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Travel bloggers: Money-saving tips all travelers should try

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 31/05/2017

Jetstar and Virgin are accused of concealing extra booking fees. © Sean Callinan Jetstar and Virgin As part of USA TODAY’s new travel research portal Embark, we’ve assembled an expert panel of travel bloggers to share their best advice to help you travel smarter, safer and more economically. This month’s query: Name one important money-saving tip you’d tell all travellers to try.

HIDDEN AIRLINE DEALS

Joshua Smith, Travel Designer, Global Citizen Journeys 

Many airlines have frequent-flier status deals or specials that aren't promoted. Last year American Airlines had a special for $240 where flying 12,500 miles in a three-month period would automatically get you Platinum status (two free bags, extra legroom, seat selection, complimentary upgrades, priority boarding, etc.). While I was speaking with a representative about having miles from another flight applied to my account, he shared some specials not shared online. I had two upcoming domestic flights that would have resulted in $180 of ancillary fees between baggage and choosing seats. I also had a European flight scheduled the following week, which immediately met the requirements for the special, so for essentially $60, I achieved Platinum status. Since then, I’ve saved probably $1,000 on fees, plus have received multiple upgrades to first class.

The same opportunities can be available with airlines matching frequent-flier status of other airlines in an attempt to gain your business and loyalty. These are constantly changing, but if you’ve got status on one airline, just call another one you may be flying on an upcoming flight to see if they’ll match it. It’s a competitive time for airlines, especially with some consolidating, so spend a few minutes and make that call to see what they’re willing to do in order to obtain and/or keep your business as it can save you a ton of money!

© Provided by USA Today TRY THE SHARING ECONOMY

Sherry Ott, Founder of Ottsworld.com  

You can save money in a multitude of ways while you travel, but many of the ways require you to try new ways of doing things. So the first way to save money is be open-minded when you travel, especially when thinking about utilizing the sharing economy.

Dip your toe in the sharing economy and try out the latest car-sharing apps that will save you money when you travel. If you are in France, Italy, Mexico, the U.K. or 17 other countries, try out the ridesharing app BlaBlaCar.com. Don’t rent a car, just carpool and meet interesting locals going your same direction, saving you lots of money in transportation. If carpooling isn’t your thing, then try Turo.com, an app that allows you to rent another person’s car. It cuts out the expensive rental car companies with all of the extra fees and allows you to use other people’s cars that are available. Prices are often cheaper than rental agencies. I recently tried this out and saved tons of money on a rental in Colorado by renting Susan’s 2007 Subaru Outback!    

Another easy way to save money is to take a free walking tour when you arrive in a city. Most cities offer free walking tours, and it’s a great way to get an overview of a new destination and get ideas on where you want to dig in further. Simply Google “free walking tour [name of city]” and you’ll find them for most cities. It’s typically a pay-what-you-like model and it’s up to you what and if you want to pay the guide at the end. 

MAKE YOUR LOYALTY PROGRAMS WORK FOR YOU

Howie Rappaport, Editor, AwardWallet

1. Always collect rewards

2. Never let rewards expire

3. Study up on rewards programs — the value is often in the details

First, you never want to leave any points/miles/rewards on the table because you didn’t sign up for a rewards program or you forgot to enter your account number. Rewards programs, whether they’re with an airline, credit card or your favourite grocery store, typically have no membership fees — if you’re not earning, you’re missing out!

By keeping track of all of your rewards, you’ll know how close you are to a particular redemption threshold, or when they might expire. AwardWallet will give you a heads-up before any rewards expire, so you’ll never have to worry that you’ll forget to cash in your points or miles.

Keeping track of your rewards is similar to watching a stock portfolio. You need to know what investments you have, but you also must understand the value of what you hold. The best value with travel rewards programs frequently is hidden in the fine print and typically involves partner relationships with other rewards programs. Study up on what rewards you’re collecting and review your goals to make sure your travel bank is helping you save money. The best program is the one that helps you achieve your travel goals.

FINDING CHEAP AIRFARES

Johnny Jet, Founder of JohnnyJet.com

Everyone always wants to save money when they travel — even the rich! My best advice for saving money on airfare is to be flexible with your travel days, times and stops. If you aren’t flexible, then you aren’t going to get a deal. It’s not that difficult to figure out that the most expensive time to fly is when everyone else is, so use your vacation days wisely. Typically, the cheapest days to fly are Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, except during holidays. For example, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is always one of the priciest days of the year.  

It seems like every time the moon changes phases, the airlines devalue their frequent-flier miles. On most airlines, it no longer pays to be loyal (unless you fly over 50,000 miles a year) since airlines reward miles now on how much you spend rather than distance flown. Airlines are also releasing fewer seats and requiring more miles, which really blows. But using miles and points is still the cheapest way to fly first class or get that dream ticket to Hawaii. So how do you do it? Easy. Get the right credit card, like ones that offer large sign-up bonuses, allow you to transfer to multiple carriers and don’t have blackout dates. But remember: Do NOT get a credit card unless you can pay it off in full each month. Otherwise, it’s not worth it. But if you can, then it’s a great way to save money when you travel.

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