...not cheap!). Here are some tips I follow to help keep costs down.

Event Tickets - I try to buy tickets near the time they go on sale. Often at skating events they'll divide the arena into a lower and upper bowl. I try to buy tickets as soon as they go on sale because I'll search for tickets in the upper bowl, choose best available, and usually you'll get tickets in the first row of the upper bowl...and they're basically as good as the lower bowl seats and they usually have easier access to exits!

Airfare - Frequent Flyer Miles come in handy big time! I'm a United Mileage Plus Member and have a United Mileage Plus Visa. I pay all my monthly bills with the card and then pay off the card before interest accrues. I do the same thing with shopping, dining, etc. I earn points for every dollar spent and often times United sends me opportunities for bonus miles. I always make every attempt to fly United even if their airfare is a little more expensive at the time because I know it will pay off in the end. Most Airline Mileage plans allow you to use miles for partial credit if you have their credit card. For example, say I purchase airfare on United for $350. It would take 35,000 miles to pay for that fare. If I only have 22,000 miles, United will credit me $220 of that $350 fare. Use the card for everything and the miles will pile up quickly! The more miles you gain, the higher your membership level, the faster you earn miles! The best kept secret in air travel is red eye flights. If your lucky enough to live on the west or east coast or near a major hub (I have O'Hare in Chicago!) often times you can find overnight flights as they move planes to where they need to be in the morning. These flights are often discounted and rarely full, so you have some stretching room as you snooze the night away in transit!

Hotels and Rental Cars - Kayak.com is your friend! Kayak, if you're not familiar, is a website that searches most websites on the Internet to find whose offering the best fare. It searches airfare, hotels, rental cars, even cruises! Kayak allows me to find really nice hotels at low prices. It also allows me to find the best rental car deals at the airport I'll be landing at. Again, often times your airfare mileage plan will offer deep discounts if you book at certain hotels or rent from certain car companies and you can earn double, even triple miles! If I can find one of those red eye flights I mentioned on the day the competition ends, I'll check out of the hotel, go to the arena, from the arena to the airport where I'll drop off the car and catch my flight. Doing that I save a whole day of hotel and rental car! Also, stay away from the "Official" hotel at an event because the prices are sky high for the same quality you can get a block away...you can still go to the lobby of that hotel and stalk your favorite skaters!

Some cities have great public transit! If you can avoid rental cars that's even more savings. I can tell from experience that a rental car is not necessary in Washington D.C., Boston, Chicago, Portland, Montreal, London, or Paris (I'm sure their are others). Just be diligent in using the Internet to find the best values. If you add up all the tips above it can mean big savings and not 'bust the bank!'


Ice Mom said...

You are a travel genius, Aaron. I've been wondering how you afford all those trips!

Aaron said...

I'll do whatever it takes to keep those costs down...including sometimes just sucking it up and watching on T.V!