Happy Columbus Day tomorrow! (October 12, 2009) I know, it's not the biggest holiday in this country, lacking such things as beloved Columbus Day carols, festive decorations and traditional meals to commemorate the day, but it is definitely worth celebrating. The story of Christopher Columbus is inspiring, as that great man's historic voyage teaches us to explore, search, and dream big.
We often discover new horizons while aiming for something completely different. Christopher Columbus never did accomplish his original goal - to find a western ocean route to Asia. Instead, he achieved something even greater - he ushered in a new era in world history by opening up the Americas to exploration.
Traveling around the world and going on vacation isn't as expensive as you might think. The Internet has enabled us to become our own travel agents, often offering better deals than if we called the hotel or rental car company directly. Some of my favorite web sites to find travel steals and deals are: www.farecast.com , www.yapta.com , www.travelocity.com , www.orbitz.com , www.breezenet.com , and www.hotwire.com
It’s easy to be influenced by a glossy brochure or fancy web site that claims a certain hotel is the absolute best, but if you want to hear what “real” people have to say about specific travel destinations, check out their opinions posted at www.tripadvisor.com
Before purchasing, compare prices and do a "Google" search for "discount code" with the name of the hotel chain, car company, airline, or tourist attraction you specifically want. Joining the "frequent flyer" clubs or hotel member clubs will often get you better rates, and those points you rack up with each stay will get you free vacations in the future! Your credit card might get you even more points, so find out which travel services they partner with. AAA membership pays for itself once you see all of the discounts you can get on hotels, cars, restaurants and even theme parks.
A flexible traveler can really score big. For example, airlines routinely over-book their seats, knowing that a certain percentage of travelers will simply not show up for the flight. If everyone does show up then there will be more passengers than seats so the airline will then ask for volunteers who are willing to be bumped. By doing so they may offer you travel vouchers for future flights, meals, and even a paid hotel room if there isn’t another flight until the next day. It’s a little bit of a hassle, but if the airline is desperate they’ll keep sweetening the deal until someone says yes!
I love the idea of free vouchers so much that my family now arrives at the gate before anyone else just to make sure we’re the first in line to offer up our seats. As soon as the gate attendant opens the desk we ask them if the flight is full and let them know we’re willing to offer our seats and be bumped to the next flight. More and more passengers have caught on to this hidden gem, so that’s why we’re so intent on being first in line. If you’re a large family you could save quite a bit in savings! You need to be flexible and think quickly. During the busy holiday season (best time to get bumped), my family of six was offered 2 bumped seats. One of my son’s and I volunteered and got to spend the night in a free hotel and extend our vacation an extra day!
Here are a few more ways to see the world for less:
To vacation within driving distance, check out the "One Tank Wonders" at www.tripadvisor.com/tankofgas To find the lowest price of gas in your area, go to www.gasbuddy.com
Skip the tourist traps and save money by adding some volunteer work at your destination! The following organizations offer meaningful service opportunities and lower your destination costs during a “Volunteer Vacation”:
Swap a pricey hotel stay for a visit in someone else’s home with a “Home Exchange” vacation: