Valuable Tips to Save Time and Money on Business Travel

businesstravel_mainThe Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) predicts that U.S. business travel expenditures this year will increase 6.6 percent over 2013 figures, with companies paying out $289.8 billion on over 460 million trips.  That’s a lot of money disbursed on a lot of flights, hotel rooms, rental cars, and other travel needs, to say nothing of all that time workers will be spending away from home.  If you’re one of the millions of road warriors who live out of a suitcase for a fair portion of your year, we have some tips to help ease the hassles of business travel.

Keep Your Essentials Ready to Gobusinesstravel_bag

Depending on whom you ask, your essentials might include everything from eyeglass cases (to hold assorted accessories) and sanitary wipes (to fend off germs and medical expenses) to earplugs (for obvious reasons) and smartphone GPS apps (to reduce rental-car fees), among many others.  You can determine which items you absolutely need when you travel on business.  To save time on packing, though, try leaving your essentials in your luggage when you return from a trip.  (Restock as required, of course.)

Pack Once, and Use a Checklist

Forgetting to pack something is easy to do (and fairly commonly done).  To avoid leaving anything behind, make a checklist (which may differ from trip to trip), and devote whatever time is required to check it off all at once.  Packing in stages can cause you to overlook certain items (or include them twice and thereby take up valuable space and weight).

Power (and App) Up

To avoid power-outage worries and frustration, make sure you fully charge all of your electronic devices the night before you leave.  To eliminate all those pesky scraps of paper that can clutter your wallet or disappear without a trace — from travel receipts to business documents and more — load your devices with travel apps designed to keep your business trip on track.


businesstravel_planeCarry On

Checked bags can cost time and money, especially if they’re over the weight limit or (worse) you need to change flights at the last minute.  If your trip will last more than a day or two, compare the cost of hotel laundry services against checked-bag charges to figure out whether you need that extra bag or can make do by flying in business-ready attire.

Play Your Cards

Frequent flyer cards offer upgrades and other perks (even for economy-class flyers), and the more clubs you join, the more you’re covered.   Don’t limit your choices to airline offerings; hotels and rental-car agencies also dole out the rewards.

Join Travel Plus

Whether you’re hitting the road to close a deal, hold a client’s hand, or expand your network at a conference or convention, you can earn 5% cash back on flight, hotel, and rental-car reservations by making them through Travel Plus.  You can also get rebates on a wide range of airline services, hotel extras, rental-car fees, Wi-Fi, and more.  When you join Travel Plus, you can save on all your travel needs.

How to Stay Safe on Ocean Cruises

cruise_coverSummer is a popular season for family cruise vacations, although peak times for specific destinations vary according to their attractions.  (The busiest season for Canada and New England cruises, for instance, is in September and October, when fall foliage flourishes.)  More than 20 million people take cruise vacations every year, and the vast majority return with blissful memories and happy stories.  Cruises often travel outside the legal borders of individual countries, though (and, more specifically, outside the scope of U.S. laws), so wherever your voyage may lead, you’re responsible for your own safety.  To help you and your travel companions enjoy a safe, secure trip, we’ve put together a few tips on how to stay safe on ocean cruises.

Research Potential Ocean Liners

The Vessel Sanitation Program, run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tracks gastrointestinal illnesses aboard cruise ships.  CruiseJunkie.com compiles anecdotal information about Events at Sea (“All the Things that Can Go Wrong On A Cruise”) from media reports, passenger accounts, and messages sent to the website.  Review as much data as possible about potential ships before booking your cruise.

cruise_firstaidTake All Necessary Medical Precautions

Any reputable cruise ship offers qualified medical care, generally on par with ambulatory care centers.  Research your chosen ship — and its various ports of call — beforehand to ensure that it can provide the medical services and resources to handle any pre-existing condition(s) among the people in your party.  Also, stock up on all essential medications before boarding the ship; you should have enough on hand to last well beyond the scheduled cruise length, in case your return is delayed for some reason.

