15-16 Story 1: Spring and Summer Travel Tips and Tricks

 

Synopsis: The spring and summer travel seasons are here and Americans are planning their vacation trips both online and through travel agents. We’ll talk to two travel experts about where the action is this season, how to get more for your travel dollars, and hear some tips and tricks for making your travel less aggravating and more fun.

Host: Gary Price. Guests: Chris McGinnis, business and leisure travel guru, blogger and contributor to Best Western’s travel website, Youmustbetrippin.com; Mark Murphy, travel expert, CEO of Travelpulse.com.

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Spring and Summer Travel Tips and Tricks

Gary Price: With the weather warming up, many Americans are thinking about taking a long weekend to relax or working on how they’ll spend their longer summer vacations. With gasoline prices down substantially from previous years, families are turning to driving vacations and the young and adventurous are tempted toward the iconic American “roadtrip.” Flying to a location is always popular, and there are some interesting, and money-saving, strategies you can use to make air travel a little more fun. We asked two nationally-known travel experts about both of these options for spring and summer travel to get the inside scoop on vacationing this year. First, Chris McGinnis, business and leisure travel expert and contributor to Best Western’s travel site, Youmustbetrippin.com. McGinnis says that if you’ve always wanted to take a vacation to a more tropical climate, this is a good year to do it…

Chris McGinnis: Mexico is very popular this year because the strength of the U.S. dollar. The dollar is taking you a lot farther whether you’re in Mexico, or Europe or Canada. There’s interest in international travel this year. And I think Florida is very popular this year because a lot more people are driving on vacation. We’ve seen gas prices tumble over the last year, and even though they’re inching up, people are still going because gas is still at least a dollar less than it was this time last year

Price: McGinnis says that it’s not just the traditional warm-weather destinations that are popular this season…

McGinnis: People are very interested in Canada this year. Best Western, which has hundreds of hotels across Canada, their advanced bookings are already up about 17 percent for the spring and summer travel season, which means there’s a lot of people interested in summer vacations up there. So you can drive across the border, enjoy low gas prices here as well as there and take advantage of the strong U.S. dollar which, in the past, Canada has been a little expensive for Americans, but that’s no longer the case. And there’s tons to do during the summer once it warms up up there. You know, lakes, rivers, hiking, big cities like Toronto and Montreal are fantastic. I was just in Ottawa, the capital of Canada, last year and it’s a beautiful, almost European-style city. It has a beautiful canal that runs right through the center of town, it’s a great place to go. So I would suggest Canada as a great driving destination this year.

Price: There are a lot of ways to save money whether you fly or drive to your destination. McGinnis says that you should book hotels that offer free amenities that you’d have to pay for elsewhere…

McGinnis: To save some money I think that one of the things you need to do is be sure that you’re booking hotels that have what I call the top three “freebies” included in the rate, and that is a free breakfast, free WiFi, and free parking. If you’re not getting all three of those, you’re probably not getting the best deal that you could possibly get. If you’re a family of four and you get a free breakfast that’s saving you $40 off the top of your travel budget every morning. So always at least always look for that free breakfast.

Price: Sometimes a long car ride can be trying for parents with small children. The long hours of highway travel can cause boredom and fidgeting…and the inevitable “are we there yet?” every half hour. McGinnis suggests that to help kids enjoy the ride, let them in on the planning…

McGinnis: One of the best things you can do with kids, whether it’s in the car or on vacation, whatever it is, get them involved in the planning process. So if you’re planning a road trip you know you need to pull out a map well ahead of time and maybe ask your kids to plot the best route to your destination, let them see if there’s anything along the way that they want to stop and see and let each kid pick one place to stop during the day. But getting them involved in the actual trip I think is the key to happiness on the road because they all have something to look forward to, they feel like they’re part of the trip and they’re not just sitting in the back seat asking “When are we going to get there?”

Price: Flying with young children can also be a trial, and McGinnis says it takes careful planning and maybe a little more money to make that trip more pleasant for the family and the other passengers…

McGinnis: If you can travel during the off-peak travel season, it’s much more likely you’re going to get a good deal and your family can sit together on the plane. If the only time you can travel is during the peak summer travel season, I would suggest making reservations as far in advance as possible, because otherwise you’re going to have to split up on the plane, you might get stuck with a middle seat, and the parents and the children might have to be split up, you don’t want to run into that problem. You’re going to probably have to pay a little bit more to do that, but it’s probably worth the cost in the long run.

Price: Speaking of airline travel, how do you get the best deals with your frequent flier miles? Mark Murphy, C-E-O of Travelpulse.com, says that you need to look very carefully at how many miles you’ve accumulated and compare that to the best deal you can get on a ticket you buy…

Mark Murphy: The best way to factor in the value of those miles: 100,000 miles equals $1,000 in cash. So if it costs you 100,000 miles to book an airline ticket, and that airline ticket costs more on face value if you book it of a thousand dollars, then that’s a good deal, you should go ahead and use those miles. Where it’s a $300 ticket and they want 50,000-60,000 miles, those are bad numbers. So always understand the monetary value of your particular miles and it’s really 100,000 equals $1,000 or 1 to 100.

