Budget Holiday Travel Possible With New Way Of Thinking

holiday travel

The desire for holiday travel is here. We want to visit friends and family sometime between now and the new year. Still, to recover from economic challenges, travel-related businesses are operating differently than they may have in years past, making that desire for holiday travel more difficult to achieve. Today, there can be a lot more to consider when planning holiday travel than getting time off work, choosing convenient flights and arriving with gifts for all.

“It’s not just tight family finances making travel tough,” says a Detroit News article. “Airlines struggling to save on jet fuel and other expenses have cut the number of flights, leading to a jump in airfares. Those hitting the roads face high gas prices and rising tolls.”

In the past, filling the tank of the family car with gas, planning which route to take and where to stop along the way was about all it took to make it to our holiday destination. Today, travelers on a holiday road trip make sure to have plenty of travel funds available to keep that tank full, check with their favorite mid-way motel to see if it is still open and pack food rather than buying it along the way.

Previously, a seemingly unending number of flights to major destinations had picky travelers looking to fly at a convenient time, in seats together and on their favorite airline. Today’s reduced flight capacity has travelers settling for a flight close to what they had in mind at a price that won’t break the bank.

Still, there are steps that travelers can take to hold down costs, steps that can make the difference between being able to afford holiday travel or not.Packing- Fees for checked bags don’t seem to be going away any time soon so many travelers are re-thinking just how much clothing they really need at their destination. Throw out the old packing list and take a look at reducing what we take along down to one carry-on and a personal item that will fit under the seat.

Use those miles- For those who have been hoarding miles for a future, unknown trip, right now may be the time to dust them off and use them up. Airline tickets, hotel reservations, car rentals and more that might have fit into the holiday travel budget nicely in the past might not now without some work.

Leverage the Internet like never before– From meals to hotels, entertainment venues and more, information on just how much expenses along the way might be is readily available online. Planning each meal of a multi-day trip in advance alone can add up to huge savings vs. just stopping at some place that looks good. Avoiding expensive breakfast in hotels and eating less expensive lunches than dinners can be helpful too.

Utilize Public Transportation- Whenever possible take advantage of this least expensive option to get from point A to point B. Many cities with subways and/or rail transportation systems have smartphone apps to help plan and budget trips in advance too.

Weigh Options- Take the extra time and compare flying to driving or train service. A two-hour flight might not take all that much longer driving when we consider time to get to the airport, through security and to the gate as well as time getting off the plane and out of the airport. It can easily take me longer and cost more to fly from Orlando to Miami vs. just getting in the car and driving there.

Engage Everyone- Social networks have us talking to people around the world easier than ever before. Why not ask a favorite blogger, online group or business for tips on navigating their city, product or travel-related service. That’s a good way to go with planning and also while in-transit, as many travelers have found out tweeting a problem to airlines, hotels and other companies.

In the end, some big savings can be had by just thinking about travel differently.

Do I really need three pairs of jeans and six shirts for this trip?
The locals manage to use the subway system just fine, can’t I?
I have never been on an Amtrak train; is now the time to try?

Checking in with online sources can get us thinking in the right direction as we see in this ABC News video:




[Photo Credit- Flickr user jazzowl2003]

Social Sites And Travel: Good For Looking, Not Buying

social sitesSocial sites like Facebook are one of the sources considered when travelers look to find some sort of shopping-related deal. But how many travelers use social sites to actually book a trip?

According to PhoCusWright’s Social Media in Travel 2012: Social Networks and Traveler Reviews, more than three-fourths of travelers turn to social networks to find some type of shopping-related deal, and 30% specifically seek out travel-related deals. But companies that have implemented booking tools within Facebook have so far reported mixed results.

“Everybody and their grandma may be on Facebook, but for many in the travel industry, that has not made social into a reliably actionable and demonstrably profitable marketing medium,” said Douglas Quinby, senior director of research at PhoCusWright in Travel Daily News.

According to the study, travelers do not use social networks to purchase travel, as they would search or travel sites. Sharing travel photos and stories on social sites is popular. Making purchases, not so much.
“The potential of social for travel may lie less in any one platform and more in the ecosystem of social data,” says Quinby, “to socialize a traveler’s experience across a variety of online travel websites and mobile applications.”

Need travel information in person? The up close and personal nature of travel shows like the New York Times Travel Show might be the answer. Travel shows feature exhibitors representing countries from around the world with a focus on travel destinations, packages and special offers, as well as tour operators, cruise lines and live entertainment for the whole family as we see in this video:




[Flickr photo by ideagirlmedia]

Five chilling facts about Cyber Monday Shopping

cyber mondayOkay, your goal should be NOT to conform to what you see below. The travel industry, riding something of a recovery this year, is set to come out with some solid sales on Cyber Monday, the biggest online shopping day of the year. So, as you click among hotel, airline and online travel agency sites, it will pay for you to be aware of the biggest risks you face.

