By Señior Tech from the October 2016 Edition
I have not used a travel agent to book my travel for over 25 years. That is except for our first cruise earlier this spring and we paid an additional $130.00 for that privilege. There are many resources online that offer travel savings and allow you, the reader, choices of flight times and connections as well as hotel room amenities.
This spring my wife, Señiora NotSoTechie, and I flew back to Canada for six weeks. Last year we sold our home, so we needed a place to stay. Like the old adage that states “house guests and fish start to smell after three days”; we decided not to bother our numerous relatives and friends and instead rent a condo. We had heard about Airbnb.com from our daughter, so we went online. We found an absolute gem (see photos throughout the article), it had two full bathrooms, dining room (including table and six chairs), living room, office (complete with printer and all types of office supplies), two bedrooms, and in suite laundry and a secure underground parking spot. There were two balconies, one with a Weber natural gas grill. The condo was located in downtown Edmonton for a price of $92.00 per night. The cheapest hotel room I was able to find in a tourist style hotel, was over $110.00 per night for a standard one-bedroom guest suite.
Airbnb certifies both the owners and those looking to rent. When a new account is setup, the applicant has to verify their email, phone and provide government I.D. This provides protection for both parties. The site also has an excellent rating system. The owner rates the person who rented the suite, so that other owners can determine if a renter trying to rent their suite might be a risk. I was asked to rate the owner, so that other renters could determine how they would be treated. Owners are also rated on how fast they respond to queries and booking approvals. There are also numerous photos to help make the decision to rent that property. In our case, the photos did not adequately show how great the condo really was. It was not a “my complements to the photographer moment” that we sometimes get at a restaurant displaying the items on a menu.
We also needed a rental vehicle. I am a Costco member, so I tried Costcotravel.ca (.com in the US). We saved over $400.00 or 30% on a one-month rental of a full-sized car. I checked all the online rental sites, and on-line travel sites. This was for vehicle pickup and drop-off at the airport. Normally the discount is not as generous, so if you are a Costco member, you may want to check there as well as the normal online travel sites.
Airbnb is a great way to get imbedded in the local neighbor-hoods, but if hotels are more to your liking, then consider an online booking site. There and numerous sites including Hotels.com (owned by Expedia) and Booking.com (owned by Priceline) which are the most notable. But there are also sites that search and aggregate the other travel sites and claim to offer the best deals. Trivago.com is the latest .com site for hotels only. It appears to be an excellent choice for finding the lowest hotel prices.
Sometimes after finding a hotel online, it is also worthwhile calling the hotel directly (not their toll-free booking site), as some will offer free breakfasts or other enticements to save paying the booking commissions.
There are also sites online that specialize in airline bookings. Most notable are Orbitz.com, Expedia.com, Priceline.com, Kayak.com and Travelocity.com. The sites also offer comparison with the other booking sites. While this may seem redundant, there are instances where a lower fare was available on the comparison website. These sites will usually provide additional discounts if you book hotels and/or car rentals with the airfare. You are also able to search for hotels only, or car rentals only at these sites.
Frequent flyers should check with the airlines for seat sales offered to their most loyal customers. And don’t forget to use the loyalty points. Airlines, hotels and car rental agencies are making it easier to book online and only charge the taxes, once the points are redeemed.
If you own property and would like to swap with another property owner in another part of the world, Home Exchange.com may be of interest. Similar to Airbnb in concept, you can enjoy travel to another locale and save considerable dollars in accommodations. Of course you will have to let them stay in your home while you visit theirs.
We have not tried this, but we have friends that were able to visit parts of Europe that they normally might not visit due to the cost. They especially enjoyed living like the locals and they were very happy with their experiences. The home page asks where you want to go and where you live. Based on these answers, a list of properties will display. If your location is listed, then a swap should be easy. There are also swap listings that are open to any location. These may be harder to arrange. It will be easier to swap if your property is located close to nature, in the heart of a city, or has tourist appeal.
The other day we stopped at a travel agent and asked about flights to Guanajuato from Manzanillo. I was quoted a price and I noticed it was 20% higher than the fare displayed on-screen. I don’t begrudge paying a travel agent for their work, but if I am able to do my own bookings, I can use the savings for extras on my trip. I suppose that is why hotels, airlines, and other travel-related businesses have cut commissions to travel agents. So when you use their services, expect to pay more for your travel. The internet has made it much easier, for anyone who is willing to search, to save on their travel expenses.
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Señior Tech is a technology addict that loves to share tips. He lives in Manzanillo full time and helps keep the community up on the latest tech tricks and toys.