Seth Kugel’s article in The New York Times travel section today is called “How to Save Money in the Year Ahead”. It offers practical advice, some of which I didn’t know. Here are my 4 favorite tips.
More airlines are basing rewards on what Seth calls points-and-miles systems that make it harder to build up rewards. He suggests getting a credit card like Citi AAdvantage, the one he selected. It offered him 50,000 miles on American Airlines if he charged $3,000 in the 1st 3 months, which is not hard to do. Ruth & I have had these particular cards for years and get a mile for each dollar charged. Miles pile up quickly and pay off like loose slots when booking travel, especially international.
Seth advises travelers to crack the codes and talks about the times a discount code has appeared on his screen when it was time to give his credit card number, too late to take advantage of the discount. He recommends installing the Honey browser, which I had never heard of, that is aligned with some prominent travel sites like Trivago. Honey alerts users to discount codes while they’re making a purchase and users can test them with a single click.
It’s hard to use cell phones and avoid problems and charges when out of the country. Seth notes that TMobile offers free text messaging and cheap phone calls in over 100 countries. He says that he has to put up with slow data, but the service is enough for email and, maybe even Google Maps, abroad.
Don’t favor just one car rental agency if you want to save money. Seth points out that prices vary so widely and wildly that renters often pay extra to get a so-called free upgrade, etc. The last time we rented a car, in Albuquerque, we were told that we had to pay extra, more than 10 dollars a day, to add a 2nd driver. The lady then told us how to avoid this charge the next time we rented from Hertz. Then she told us that New Mexico is a “high risk” state and suggested we buy extra insurance. Games. Seth recommends just picking the cheapest rate from a company you’ve heard of. Don’t be distracted by a nice car. These are temporary wheels to get from A to B, not a car show. Ruth called a car rental agency just this morning and the agent asked what discounts we were entitled to. He gave her 2 discounts, one being Costco, and we saved about 80 dollars.
“When Weather Upends Your Plans” by Stephanie Rosenbloom is another article in today’s NYT that gives good advice. Stephanie flew to New Mexico the same day we did and, like us, got into winter-travel-hell. Unlike us, she had a flight cancelled. She advises using major airlines websites to gain info about trip changes. If you sign up, you can get texts, emails, or notifications about gate and flight changes, etc. Often 3rd party apps pass on information faster than airlines do.
I really like this 2nd bit of advice. If caught in a multi-hour delay, buy airport lounge access. A one time pass to use an airline’s lounge might cost $50, which is a lot cheaper than a room at the Hilton.