How to Save Money on Cross-Country Moves

ccmove_mainIf you’ve decided to move cross-country before summer comes, you may already be saving money — most long-distance moves occur in warm weather, so mover rates tend to be lower during the off-season.  No matter what, you’ll still pay more for a coast-to-coast transition than you would if you were simply moving across town (unless you fall victim to a moving-company scam), but there are ways to keep your moving costs down.  Read on for a few tips on how to save money on cross-country moves.

Downsize.  As Thoreau suggested, “Simplify, simplify, simplify!”  A long-distance move is the perfect time to rid yourself of all those possessions that take up space in your home but have no value in your life.  The less you need to transport, the lower your moving costs will be.  Earn cash with a yard sale, make a tax-deductible charitable donation, give your stuff away to friends, or simply throw it out.

Box it up.  ccmove_manmovingThe less your moving company packs, the lower your costs are.  If you need cheap boxes, just remember one phrase:  “Liquor is thicker.”  Your local liquor store has a plentiful supply of free boxes that are as sturdy as you’ll find anywhere (they need to be — they carry glass-encased liquids hundreds of miles).  Pack well; use bubble wrap, newspapers, and old clothes, blankets, and towels as filler.  (Warning:  Moving company insurance policies don’t cover anything that company employees don’t pack themselves, so consider letting them pack your expensive and/or breakable items.)

Break it down.  Beds, tables, other furniture, and appliances need to be disassembled or disconnected before they can be loaded onto the moving van.  The more of this you can do by yourself, the less your movers will have to do, and the lower your costs will be.

Research potential movers.  The lowest prices aren’t necessarily the best deals, particularly if the moving company doesn’t handle your property carefully.  Be sure to check various online reviews, ask friends or acquaintances who’ve made long-distance moves, and compare price and delivery estimates, insurance policies, and everything else you can find before contracting with any mover.  Keep an eye out for scams at all times.

ccmove_fragileInsure yourself as needed.  If life is a gamble (and it is), transporting your life to a new destination thousands of miles away certainly qualifies as a risk.  Moving insurance isn’t free, but replacing your prized and/or priceless possessions will probably be a bigger financial hit than the insurance policy rate.  Figure out how much your property is worth, and measure that against the cost of insurance.

If you’re planning a cross-country move, be sure to examine your new home in person before signing any contracts.  To save on your exploratory trips, try Travel Plus, where you’ll earn 5% cash back on flight, hotel, and rental-car reservations, as well as rebates on a wide range of travel perks.  Happy trails — and best of luck in your new digs!

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How to (Diplomatically) Ask Travel Guests to Leave

travelguests_coverWe tend to connect travel costs with our own trips out of town.  Sometimes, though, such costs show up unexpectedly on our doorsteps, in the form of people who violate Ben Franklin’s maxim about houseguests, overstay their welcomes in our homes, and lower their own expenses by transferring them to their hosts’ budgets.  As a public service, we therefore offer a few tips on how to (diplomatically) ask unwanted travel guests to leave.  (Please note:  These suggestions aren’t guaranteed to work.  In fact, you really should review your specific state’s laws on houseguests before letting them into your home.)

Stop treating them like guests.  travelguests_dishesThe longer someone stays in your home, the more that person becomes a part of the family (or an unofficial tenant).  Just as you expect your children to do household chores to earn their allowance, ask unwelcome visitors to work (and/or pay) for their accommodations.  One potential drawback (beyond the possibility of creating an implicit pay-to-stay agreement):  Once your guests start chipping in for privileges, they may expect better service.  You might avoid this by assigning them particularly unenviable, unenjoyable chores.

Stop acting like a host(ess).  Most of us behave differently when guests are around.  Our ingrained living habits — casual clothes around the house, dinner in front of the TV, milk gulped straight out of the container — often vanish, at least temporarily.  Go back to your preferred lifestyle:  Play your favorite music whenever you want, catch up on TV shows according to your own desires and schedule, fix single-serving (or strictly family-size) meals, and tell your guests they’re on their own.

travelguests_walkingMake yourself unavailable.  Even the rudest guests might find it difficult to justify staying in your home if you suddenly got sick or had to go away.  (Don’t accept their offer to look after you or your house.  If necessary, tell them you have a long-time nursing/house-sitting arrangement with someone who owns a Doberman pinscher that doesn’t like strangers.)  If your guests don’t take the hint, start packing your bags or exhibiting uncomfortable signs of illness, and shoo them out as you go along.

