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One thing I always look for when plotting my next voyage is flexibility. Even with forty years of travelling behind me, I’m still learning a few tricks as I go along. Over this last summer, I learned a few new ways to keep travel expenses low and still retain some flexibility. Here's a few discount travel tips that I hope will help you when flying or booking a hotel.
If there is one thing that can put a major dent in your travel budget, it is cancelling and re-booking a return flight. It can cost a pretty penny to make last minute travel plan changes. I once had to pay a $600 one way fare from Seattle to Philadelphia because a meeting was moved up a few hours. The round trip ticket I had in hand was useless. It was for that flight and that date and if you couldn’t make it - tough - it was your loss.
A few weeks ago, I found myself in another one of those situations that require flexibility in arranging a travel itinerary. Fortunately, I had a card up my sleeve, a mileage reward card from United Airlines. What’s great about United - and they just started this - is that you can now use your mileage awards to book one way tickets. Not only did I snag a one way from Philadelphia to Seattle for 12,500 miles, I managed to do the same on the return flight. So I had flexibility coming and going and that turned out to be a good thing because the meeting I had in Philadelphia was delayed a week.
When it comes to booking international tickets, you really have to check around. Another situation I got myself into this summer is booking a round trip ticket from Cairo, Egypt to New York. I started with the usual suspects - the online travel sites that we all know and love. I’m not going to mention their names because they don’t need the publicity.
The dirty little secret about the major online travel sites is that they don’t deal with all the airlines. When you’re travelling internationally, you end up finding the best deal on foreign airline carriers that, for whatever reason, don’t have some kind of arrangement with the big boys. To make a long story short, I ended up saving $300 by booking with Vayama.com.
There was another thing I got to love about Vayama.com - their customer service. On the return trip, I needed to make a change and they were extremely helpful in finding a cheap way to alter my ticket which was booked with British Airways. The only problem was they wanted to add $100 service fee for re-booking the return flight, a bit too steep for my cheap taste.
It wasn’t really a bad deal - $115.00 for changing the date plus the $100 service fee. But I decided to take a chance and deal directly with British Airways. They put me on hold for an eternity and then came back and said I’d need to pay $485.00 to make the same change. I mean how could that be?
Needless to say, I put up a little resistance, calmly explained to the lady what the folks at Vayama.com were willing to do and very politely asked her if she could check again. She said she’d put me on hold and talk to her supervisor but must have pressed the wrong button. I got to overhear her little conversation with another lady over at command central. She basically told her that there was a nice guy on the phone who didn’t want to pay that much to change his ticket. A minute later, she informed me that if I delayed my departure by a day, she could do the change for $114.00. It was only a buck cheaper than Vayama.com but what I really got to save was a $100.00 service fee just for being patient enough to stay on the phone for thirty minutes. An aside, when you’re dealing with customer representatives who overwhelmed with calls from people who have been put on hold for twenty or thirty minutes, don’t start griping about how long you’ve been on hold. Believe me; they know. A few pleasant words might lighten their burden and save you a few hundred bucks.