Use “Street Savvy”

Ocean liners are basically floating towns.  The largest ship in the world, Allure of the Seas, contains 16 passenger decks, 24 passenger elevators, and accommodations for up to 6,318 guests and 2,384 crew members.  It may be comforting to think that everyone is there to have (or contribute to) good clean fun, but most large groups include at least a few troublemakers.  Follow certain safety measures:

  • Know the ship’s emergency procedures
  • Travel in groups (or at least pairs)
  • Drink responsibly
  • Avoid (and report) shady behavior
  • Supervise children at all times
  • Leave valuables at home

cruise_oceanUse Common Sense

Beyond the usual risks that life offers anywhere, the hazards on a cruise ship include going overboard.  It’s been estimated that more than 200 people have fallen overboard since 1995, and rescue efforts in open water can be incredibly difficult.  Recognize and respect the potential perils of ocean travel, and make sure you don’t place yourself (or anyone else on the ship) in harm’s way.

Try Travel Plus

Through Travel Plus, you can earn 5% cash back on flight, hotel, and rental-car reservations to and from your cruise ship embarking and debarking destinations — and get rebates on all those perks that make vacation travel that much more enjoyable.  Be sure to leave us a comment to share your favorite cruise ship memories.

Money-Saving Travel Tips: How to Save on Rental Cars

winter_trafficAs the holiday season ramps up, so do highway traffic numbers.  Most of these drivers are heading somewhere for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or New Year’s Eve, and quite a few of them are renting cars to reach those destinations.  (The holidays are typically one of the busiest rental-car periods of the year.)  If your holiday plans this year include car reservations, here are a few tips on how to save on rental cars:

Book early.  The law of supply and demand states that prices rise in response to high demand.  As the holidays near, the rental-car supply will dwindle.  Not only will you have fewer models to choose from, you’ll also pay more for the privilege.

Search for deals.  From online coupons to discount codes, from credit-card arrangements to corporate rates, you can find rental-car savings if you know where to look.  Be sure to compare and contrast rates and offers from every rental-car agency in your given area.

fineprintRead the fine print.  Just because a rental-car ad says “$20 per day” doesn’t mean you’ll only pay $20 a day.  Extra charges and hidden fees can turn what looked like the best available deal into one of the most expensive ones.

Book only what you need.  Larger vehicles may offer more space, but they cost more, too, not just in per-day rates but in fuel charges.  Smaller cars generally get better gas mileage, and they also have smaller tanks, which makes fill-ups more affordable.  Plus, compacts are one of the most popular choices, so they might all be taken by pick-up time, which could lead to a free upgrade.

Pay for your own gas.  Rental-car agencies are happy to fill the gas tank for you, a courtesy that doesn’t come cheaply:  Their per-gallon charges are typically much higher than the price you’d pay at the pump yourself.  Make sure that, when you return the rental car, the gas-gauge needle is in the exact same spot it was when you drove the car off the lot.

car_rental_signAvoid airport pick-ups.  Rates are usually less expensive if you pick up your rental car in town or at other locations that don’t ask you to pay “airport fees” or other convenience charges.

Skip the rental insurance if you can.  If you already own a car, your auto insurance policy probably covers rental cars, too; call your insurance company to confirm.  If you don’t have auto insurance, your credit card issuer may very well offer rental insurance when you use your card to pay for your rental car; again, call to confirm.  Only if you’re not covered elsewhere should you consider purchasing insurance from the rental-car company.

One final way to save on rental cars is to book yours through Travel Plus.  You’ll earn 5% cash back on your reservation, along with rebates on rental-car services, including equipment rentals, additional drivers, late returns, and more.  Wherever you’re going over the holidays, travel safely!

Top U.S. Vacation Destinations in November

november_carThe vast majority of travel in November revolves around Thanksgiving trips and reunions of families and friends, so U.S. vacation destinations in November tend to cater to holiday celebrants.  If you’re looking for places to go and/or things to do that can energize your travel plans — including one destination that has nothing to do with Turkey Day but provides fun for the whole family — read on.

New York City.  november_nycMacy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, perhaps the most famous display of floats in the world, attracts 3 million people along the route and another 50 million who tune in to catch some of the broadcast.  If parades aren’t your idea of fun, New York in November also stages the ING New York City Marathon, the New York Comedy Festival, and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, among other events.

