Earlier this month, Frontier became the latest airline to charge for putting a bag in an overhead luggage compartment, following the lead of Spirit and Allegiant.
If you pay the fee when you book your ticket on line, it’ll cost you $25–$20 if you’re a member of the airline’s frequent flyer club. Wait until you get to the airport to reserve that space, and the fee is a whopping $50. Oh, and if you want to check in on line, it’ll cost you $25. At the airport it’ll cost you ten bucks more. Want a seat assignment ahead of your flight? Choose one for $3 when you book on line; wait to get to the airport, and it’ll cost you $8.
Delta will sell you in-flight Wi-fi on line before your trip for less than it’ll cost you when you’re onboard the plane. Southwest will sell you a priority position in its boarding line that will get you on the plane before most other passengers. The lesson is: Do as much as you can before you get to the airport for a smoother trip and to save some money.
If you’re looking for inexpensive accommodations on the road, especially in big cities, add hostels to your list of options. These are not your father’s youth hostels, the ones I stayed in when I was barely out of teenager-hood.
Think rooftop yoga, cocktails in a palm-shaded courtyard, and clean beds in Manhattan for $50 a night. Those are all perks you’ll find in some hostels around the world. The days of backpackers sharing big rooms and bathrooms down the hall are over in most cases. And while there is still that option at some hostels, many are more like inexpensive hotels but with benefits.
One of the biggest benefits, says the CEO of Hostelling International, Russ Hedge, is that today’s hostels are a great way to plug quickly into a place. Hostelling International—with about 50 hostels in the US—is committed to encouraging cross-cultural experiences. Hostels today are mostly well designed, very clean, and many have kitchens that can save a traveling family (or anyone else) money by providing a venue for home-style meals.
America is coming late to hostels, but major investors are making plans to roll out sophisticated offerings in the next couple of years.
And that’s to the good.
Ever walked around a luxury hotel or resort, admired the pool area, and wished you were a guest? Resorts are increasingly picking up some incremental revenue by allowing non-guests to use pools for a fee.
I recently was impressed by the grounds of the swanky Arizona Biltmore in Scottsdale, where the landscaping and pool (pictured) are most inviting. Non-guests can rent a cabana for the day. Fees vary depend on the season and day—you might pay as much as $300, but your fee can be put toward your meals and drinks.
In Vegas, the pool scene is varsity, and the party goes night and day. Models as waitstaff, expensive sound systems, and swim-up gambling are some of the perks. At the Aria, it’s $10 for women, $20 for men. At the Hard Rock, non-guests are welcome during weekdays–$20 for women, $40 for men. Caesar’s charges non-guests $20 Friday through Sunday. Rent a cabana at the very posh Mandarin Oriental, and you’re in even if you’re not a guest. The Palms, MGM Grand, and the Dayclub at The Cosmopolitan (whose great ad slogan is “Just the right amount of wrong”) also invite non-guests.
Just check with your favorite property.
A 65-year-old traveler taking a one-week, $2,000 cruise to the Caribbean can pay as little as $90 or as much as $375 to buy travel insurance before a trip. That’s a 400% difference, meaning it pays to comparison shop.
That stat is courtesy of John Cook of QuoteWright.com, a web site that offers comparisons of travel insurance offerings from major companies. You type in what kind of coverage you want, and QuoteWright will point you to as many as 90 appropriate plans.
But here’s where it gets tricky. Travel insurance companies have a lot of flavors of offerings. Some exclude situations that might be important to you. Some might include medical evacuation to the nearest hospital while others will fly you to the hospital of your choice. Some lists of “perils” include eventualities others might not.
With big spreads in the cost of policies, shop carefully. And be sure to buy soon after you book your travel. Some companies won’t cover you if you wait to buy until just before your departure.
As cold weather gives way to warm, rental car companies have a problem. They have too many cars in places like Florida and Arizona where high season is over. And they’ll give you a great deal if you’ll help them get lots of those vehicles back to where the demand is.
It’s the semi-annual migration of rental cars. Until the end of this month, you can get a deal when you rent a car one way from, say, Florida, to the Northeast. Alamo, Avis, Budget, and National will only charge $10 a day for cars, about $20 for SUVs and maybe $25 for minivans. And you can keep a car for 7, 14, and sometimes 21 days so you don’t have to rush to turn it in.
Arizona rental offices need their cars moved to California and other places. The same deals apply.
Many airlines now allow you to get a one-way, award flight by cashing in half the number of miles you’d need for a round trip. So fly in, grab a car, and enjoy a leisurely drive somewhere without putting any wear or tear on the family car. Or wait until this fall when rental companies will make the same offer to get cars back to vacation spots.