Show them the (hotel) door.  If you can afford it, pay for a night at a local hotel, tell your guests it’s non-refundable, and present the offer in a way that makes it hard to decline (e.g., “I really can’t recommend this hotel highly enough” or “you’d be doing me a huge favor”).

Be honest.  If worse comes to worst, the truth can set you free.  Tell your guests you need to get back to your previous life — the one you enjoyed before they arrived.

Houseguests who refuse to leave can take an unexpected bite out of your household finances.  To stretch your travel budget as far as possible, try Travel Plus, where you’ll earn 5% cash back on flight, hotel, and rental-car reservations, as well as rebates on a wide range of travel perks.  Happy trails (and please remember to go home at a reasonable time)!

Money-Saving Travel Tips: How to Save on Hotel Rooms

hotel_roomThe holiday season is one of the busiest travel periods of the year.  If you’re hitting the road this December, you’ll generally have two choices:  Stay with friends or family members, or book a hotel room nearby.  The first option will lower your travel expenses; the second option offers more day-to-day freedom but increases your trip costs.  Still, flexibility is a valuable travel asset, so if you choose (or need to use) the second option, here are a few tips on how to save on hotel rooms.

Book in advance.  If you haven’t already reserved a room, it may be too late (depending on the popularity of your destination), so get cracking now.  As availability dwindles, prices tend to rise, so the earlier you try to lock in a room, the more options you’ll have on accommodations and rates.

lastminKeep an eye out for last-minute deals.  This may seem to fly in the face of the first tip, but when hotels get late cancellations, those empty rooms aren’t generating income, and even a relatively low price beats nothing.  If you have refundable reservations at one hotel, it never hurts to check last-minute prices at local hotels.  You might luck into a more affordable rate at another inn.

Contact your destination hotel directly.  The big chains have central customer service departments that handle reservations made via their 800 numbers.  Calling the hotel in your desired locale allows you to speak with a manager who will know more about site-specific deals, recent cancellations, or even events in the local area that could drive up demand (and rates) during your desired travel dates.  Be sure to check in periodically prior to your arrival date; you may be able to obtain better terms if rates drop after you’ve booked your room.

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Compare hotel prices and travel dates.  You should always research local rates, of course, but you should also consider using one hotel’s price as an opening bid to negotiate a better deal at a nearby hotel.  In addition, if you’re able to move your travel dates a day or two (or, better yet, a month or two) in either direction, you might be able to enjoy significant savings on your stay.

Connect through social media.  Many hotels are using social platforms to communicate with travelers.  Using Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or other channels to follow your chosen hotel(s) through social media can help you score special discounts and upgrades.

Get with the programs.  Most hotels offer discounts to regular customers through loyalty programs, which are typically free to join.  Sign up with as many complimentary programs as you can — and look into special deals that might be available for free via your credit card issuer, your airline, or even your employer.

One sure way to save on hotel rooms is to book them through Travel Plus — you can earn 5% cash back and claim rebates on a variety of hotel services.  Happy travels!

Money-Saving Travel Tips: Home Rentals vs. Hotel Stays

beach-houseOne of the joys of vacationing is taking a break from your day-to-day routine.  Cooking, cleaning, even laundry chores are put on hold while you relax and enjoy the finer things in life.  However, those finer things often come at a premium price; daily maid service, for instance, is a built-in expense that drives up your overall hotel bill.  If you’re traveling on a budget and you’d rather spend your money on activities instead of accommodations, consider the benefits of renting a home vs. staying in a hotel:

While there can be advantages to hotel stays — prime locations, convenience, easy access to personal services — renting a home when you travel can help you stretch your travel budget.  (To stretch it even further, be sure to book your airline reservations through Travel Plus — you’ll earn 5% cash back!)  If you’ve ever rented a vacation home, please share your experiences with us in the Comments section.