NFL games on Thanksgiving Day.  This season’s slate of traditional Thanksgiving fare offers three exciting contests, whether you attend in person or watch on TV:

  • Green Bay at Detroit.  Save for the 1939-44 seasons, Detroit has held a holiday game every year since 1934.  This year, the Lions take on their NFC North foes, the Green Bay Packers, at Ford Field at 12:30 (Fox), in what could be a pivotal step in the division title race.
  • Oakland at Dallas.  Dallas, which has hosted a Thanksgiving game in all but two seasons since 1966, welcomes the Oakland Raiders to AT&T Stadium in the 4:30 game (CBS).  The Raiders may be playing for an AFC wild-card berth at best, but the Cowboys have a shot at winning the weak NFC East this season.
  • Pittsburgh at Baltimore.  The Steelers travel to Charm City to face the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium in an AFC North matchup at 8:30 (NBC).  The Steelers have been struggling this season, and the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens aren’t overpowering many teams, but this has been the fiercest rivalry in the NFL over the last decade.

The Colorado Rockies.  Savvy skiers are eager to take advantage of the relatively sparse number of mountain-goers over Thanksgiving weekend.  From Aspen to Vail, from Breckenridge to Steamboat, and everywhere in between, skiers and snowboarders can shred the steep vertical drops at Colorado ski resorts in November while navigating smaller-than-usual crowds.

november_rockies

Union City, Tennessee.  Discovery Park of America, located three hours west of Nashville, is scheduled to open on November 1 and will likely become a popular attraction year-round.  It will feature simulations of the area’s 1811-12 earthquakes; an “interactive starship theatre”; a 20,000-gallon aquarium; a 48-foot model of the human body (including a slide in its leg); and a wide range of natural and historical artifacts across the 50-acre complex.

Regardless of your November vacation destination, you can earn 5% cash back on flight, hotel, and rental-car reservations, along with rebates on travel perks, through Travel Plus.  Click here for additional tips on how to save on Thanksgiving travel, and let us know in Comments where you’re celebrating Thanksgiving this year.

Money-Saving Travel Tips: How to Save on Thanksgiving Travel

thanksgiving_travelNow that nights have turned chilly again, fall foliage has started moving south, and footballs are filling the air every weekend, it’s high time (if not past time) to make Thanksgiving travel plans.  Contrary to popular belief, Thanksgiving weekend may not be the busiest time of year to travel, but it can still feel that way when you’re crawling through a traffic jam or a backed-up airport security line.  Of course, if you don’t plan ahead, you won’t have to worry about busy airports, because you won’t have a flight to catch (unless you’re “lucky” enough to find a high-priced, last-minute seat).  To help relieve at least some of the financial burdens of your holiday trip, here are a few tips on how to save on Thanksgiving travel:

  • Make your reservations ASAP.  The (fairly) early booker gets the best holiday rates — and the best seats.  Unless you’re willing to risk being wedged into a middle seat between, say, a chronic snorer and someone who thinks good hygiene is highly overrated, the benefits of choosing your own seat can be huge — especially if you need to make a connecting flight.thanksgiving_travel_off-fly-days
  • Fly on “off” days.  Evidence and popular opinion suggest that the day before Thanksgiving is the single busiest travel day of the year.  It’s certainly a high-demand day, and high demand means high prices.  You’ll find lower airfares the weekend before Thanksgiving Day and the Friday, Saturday, and Tuesday following it.  (In fact, some of the cheapest fares might be available on Thanksgiving Day itself.)  If you have some flexibility, extend your stay — or cut it short.
  • Compare prices at different airports.  If you’re flying into or out of a big city, you may have multiple airport, airline, and airfare options.  Skip the closest airport if you can save good money by driving an extra half-hour.
  • Drive instead of flying.  Gas prices often peak in the summer, when more families hit the road for vacations, and prices at the pump have been dropping recently.  There’s no guarantee that they won’t increase again around Thanksgiving, but depending on your destination, the cost of driving may still end up below airfare costs.  (Just be careful out there; Thanksgiving is one of the three most dangerous driving holidays.)thanksgiving-transportation
  • Consider alternative transportation.  Take the train, commuter van, or bus to the plane to save on parking fees, or take the train or bus all the way to your destination.  Rail and bus fares for shorter trips tend to be more reasonable than airfare (or rental cars, for that matter), and children usually travel for less.

