I live for vacations but they can get expensive so I’ve gotten really great at discovering lots of tips and tricks to turn a ho hum trip into a Dream Vacation. Let’s get started…
1. Read Reviews – A lot of them
This may seem like an obvious tip but most sites have become quite tricky with showing you “featured” reviews or “Good” reviews first. So, make sure you check out the bad reviews too. Reviews contain awesome tips about the best room to stay in, how to get an upgrade or what to eat. They are FREE and super helpful, take advantage. When investigating my Maldives trip, I noticed that not all resorts with over water villas had stairs to go down to swim. Nothing would have made me more frustrated than if I flew 17 hrs and realized that fact!
2. Play Around with Flight Options
Navigating the airline system these days is tough and complicated, even for a seasoned traveler. While it may take time, this step can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Don’t assume you can’t use miles for a reward ticket because you don’t have enough. Many airlines let you buy miles and a couple times a year they even sell them at a discounted price. These miles could help land you a reward ticket or a comfy upgrade. Also, most airlines let you buy a one way reward ticket, which can also lower your airline ticket expense. Remember to also get all the costs involved before booking – luggage fees, seat selection fees, taxes, etc.. No one wants to sit in a middle seat while on their way to their dream vacation.
3. Before Booking a Hotel – Call/Email Them First
This is something I just recently started doing and here’s why… Let’s say you see a deal online but it’s missing a couple perks that you would like i.e.. free wifi, transfers, a sunset cruise, etc… This is your time to negotiate! Trust me, the hotel/resort does not wanna lose your business over a minor fee like that. 9 times out of 10, they will agree to throw it in. Just BE NICE, explain how this trip has been a dream of yours and you that you can’t imagine staying anywhere else…if they could only just help you out a bit. If you feels shy over the phone, send a well written email. It works people…trust me. Don’t feel like you have to settle, it just takes a little time to earn a big savings!
4. Wait to Book Excursions/Spa Treatments/Speciality Dining
This is true for resorts and cruises, especially cruises. I know you are excited for your upcoming trip and want to plan it all out, but trust me, waiting to book these could save you a ton of money! Booking excursions ahead of time is OK for SCUBA diving, but all other excursions are an unknown gamble. You may find once you arrive that the snorkeling on the beach is just as good as a snorkel boat trip. You may talk to other guests and hear how XYZ excursion was a waste of money.
As far as cruise spa treatments go, here’s a HUGE tip… When you 1st board the boat, take the Spa tour. Wait to have that cocktail and hit the pool, on the Spa tour they always offer huge discounts and extras when booking at that time. Also, booking treatments on Day 1 or in port days also come a steep discount! On our last cruise, we were able to negotiate 2 massages each for the price of 1.
Specialty Dining normally comes with a fee while on cruises and at all inclusives. But just like the Spa tour tip, same goes for Speciality Dining. Walk around to visit the restaurants when you first arrive, most people don’t book the 1st night so many offer 2 for 1 deals, free bottles of wine, etc… Also, while on a cruise, most places also offer the same deal on in port days, since most people are leaving the boat that day. By exploring what the resort and cruise has to offer in those first 3 hours, you can score some major savings and freebies!
5. Once You Arrive – Ask A LOT of Questions
You have arrived and obviously are excited to finally be “on vacation”, but the first 3 hours are super important. Listen to the check in person, pay attention on the tour and get all your questions answered. If a Sunset Cruise is included, find out when it is offered – it might not be every night. So, by knowing all the info, you can make sure you get everything you paid for and you won’t have any disappointments during your vacation. Read the check in paper work, iteneray and other in room information – on our last vacation I noticed a tiny Halloween postcard in the room, something many couples missed, it included dates and times of super awesome activities like pumpkin carving. Other questions to ask might be concerning all inclusive packages – what’s not included, dining reservations needed, hours of dining, check out process, etc..
6. Be a Picky Eater <– my favorite
If you are unhappy with what is on a menu, ask for something else. I cannot tell you how many times I have created my own dish and the cruise or the all inclusive or the restaurant has gladly made it for me. You are the customer and as long as your polite and patient, they will help create something that will make you happy.
7. Tipping, Appreciation and Respect
You can disagree with me if you want but tipping is necessary, especially on the 1st day. I waited tables my whole life, tipping is a nice way to show your appreciation. But never wait until the end of your trip, that makes zero sense. We tip the most on Day 1, then the rest of the trip you get faster service at the bar, a cleaner room, excellent service in the restaurants and sometimes freebies – drinks, desserts, in room surprises. Also remember that compliments can also go a long way to make someones day. And the same goes for asking them about themselves, where they are from, etc…treating them with respect, and not just a service person is what being a good person and good traveller is all about. We call it “Vacation Karma” – the nicer you are to the staff and other guests, the better your vacation will be!