Despite the many risks associated with online shopping – and the fact that they have been shoved in the public’s face since the early days of internet commercialization – people still roll the dice with their financial security. When you get excited about cheap tickets or a real bargain on the excursion of a lifetime, take a moment to make sure you aren’t getting scammed. Your savviest purchase may be the one you never make.

So, what are the risks? Let’s take a look at five scary facts from web security firm Webroot:1. Don’t trust page one: a high placement in Google search results shouldn’t be a sign of trust. According to Webroot, 59 percent of survey respondents trust the results they get in the first few pages, up from 39 percent last year. Unfortunately, this placement is “a target for malicious links.” Interestingly, the number of people using search engines is falling: “48 percent of online shoppers frequently if not always use search engines to find gifts online, compared to 52 percent in 2009,” Webroot reports.

Solution: Watch brand. If you recognize the company’s brand, you can be more comfortable with the purchase. Also, watch where the link sends you. For an extra layer of protection, enter the company’s address into the browser yourself instead of clicking the link in Google.

2. Risky wifi behavior: 18 percent of shoppers are likely to use public wifi for holiday shopping, Webroot reports, up from 12 percent in 2009. This can be risky, especially with 23 percent of respondents feeling comfortable using free public wifi.

Solution: Do your online shopping at home or at work. Stealing wifi from your neighbor so you can toss your credit card number onto the web is probably pretty stupid.

3. New site, new password: are you planning to jump on a deal from a company you haven’t used before? Well, this is the point of many of the Cyber Monday travel deals you’ll see: companies want to lure you away from your ol’ stand-by sites. Do take advantage of the hot promotions, but be smart. Using the same password everywhere is like hiding a house key under your doormat.

Solution: Use a new password every time you create an account with a travel website. Also, be one of the 72 percent of online shoppers who uses a “complex” password – i.e., a mix of letters, numbers and symbols.

4. Social should be personal: 26 percent of respondents to the Webroot survey indicated that someone else had used their social media or email accounts to send friends messages in their names. With travel companies increasingly turning to social media platforms to market their deals and bolster their brands, expect a lot more interaction this year … which brings hefty doses of risk with it.

Solution: Take a look at your sent messages from time to time, and look at your Twitter stream from the perspective of another user. Make sure you recognize everything you’re putting out into the world.

5. Look for safety: 52 percent of Webroot’s respondents don’t check to see if a site uses SSL, and 50 percent don’t look for the padlock in the lower right corner of the web browser. This is like not twisting the doorknob after you lock it.

Solution: pay attention to where you make purchases online. In addition to getting comfortable with the company website, you also want to be aware of the security in place. If something feels off, play it safe: don’t buy. No deal is worth the consequences of risky online purchasing behavior.

[Via Insurance Information Institute, photo by InfoMofo via Flickr]

Top five social media destinations

Do you live your life in 140 characters are less? Have you almost lost your life several times because you had to get that shot of a crazy cab driver uploaded to Facebook? If this is anything like you, here are five cities you’re just going to love.

NetProspex has ranked the cities in the United States by social media activity, and the results are not at all surprising. Using the NetProspex Social Index (PDF), which the company developed, it was able to rank activity across a number of social media platforms, including Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Here are the details on the methodology:

The data was mined from their database of business contacts. There are three components to the score. First there is social connectedness: the number of employees with at least one social media profile. Second there is social friendliness and reach: the average number of connections per employee across major social networks. Third is social activity: the average number of tweets, number of followers, and number of users following.

So, who wins? Take a look below:
1. San Francisco: home of Twitter and long-time tech city, is this really surprising?

2. San Jose: okay, like San Francisco but not as cool … pretty easy to see this one coming

3. New York: 8 million people with nothing better to do and plenty to TwitPic

4. Austin: who knew the country’s sexiest city would also be one of its most socially connected? Hot people flock together and like to stay in touch

5. Boston: another tech center, especially the metro area, and there really is nothing better to do up there …

[Thanks @zimmermitch, photo by Laurie DePrete]

Traveling women are Facebook addicts

A new study of female travelers indicates that close to half can’t let go of Facebook when they’re on the road. Unsurprisingly, Facebook is the social network of choice for women on the go.

Ninety-three percent of women who have had an overnight trip in the past month, according to Women on Their Way, have Facebook accounts, and 68 percent of them use it for travel purposes. What do they like to do most? Share multimedia! Fifty-seven percent engage in that activity. Status updates and commentary about the trip are next (38 percent), followed by Facebook Places check-ins (13 percent).

While these activities can happen before or after the trip has come to a close, 46 percent of respondents said they use Facebook while actually traveling, and 77 percent connect to the social media platform via a laptop.

So, if you see some hottie in the hotel bar and want to know if she’s interested in doing something regrettable … well, it helps to be “friends” first.


[photo by Andrew Feinberg via Flickr]