Tips for Vacationing with Elderly Parents

ElderlyParentsTravel_mainOne of the rewards of a long, productive life is being able to do what you love during your golden years.  Many retirees like to spend their free time traveling — creating new memories, visiting places they’ve never seen, even making new friends.  Of course, the one thing that retired parents prefer to do above all else is spend time with their children and grandchildren — and if they can combine that with a bit of travel, so much the better.  However, vacationing with elderly parents, whether over the holidays or year-round, can be challenging, so if you’re planning to do so, consider the following tips.

Travel_TravelListHelp Them Prepare

While people of all ages tend to forget things while packing, it’s more common among the elderly.  At their age, though, many of them can’t do without medications and other daily necessities.  Well before your departure date, work with them to create a comprehensive list of must-have, preferred, and desired travel items.  Consult with their doctor(s) to flesh out the list, stock up on required prescriptions — and create action plans for any medical issues or emergencies that might arise.  (If your parents don’t appreciate all the fuss, simply remind them of what they always told you:  “Better safe than sorry.”)

Before leaving, give your parents additional peace of mind by helping them lock down their home and secure their possessions.  If they have pets, speak with the petsitters to ensure that they’ll be properly tended to, and get their contact information in case your parents want to check in from time to time.

Help Them Relax

Travel_EarlyAirportAs you make your plans, keep your parents’ abilities and health conditions top of mind.  If you’re traveling by air, make sure to request any special services or meals in advance, and get to the airport early to ensure that they won’t have to rush to make the flight.  If they’re likely to get up frequently while on board, give them the aisle seats; if they’re more likely to doze, give them the window seats.  Ensure that the hotels you’re considering all have working elevators, or book rooms on the first or second floor.

If you’re planning day trips in your destination city, look into senior packages, arrange a bus tour, or rent a car to minimize physical strain.  Identify available restrooms, restaurants that serve senior-friendly foods, and other stops along the way to allow your parents to recharge their batteries as needed.  Don’t overdo the activities, particularly early on; give them time to recuperate from the travel and to acclimate themselves to their new surroundings.

Join Travel Plus

With Travel Plus, you can earn 5% cash back on your airline, hotel, and rental-car reservations.  You’ll also enjoy cash-back rebates on a variety of flight, hotel, and rental-car perks that can help make your parents’ trips more comfortable, and you can save 10% on gift cards to popular restaurants (and other travel-related merchants).  When you join Travel Plus, you really can save on all your travel needs.

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Save Money When You Travel with Your Pets

TravelPets_topMaking travel plans for your family (or any group) can be difficult and time-consuming, but when your travel party includes one or more pets, the degree of planning difficulty can seem Herculean.  While you consider your pets valued family members, worthy of top-notch treatment, many travel providers, hotels, and even rental-car agencies regard them as nuisances at best and as the animal equivalent of personae non gratae at worst.  As a result, the cost of traveling with your pets might seem so high that you begin to question the very idea of traveling with your pet.  Fear not, though:  Below are a few tips to help you save money when you travel with your pets.

DogCarHit the Road

We mean that (somewhat) literally.  Traveling by car is one of the surest ways to save on long-distance travel with pets.  You and your pet are presumably already familiar with road trip guidelines, and it’s easy to find a place to park and deal with urgent needs, which you can’t do in airports, planes, or trains.

CatPetTravelBeyond that, airlines aren’t required to let pets fly, and those that do sometimes charge such exorbitant fees that you may be tempted to buy Fido his own ticket.  There are also a variety of federal regulations, on top of the individual carrier’s policies, that you must follow when flying with a pet.

Perhaps incredibly, trains are less pet-friendly than airlines.  Unless your pet is a service animal, it can’t enjoy passage on Amtrak, even if it’s a search-and-rescue dog.  Some city-specific train systems (e.g., Metro-North, which offers service to the north of New York City) allow small, controlled pets onboard, but that policy is of little use if pets can’t accompany their owners to those destinations.

Take Your Own Wheels

Most rental-car agencies allow their customers to take pets along as passengers, but some locations can be more restrictive.  However, if your pet has an accident (or simply sheds an excessive amount of fur), you’ll be liable for a cleaning charge.

hoteldogcheckinFind the Right Nest

Thankfully, hotels in recent years have become much more obliging to pet owners (and pets) than transportation providers, and identifying pet-friendly hotels can be done via simple online searches.  Certain hotels charge a pet fee (including a non-refundable deposit), though; to find the most affordable accommodations, be sure to inquire about the full cost of your pet’s stay before booking a room.  Once you arrive, just keep in mind the proper etiquette for visiting pets.

Join Travel Plus

Wherever you and your pet(s) go across the United States, you can earn 5% cash back on flight, hotel, and rental-car reservations when you make them through Travel Plus.  You can also claim rebates on all sorts of travel extras, from in-flight meals and entertainment to hotel perks, rental-car extras, and Wi-Fi service anywhere.  When you vacation with your pets, make sure you know and follow the rules of the road — and travel safely!