Price: If you’ve done the math and found out that your frequent flier rewards are the most economical way to secure a ticket, how do you get the destination you want at the time you want to travel? Murphy says it’s not always easy, but with some careful planning you have a better chance…

Murphy: The best thing you can do is long lead time, and then if you’re going to try to travel during peak periods, they’re going to lock up seats. So when you see a lot of available seats far out, if it’s for a peak period, you’re going to have a tough, tough time booking those. But again, your best bet is to book far out, six, seven, eight months out with those award tickets, in order to guarantee the dates that you actually want. That’s really the best advice. Also, be flexible. If you can be flexible, you’ll notice that on those peak periods there going to do surcharges so that 25,000-mile ticket is now 50,000 for the same exact seat.

Price: So you’ve got your ticket, the seat you want and you’re at the airport and you get bumped off the flight. The airline offers you a voucher for a flight, but should you take it? Murphy says it depends on the amount of time you’ll lose off your original itinerary…

Murphy: So the question is whether or not you’re being bumped for more than one hour. If you’re bumped for less than an hour you get no compensation, so take the vouchers because they don’t have to give you anything. However if they bump you and put you on another carrier and you arrive between one and two hours later than your scheduled arrival time on your original ticket, you’re entitled to cash — $650 is the limit for a one-way ticket and up to 200-percent of your airfare, so whichever is lower, in that case, is what you get paid. Six hundred and fifty is the max. Now if it’s over two hours on a domestic flight that, goes up double again. So it’s $1,300 total cash compensation if you’re bumped involuntarily and you arrive two hours or later than your scheduled time on your original ticket.

Price: Getting bumped can be bad, but being delayed after you’ve boarded the plane is just as unnerving. Murphy says that on some flights, though, it can make you richer…

Murphy: I was held out on the tarmac, which is another rule, if you’re leaving a European Union country, and I was given $1,000 towards a future flight without even asking for it from U.S. Air. And that was about 2 years ago being stuck on the tarmac for over four hours on an international flight. So there’s lots of different rules, and if you’re flying internationally there’s rules out of the EU that affect domestic U.S. carriers that fly in and out of those places, but wouldn’t affect you as a traveler if they were departing from the U.S., for instance.

Price: Sometimes you arrive on time and just fine to your destination – but your luggage doesn’t. Murphy says it’s difficult to get money from the airlines if you need your clothing for a special occasion like a wedding. You have to have receipts for your belongings and that’s not always possible to keep on hand when you’re traveling. You can, however, make the experience of lost luggage a little bit less inconvenient if you carry some essentials on the plane with you…

Murphy: Don’t put your prescription drugs in the bag. Don’t put stuff that you absolutely need to have. I always like a “getaway bag” on the plane, because no matter what, I need to be able to hit the ground running on a business trip. And even if they lose my luggage, most of the time you get it back pretty quick. But I always want an essential kit that no matter what is always on my person. And then I’m okay, I don’t have to run to the store and go shopping, I can make it through a day. By the end of that day, if I don’t get it, I’m right there with the rest of them.

Price: Doing your own booking of hotels and flights has become very popular these days, but do you gain any advantage to using a travel agent instead of going the do-it-yourself route? Both Murphy and McGinnis have ideas on letting a pro do it for you…

Murphy: One of the best travel tips is to call a travel professional. A lot of people forgot that travel agents last year sold over a $100-billion in travel. And people who make money and travel a lot almost exclusively use travel agents. And then people that might not travel that much think they can save money online and there’s this thing called “parity pricing.” Wjhat you see online on one site is identical on the other site. So going to five, 10, 15 sites isn’t going to save you money, it’s going to waste you a lot of time. If you’d have a professional do it for you and then understand that those professionals also get great value-added offers like free breakfast and spa treatments that aren’t even published online, but they’re only available when you book through a travel agent.

McGinnis: I think travel agents are good if you have a complex itinerary. If you’re planning on going to Europe and making two or three stops on a “see the Europe-type” vacation. Or if it’s a big-ticket item. If you’re booking a cruise for example, I would always use a travel agent for a cruise because so many things vary when it comes to cruises. You need an expert there to kind of know which cruise ship is right for you and your family. Do you want to be on a cruise ship that’s full of young people? Or do you want to be on a cruise ship that has a more mature audience? Is food important to you or are on-board activities more important to you? A cruise expert’s going to know that kind of stuff and I think that it’s important to use a travel agent for that type of transaction.

Price: Chris McGinnis says that before you book your vacation, you can check out the spring and summer travel report for this year on Youmustbetrippin.com. For tips and tricks for travel any time, Mark Murphy urges listeners to visit Travelpulse.com. You can learn more about all of our guests on our site at Viewpointsonline.net. You can also find archived programs there and on iTunes. I’m Gary Price.

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