Thanksgiving weekend kicks off the holiday season (quite literally this year:  Hanukkah begins at sunset on the day before Thanksgiving), so it’s critical to find ways to save on your Thanksgiving travel plans.  To earn 5% cash back on reservations and additional rebates on travel conveniences, be sure to check out Travel Plus.  And wherever you’re going for Turkey Day, travel safely (and dine well)!

5 Underrated but Great Places to Leaf-Peep in the U.S.

fall-leavesFall foliage fans are eagerly checking leaf-peeping maps right about now.  As leaves begin to burst into spectacular colors before succumbing to the cycle of life, millions of people will be descending upon roads, trails, and bike paths across New England and elsewhere in the Northeast to witness one of nature’s most beautiful evolutions.  Let them have their fun; Mother Nature doesn’t focus her autumn efforts on just one region of the country, and neither should you.  If you’d rather check out underrated but great places to leaf-peep in the United States, read on.

To find underrated but great places to leaf-peep throughout the United States, click here.  To get 5% cash back on reservations and rebates on travel services, check out Travel Plus.  Where’s your favorite fall foliage destination?  Leave us a reply to let us know.

Top U.S. Vacation Events in October

October in the United States brings shorter days, brisk breezes, colorful leaves, an abundance of Halloween decorations, but few family vacation opportunities.  Aside from Columbus Day, schools are generally in session for the entire month, so families with school-aged children don’t have much time to travel (although it’s an ideal vacation time for folks who prefer not to travel with young ones).  That doesn’t mean you can’t find places to go and things to do, though. If you’re hoping to get away for a spell (with or without kids), here are a few of the top vacation events in the U.S. this October:

Richard Susanto / Shutterstock.com

Richard Susanto / Shutterstock.com

  • The International Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, NM.  The 41st edition of the Fiesta lifts off this October 5-13.  Unless you’ve already registered your balloon, you won’t be able to enjoy a ride in the clouds, but the Fiesta is that rare balloon event that allows spectators to walk among the balloons on the ground and mingle with the pilots.  If watching balloons soar isn’t your thing, the fiesta offers a wide assortment of other activities to suit virtually every fancy.
  • appleharvestThe National Apple Harvest Festival, Arendtsville, PA.  The festival, held this year on October 5-6 and 12-13, is located midway between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.  Celebrating a favorite fall fruit in its various forms, the festival keeps visitors entertained with over three dozen attractions, from apple art and antique cider presses to pie-baking, pie-eating, and much, much more.  And should you need a break from all things apple, Gettysburg is just 10 miles away.
  • The Major League Baseball Postseason, TBD.  October marks the start (and, weather permitting, the end) of the MLB playoff schedule.  As of this publishing date, no team had clinched a playoff berth yet, but likely candidates include Boston, Detroit, Oakland, and Texas in the American League, and Atlanta, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati in the National League.  If you want to attend a postseason game, keep an eye on which teams are clinching spots, and act quickly.

    BluIz60 / Shutterstock.com

    BluIz60 / Shutterstock.com

  • Halloween in Central Park, NY.  New York City plays host to quite a few Halloween celebrations, including haunted houses, scavenger hunts, the Bounce Music Festival, and the internationally renowned Village Halloween Parade, but few venues offer quite as many family-friendly Halloween events as Central Park.  From the Bats of Belvedere on October 4 to the Pumpkin Festival on October 26 to the Halloween Parade and Pumpkin Sail on October 27, Central Park offers children and grown-ups alike a whole lot of affordable (i.e., free) fun.

From watching unusual flying objects to witnessing unusual forms of apparel, there are vacation options aplenty in October.  You’ll also find plenty of ways to save on travel with Travel Plus, from 5% cash back on reservations to rebates on travel perks and more.  Where do you want to go this October?