8. Use Social Media (if you are on it)
Before your trip and while there, Tweet, Instagram and Check-In. This can be a very helpful way to get free stuff. One year while staying at a Hyatt in Curacao, I had been a little irritated that over 6 days & celebrating my birthday, no one offered me a free glass of champagne or drink. So, before I went to bed one night, I tweeted to @Hyatt. The next morning at 8am, my doorbell rang, someone in Chicago had read my tweet and sent me a bottle of Veuve and a birthday cake! I was blown away! On this last vacation, they were so happy with my Instagram pictures, they gave me a discount on our excursion. You just never know who is paying attention online!
9. Ask for Upgrades at the Airport
Always look presentable when traveling, airlines like people who look nice to be in 1st class. Now upgrading can be ridiculously expensive BUT there is a way to make it happen for a faction of the cost. When you arrive at the airport, you ask them if there are any seats open and are they selling them. Most airlines sell upgrades sometimes 80% what the upgrade would have cost. On our last flight, the upgrade at purchase would have been $450 usd a piece. I snagged it at the airport for $100 for both. It’s not just about the nice seat & free meal though…starting your journey in 1st class allows you to skip the check in wait line, check multiple bags for free all the way thru, skip the long customs line and relax in the airport lounge before flying – enjoying the free wifi, water, drinks, food, magazines, etc. It was 100 bucks well spent!
10. Bring Sunscreen & Wear It!
1st off, bring your own sunscreen. You don’t want pay 20 bucks for a bottle at the resort or on the cruise. 2nd, WEAR IT. Nothing ruins a vacation faster than becoming a lobster on Day 2. If you are the one that gets burnt, you feel miserable. If your vacation partner is the lobster, then you have to hear them bitching about for the next 4 days – NO FUN.
11. Check Out the Night Before
Take an hour on the last day to review your bill, have the resort check you in and print off your boarding passes and settle your bill, if possible. I normally let Glen do this, while I pack up the room. This allows for a smooth morning upon departure. There is nothing worse than being stressed out, arguing about weird fees on your bill and losing all that calm, happy vacation mojo when you leave. It also prevents leaving things behind in the room. Also, most hotels/resorts/all inclusives will be glad to pack you free to-go breakfast. They don’t advertise this but they will, trust me. When we left our last resort, I had arranged with the chef the night before for croissants, hard boiled eggs and fruit with a juice box. We picked them up and got on the boat with 10 other guests…you can guess they weren’t too happy that they didn’t ask for a to-go breakfast box!
IF YOU DON”T ASK, YOU WON’T GET IT.
12. Make Friends
Be friendly to other guests, they might just become your new best friends. We have met countless friends on vacations, in fact the nice couple we met on our train adventure in Canada are coming to stay the weekend with us today!
13. Pack Your Own 1st Class Plane Bag
Just because your not in 1st class, don’t mean you can’t travel like like it. Get a small bag and pack the essentials – nice socks, eye mask (huge), good earplugs (HUGE), chap stick, hand lotion, face wipe, water, snack bar and a blanket. I also include a mini bottle of Tabasco too so if the food is bad, it will taste a bit better with some hot sauce on it! We just flew 12 hours in coach and let me tell you, the eye mask, ear plugs and chap stick made our journey SO much better. Then, when you get home, restock your bag and leave it in your luggage – that way it’s ready to go next time you fly.
14. Take Business/Personal Cards
Most of the time on vacation you aren’t with you pen/cell/purse/wallet/etc… So, you may meet someone and then never exchange info, I always carry my blog cards in case we meet someone fun or they ask about my blog. I also store a card in each suitcase, so if there are any luggage issues with the airlines, they have my contact info inside.
15. Be Vacation Independent
This is my last tip and I feel like it’s the most important. I have been on too many vacations where people weren’t their own vacation person. What I mean is if there is something you want to do and no one else does, DO IT. You shouldn’t have to put your wants away on your vacation. No one wants to play BINGO with you on the cruise, go play by yourself! You wanna play trivia and no one else does, GO. A vacation is your time to unwind, have fun and be happy. The only thing you will be…is resentful, if you don’t learn to be vacation independent. Plus, going places alone only means you meet more people!~