Sunday, November 3, 2013
You've Got Your Flights and Hotel - Now It's Time to Maximize the Rest of Your Trip
The Internet abounds with sites and tips dedicated to saving money on flights and hotels. Even people who don't exhaustively read up on how to get the best deals typically visit multiple sites before booking a flight. Even hotel booking now typically involve more than just one site as travelers make sure they are getting the best deal.Expedia and other online travel agents' sites dropping their booking fees was a direct reaction to travelers' habit of researching flights options on their sites, picking the one they wanted, then booking it directly from the airline to save the $5 fee. It was easy to do, so not surprisingly most people did. Some went even further, using multiple sites and trying to find the optimal day and time to save even more on their flights. This behavior spawned a whole host of "meta search sites" like Kayak.com, looking to make this kind of exhaustive searching easier. The NY Times' "Frugal Traveler" had a great article on all the best tools and tips for researching travel and getting the best price.But the NY Times article - and most travelers - had no ideas past getting flights and hotels locked in. Despite the fact that the cost of the time a traveler spends in his or her destination often far exceeds the costs of flights and housing, people seem resigned to paying full price.It doesn't have to be that way. Not surprisingly, the Internet offers a variety of options that a growing number of travelers are tapping into to save on their "destination experience." It is no secret that individual tours and attractions offer deals on their web sites that are available to anyone who buys in advance. And not surprisingly, aggregators of a wide variety of these type of buy before you fly deals are starting to have a growing presence online.On popular example is Viator.com. This site allows travelers to select from destinations across the world and select from tickets to attractions, tours, events, airport transfers, and so on, often at a significant discount to walk up prices. And travelers might be surprised at the breadth of the offering. Disney, Grand Canyon, Broadway Shows, etc. are all on offer. But so is a Ghost Hunting tour in Edinburgh, skydiving in Australia, kickboxing matches in Bangkok - the list goes on and on.Obviously committing to specific sites and activities in advance requires a bit of pre-planning. This fact alone has been as much a barrier as anything to more rapid expansion of travelers seizing on destination deals. For those looking to save while preserving flexibility and spontaneity, an attraction pass like those offered by SmartDestinations.com could be just the ticket.The company offers a credit card sized ticket in 14 North American destinations that allows the holder to go into most if not all of the main attractions and tours in that destination for one prepaid price. Perhaps best of all, there's no need to decide in advance what you intend to see. In destinations such as Chicago, Boston, San Diego, and Oahu, the savings offered by the card can be as much as 55% compared to individual tickets, and that's not counting deals on shopping and dining that are included in the card.So as you plan your next trip, make sure you don't stop with flights and hotels, but give some thought to the things you plan to do once you get where you are going. You could end up significantly lowering the total cost of your trip with just a bit more effort.