Ask for It
I read a travel blog that said to ask the hotel to comp your mini bar items. Thinking that was slightly preposterous, I tried it. News flash: It works!
Stay with Friends
It seems like a no-brainer, but networking is the original free travel. I’ve stayed with friends (and friends of friends) everywhere — Jamaica, California, New York, London, Quebec. I realize that in this day and age, this has potential to be dangerous. I would never recommend couch surfing at a total stranger’s place, but where there’s an opportunity to stay with someone’s sweet old grandma in Italy — take it! Staying with friends is especially worth it in expensive countries.
Join Mileage Programs
Mileage programs pay for about 70% of my travel. It’s no secret that credit card companies offer large sign-up bonuses that translate to free airfare, hotels, and car rentals. If you’re flying or buying anything on credit without earning miles, you’re wasting money! Joining mileage programs is free and you can join as many as you want. Miles earned on one airline can be used to purchase tickets on partner airlines, so even if you don’t fly one airline consistently, you can work the system for your benefit.
We all know how expensive it can be to change a booked flight. I’ve been told I’d simply have to buy a new ticket for triple the price of the original! That being said, I’ve also saved hundreds of dollars on fees after I explained my situation. I needed to move up my itinerary two days and was told there were $750 of fees. I simply thanked the rep and told him I couldn’t afford that and why (I also had to purchase an additional flight). The rep bargained with me until I got the fees down to zero!
Try it! Simply tell the customer service rep you cannot afford the product or service and why. “I’m trying to get to my little brother’s wedding” or “I’ve been a loyal customer of this airline/hotel/car rental for 10 years. I’d appreciate if you’d help me out.” Telling a personal story is no time to lie, as reps are already weary of scammers.
Join Hotel Clubs
Hotel clubs work like mileage programs in that you accumulate points for brand loyalty. For example, reserve four nights with Marriott points and get the fifth night free. Marriott points are transferable to United Mileage Plus accounts and then can be used to purchase airline tickets.
Your mama probably taught you better than to treat service people rudely. “You attract more flies with honey than vinegar” definitely applies when trying to get an upgrade or a discount from a travel service person. The worst cases of rudeness lead to the most extreme reactions, like getting hung up on, or worse, escorted out of line by security personnel.
Hotels.com has a loyalty program that gives you one free night for every ten you book with them. Hotels.com has one of the highest and simplest loyalty programs, but of course there are tons more. Book through Expedia and get one point for every $5 spent on airfare and two points for every dollar spent on hotels, travel packages or activities like guided tours. On Orbitz, members can earn points by signing up and booking through the site. You earn three Orbucks for every $100 spent booking hotels and one per dollar spent on airfare and vacation packages.
Read Travel Blogs
I love travel blogs. I learn some of the best travel tips and money-saving advice from travel bloggers who have been, there done that. As travel becomes more expensive, I find myself more drawn to bloggers who have beaten The Man, so to speak.