Safety Tips for a Winter Road Trip

From the Joad family in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath to Sal and Dean in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, from Peter and Ellie in Frank Capra’s “It Happened One Night” to the Delta House frat brothers in “Animal House,” Americans have always been attracted to the idea that our hopes and dreams may be waiting for us down the road, around the next corner, or over the next hill.  The lure of the open road can pop up at any time, even in winter, when Mother Nature isn’t exactly warm and welcoming to voyagers.  If your urge to travel outweighs any concerns about the weather, be sure to heed the safety tips for a winter road trip; we share a few of them below.

Check the weather forecasts, research traffic conditions and highway construction plans, and plot out a route — including reservations at overnight rest stops — that will get you where you want to go with minimal hassle and inconvenience.Plan your itinerary in advance.  The idea of just hopping into your car and going wherever the road takes you can be very appealing, but it’s a recipe for potential disaster.  You may be heading directly into a paralyzing storm or straight into a long series of traffic jams, which are less dangerous than blizzards but just as frustrating.  Check the weather forecasts, research traffic conditions and highway construction plans, and plot out a route — including reservations at overnight rest stops — that will get you where you want to go with minimal hassle and inconvenience.  Then make sure you share your plans with someone who can alert and inform the authorities if you get lost.

Prepare your vehicle for anything.  Hoping for the best isn’t an effective strategy.  Have your car tuned up before you leave home, and stock it with everything you might possibly need along the way, including (but not limited to):

  • Emergency Kit - Prepare your vehicle for anything.  Hoping for the best isn’t an effective strategy.  Have your car tuned up before you leave home, and stock it with everything you might possibly need along the wayA first-aid kit
  • A car emergency kit, complete with any potential repair needs and a fire extinguisher
  • Enough non-perishable food, drinks, water, and sanitary items to last several days (in case you’re stranded)
  • Cold-weather gear
  • Entertainment items (again, in case you’re stranded)
  • Your cellphone (preferably equipped with GPS), chargers, and up-to-date maps (cellphones don’t always work)

Once you’re packed, remember to fill the gas tank, and try to follow a route that offers access to quick, easy refills.

Get your rest.  Drowsy drivers are dangerous drivers — and not just to themselves.  Coffee may be an effective pick-me-up in the morning, but it shouldn’t be used as a remedy for driving fatigue.  If your eyelids are drooping well before your next planned stop, find a place to pull over for a nap; sleeping in your car is far preferable to (and much more affordable than) waking up in a hospital room.

Drive safely.  In inclement weather, safe driving means driving slowly, keeping your headlights on, maintaining more distance between your car and other vehicles, braking early and slowly, forgoing cruise control, and taking every precaution.

Hitting the open road can be quite rewarding — and/or just plain fun.  To enhance your enjoyment, make car and hotel reservations through Travel Plus:  You’ll earn 5% cash back on bookings and rebates on travel perks.  Happy trails!

Predictions for U.S. Travel in 2014

train-sunsetEvery holiday season, retrospectives on the previous 12 months and forecasts for the coming year pop up virtually everywhere.  As a favor to our readers (and on the theory that travelers care less about where they’ve been and more about where they’re headed), we’ve scanned the Internet to try to get a handle on what the travel industry might look like in 2014.  Below are a few of the predictions we found for United States travel in 2014.  (Disclaimer:  Please remember that these predictions are simply estimates and opinions, not guarantees.)

businessTravelBusiness travel spending will increase.  According to CNBC, a Global Business Travel Association study forecasts growth of 7.2% in business travel expenses, resulting from continued economic expansion and travel rate hikes.  However, the study also predicts that most of that increase will come from travel in Latin America and Asia, while short-haul business class travel in North America drops 8-13%.  Assuming U.S. airlines don’t try to make up the difference by raising airfare on vacationers, this could be good news for leisure travelers.  In fact …

planeU.S. airfares will decrease.  Condé Nast Traveler reports that an American Express Business Travel study believes fare wars will heat up between U.S. carriers.  Coupled with tighter corporate purse strings (likely due to other rate hikes mentioned above), this will bring about lower prices for domestic flights (which might also offer more and better Wi-Fi connectivity).  Lower airfares would be good news for travelers; however …

bellHotels and rental cars will be more expensive.  Carlson Wagonlit Travel predicts a 3.9% rise in room rates and an increase of up to 2% in rental-car prices in North America.  While such rental-car charges aren’t substantially higher than current overall inflation rates, that sort of hike in hotel fees might put off a number of would-be travelers.  Fortunately …

Hotels will work harder to appeal to travelers.  These efforts, according to Condé Nast Traveler, will include a greater focus on personal needs, enhanced layouts, more office amenities, and better Wi-Fi offers.  These features will be implemented in part to fend off potential revenue loss from a greater number of voyagers who opt to stay in homes rather than hotels.  Then again …

“Wellness” trips will increase.  Travel to Wellness predicts a surge in “wellness vacations” in the coming years as travelers (and their doctors) begin to embrace the benefits of improving one’s health and well-being.  Hotels will therefore expand their services to attract tourists who are looking to extend their lifespans and enhance their bodies, minds, and spirits.

Making predictions is a risky business, and forecasting the validity of other people’s predictions is even more dangerous.  We can make this prediction about U.S. travel in 2014, though:  Travel Plus members will continue to earn 5% cash back on their flight, hotel, and rental-car reservations and enjoy rebates on a variety of travel perks and comforts.  We invite you to share your own 2014 travel predictions in the Comments section.  Happy trails!

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!