10 more ideas for traveling cheaper in 2009

Even though the economic forecast seems to drone on and on as being gloomy, here are more tips for how to travel cheaply. With the beginning of a new year, start using some of these tips and you might find out that travel in 2009 can be less expensive than you thought it might be.

One of my mantras is “Don’t assume.” That means, don’t assume something is expensive until you check out all possible angles. I’ve been surprised over and over in my life how travel is doable and affordable.

1. Plan ahead AND wait until the last minute– I do both. Planning ahead, helps me save for a trip and have enough time to do research. Waiting until the last minute has landed me deals I didn’t expect like cheap tickets to a traveling company Broadway play and to see David Sedaris. I sat in great seats for a fraction of what the people around me had paid. Some theaters offer discounts on the day of a performance. That’s how I bought $25 dollar tickets to Avenue Q. Sometimes, certain days at certain times will be cheaper. Call a theater box office and ask.

2. Buy an Entertainment Book– If you’re going to be traveling to a particular city in the United States, consider buying that city’s Entertainment Book. An Entertainment Book, typically sold by clubs as fundraisers, can be purchased directly from the Entertainment Book website. If you buy one for the city nearest to where you live, there will be a deep discount for the second city purchase–or for both. The book contains coupons for restaurants, movie tickets, museum admissions, art events and other local attractions. After one purchase, the book often pays for itself. It’s also a great way to find out places to visit that you may not have thought of before browsing its pages.

3. Pack snacks – When you travel, pack snacks. Think about buying them ahead on sale and storing them so when you’re heading out the door, you have snacks on hand. That will help you stay fed while seeing sites without spending more money than you planned on. Plus, this will save you time since you won’t have to figure out what or where to eat. When my daughter and I were in Denmark the first part of December, my Danish friend had snacks on hand everywhere we went.

4. Ask for water– Whenever we travel, if we’re stopping at a fast food place, I always ask for a cup of water. Water is free. If you’re traveling on Amtrak, ask for ice. The ice is free and when it melts, you’ll have water. I received that tip from a woman who was traveling with her family from California to New York. She said buying water on the train is expensive, but the snack bar hands out ice for free.

5. When ordering at a restaurant, share– If you are traveling with another person, or as a family, figure out which items you can order to share that will give everyone something he or she wants to eat but will cost you less money. Yesterday, my son and I were eating at the Barn Restaurant at Sauder Village in Archbold, Ohio. I noticed that the sandwich plate was $4.99. For $3.99, you could add on one trip through the soup and salad bar. Instead of ordering him the soup, I ordered everything for myself, gave him the soup that came with meal and we shared items from the salad bar and the sandwich. The restaurant was amenable to this arrangement.

6. Ask for the best hotel deal at the front desk before you check in–In November, we stayed at the Millennium Hotel in downtown Cincinnati. When we were checking in, I was lamenting that we had an Expedia reservation since I found out that there were better deals if we had gone through the hotel directly. My dad, who was with us, asked the hotel clerk what he might throw in to sweeten our stay. We were given four continental breakfast vouchers. The breakfast was great. If we had paid, it would have cost us $10 a piece.

7. Don’t assume how expensive travel might be without checking first–This summer I was pleasantly surprised how inexpensive it was to take the train the New York City on Amtrak. I thought the train would have been more expensive than it was. Two weeks ago my mother snagged an airline ticket to LaGuardia for $166. This summer, the same ticket would have cost her almost $400.

8. Don’t assume you won’t be able to use frequent flyer miles for a flight–My daughter and I went to Denmark from Columbus for 50,000 miles each using Northwest frequent flyer miles. I thought we wouldn’t be able to get those tickets until I checked.

9. If you have a discount card, don’t forget to use itAAA is one of those cards I keep forgetting to use for other things besides our car and hotel deals. Two days ago, I was at the Libbey Glass Factory Outlet Store in Toledo, Ohio and saw that they give 10% off for AAA card holders. I saved $1. Hey, it’s something.

10. Go to places on days when there is a discount or a free day– Just today, when we were in Findlay, Ohio at Wilson’s, a family-owned hamburger joint that has been around since 1936, I found out that if you go in on a Saturday with your Wilson’s mug between 7–11 a.m., you can get a free cup of coffee. If we had gone to the Barn Restaurant on Monday night, my son would have eaten for free.

Speaking of coffee. When you travel, bring your travel coffee mug with you. Truck stop type places often will charge you less money if you bring in your own cup.

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Waiting to the last minute can pay off: It’s called rush tickets

Although, it’s true that living the Girl Scout motto “Be Prepared” can pay off, flying through life by the seat of ones pants also has merit. Take yesterday, for example. Yesterday, I got the urge to see Avenue Q. The touring company is in town for a few days, and because I’ve been busy, getting tickets became shuffled to the background of my life. Then, about 3 p.m., I had to go. I must go, even if no one was going with me. I’d be nuts not to. At 4:45 p.m. I dashed into the CAPA ticket office to buy my ticket.

The guy behind the counter said, “Ya’ know. At 6:00, you can get a $25 ticket. There will be 20 rush tickets for sale.

At 5:30, after a trip to the library to pay off a fine for overdue books, there I was, first in line, at the Palace Theatre box office, By 6:10, I had two tickets. At that price, my husband agreed to go with me when I called to tell him about our good fortune. By 7:50 we were settled into our third- row orchestra seats on the right-hand side, much better and cheaper than the ones we would have had if I had planned ahead.

There are two morals of this story:

  1. If you get the urge to go to a performance, even if it’s last minute, don’t assume it’s too late–you might hit pay dirt.
  2. If you want to plan ahead, find out if there are rush tickets and how to get them.

Here is a link to tips on getting rush tickets for Broadway shows in New York City, and here’s a link to Talkin’ Broadway’s On the Boards that has ticket information including rush ticket policies and standing room only details. Standing room only is another last minute, cheaper ticket option. Here’s Avenue Q’s touring schedule. I highly recommend it, but it’s bawdy. Good natured, clever and terrific, but bawdy.