The Family Road Trip


When I was ten years old, I wrote a report on King Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein, also known as “The Disneyland Castle.” At that time a dream to see that fabulous site was birthed in my mind. Three decades later, I was able to fulfill those travel dreams, debt free, thanks my work in helping people save money.
Your travel dreams might come true in 2011, thanks to a recovering tourist industry. Here are some trends and tips to keep in mind when planning this year’s travel.

Flyer’s Market A recent poll conducted by USA Today/Gallup Poll indicated that only 16% of respondents plan to fly more or stay more often in hotels this year than they did last year. In fact, 30% indicate they will travel less often. This means there will be better travel deals for those who do their research and take advantage of the bargains that become available.
To take advantage, start by subscribing to the top travel email alert sites and check them daily in order to begin your research. Some of the best alerts are found at travelzoo.com, kayak.com, smartertravel.com and travel-ticker.com . Be flexible with your destinations and get even more savings. If a cruise to the Mexican Riveria ends up costing ½ of what a trip to Disneyland costs, then readjust your expectations and save the mouse ears for another year. Also check out the info from last week’s blog.
Then compare the alert prices with values found at the one-stop shopping site called BookingBuddy.com . At this site, you’ll find deals from 140 travel sites including Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia and Priceline. When in doubt as to whether “now” is the best time to buy your flight or package, go to bing.com’s Price Predictor to see if prices are likely to rise or fall in the next week. But before you click “buy” be sure that you’ve also gone to a coupon code site called RetailMeNot.com to enter additional codes that might get you an even better deal.

Fun Eats and Tech Savvy Treats Since you’ve already signed up for the email alerts on the best deals, be on the lookout for specials in your destination’s area. For example, on travelzoo.com, I received notification that Restaurant.com was running a special where $25 gift certificates were on sale for only $2. Since they are good for twelve months, I entered zip codes for our vacation areas and bought five different $25 restaurant certificates for a total of only $10! You can also go to entertainment.com, enter the zip code of your destination and look at the coupons and values for attractions, hotels, restaurants and more. These coupon books cost around $35. There are also money smart social media sites, such as FatWallet.com, that list great bargains across the country. Other savers post their experiences on the “deals” so that you know whether it’s worth your time and effort or not. I recently found a post for a free coupon for grande lattes at Barnes and Noble where there wasn’t a limit, so I printed four coupons. Three of my kids and I enjoyed free drinks—all courtesy of the FatWallet bloggers.

Fab Phonesdeals If you have a smart phone, then you know that the online world of travel deals make instant savings more gratifying than ever. If you haven’t signed up for a social networking site such as facebook or twitter, then you could be losing money! From these sites you can discover “flash sales” for everything from air travel, theater tickets, restaurant deals and hotel sales. It’s also a great way to get insider information. Another way to use your phone is to find out which TSA gate to go through with the new On the Spot System’s iPhone app that lets users rate TSA screening checkpoints.
“Check in” to your flight at Foursqure, a free app for iPhones, BlackBerrys, Palms and Android phones. There are also apps to order room service before you arrive at the hotel (apps for Hilton, Doubletree, Embassy Suites). These apps will save you time and we all know that time is money. To get the best value in a travel or vacation related app and to find out which ones might be free, go to the review site Appolicious.com.

Faith Tourism In the midst of a struggling global economy, one bright spot for the travel industry is the upswing in faith tourism. If you’re stationed overseas, you may be one of the more than 300 million people are traveling this year for religious and pilgrimage reasons. So if you always wanted to go to see the Western Wall in Israel, then this could be your year. Go to GoIsrael.com and click onto their specials to plan your journey. There, you’ll also find tips, such as: 1) staying at a kibbutz or guest house is cheaper than a hotel, and 2) buying a pass to all the country’s national parks save a lot over buying them individually.
So whether you’re going to Germany to see the original Disneyland castle or driving to Anaheim to see the replica—you can have the vacation of your dreams and your dream can remain debt free as well!

Savings Site Favorites
Hotels.com – Find best prices on hotels internationally and earn bonus stays
Ifly.com – terminal maps, estimates on how long security lines are, where to eat.
Flightaware.com – track flights by airline and flight number within 5 minutes of real time.
Elderhostel.org – worldwide educational travel adventures with 300 learning vacations designed for grandparents and grandkids
NPS.com – national park service website offering $10 park passes to seniors 62+
Sierraclub.org/outings – family camp programs that provide affordable camping and hiking
Astc.org. – Association of Science Technology Center with seasons passes to all participating science museums.
AMN.org– buy a reciprocal pass to multiple art museums.
Otalo.com – vacation house rental deals
Tripkick.com – detailed info on hotels and specific room info
TVtrip.com – photos of lobbies, rooms and neighborhoods
Oyster.com – pros and cons of different hotels
Voyij.com – checks best sales, promotions and package deals from departure city
Seatexpert.com – guide to the best and worst airline seats
Smartertravel.com – gives real price of airline tickets with all fees including charges for blankets, sodas, luggage and seats with more legroom.
Tripadvistor –traveler reviews on hotels, package deals, airlines and destinations
Airfarewatchdog.com – dealhounds post latest and best deals all day long.
Tripfilms.com – see traveler videos of hotels, restaurants and activities

Happy Trails to you!
Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

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