Survey Finds Travelers Will Lie And Steal To Save A Penny

Traveling on a beer budget isn’t easy when you have champagne tastes but it seems some vacationers have found a way to cheat their budgets – as well as everyone around them. A survey of British vacationers has revealed the lengths some travelers will go to in order to pinch their pennies, including lying and stealing, among other tactics.

One notorious strategy involves couples pretending to be on their honeymoon in order to score flight or room upgrades, with about 5 percent of survey respondents admitting to faking a special event so they could receive a perk.

Twelve percent of travelers confessed they’d used the pool or other facilities at a hotel they weren’t actually a guest of, while 8 percent said they had used another hotel’s shuttle bus.In some instances, entire families have been drawn into the charade, with about 11 percent of those polled saying they had lied about their children’s ages so they could pay a lower entrance fee when entering theme parks.

Other travelers looked for ways to cut costs when it came to food and drink. A whopping 39 percent of respondents owned up to pinching food from the breakfast buffet in order to save money on lunch. A handful of others admitted to stooping even lower by leaving a bar or restaurant without paying their bill. Reassuringly, only 1.4 percent of people fell into that category.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Marion Doss]

5 Ways To Save On A Cruise Vacation, But Should You?

save on a cruise vacation

People who talk about how to save on a cruise vacation, often compare them to “floating hotels,” a way of thinking that can easily make cruise ships come out ahead financially. Just the all-inclusive nature of a cruise makes sailing popular. We get it. The issue is not which is a better value but how to save on cruises themselves. We understand it’s a good deal, but how do we maximize that value on a cruise vacation?

Buy far in advance- Cruise lines appreciate passengers who book far in advance and say so with lower prices. Passengers gain not only from that attractive pricing but also from a far better selection of cabins when booked a year or more in advance. Some fares are only offered by cruise lines right after releasing a new schedule of sailings or within a certain amount of time before sailing too.

Buy at the last minute- Travelers who are able to just drop everything and go to sea by booking 30 days or less in advance of sailing can find some great bargains too. These passengers need to be flexible not only about when they can sail but about their cabin location as well. By the same coin that makes buying in advance a good idea because of a superior selection of cabins, those who buy at the last minute need to be comfortable in less attractively located real estate.Be loyal- Cruise line packages and benefits for those who have sailed with them previously are considerable and can add up to real savings. Past guests are often the first to be offered special fares or discounts that will be available to the general public later. On board, past guest benefits are considerable, ranging from a welcome-back gift to special parties, wine tastings and other events exclusive to frequent cruisers.

Consider restricted fares but only if you’re sure- Most cruise vacations can be bought far in advance then canceled any time before final payment without penalty. Restricted fares lock in pricing, often at a rate lower than all others but require a non-refundable deposit and no other changes can be made without a hefty fee. This is not the fare for those who might change their minds later but can be the very best value for those with solid plans that are not apt to vary throughout the life of the booking. Traveling with the elderly, those with medical concerns, on a strict budget or even teens who might not think cruising is cool by the time the sailing rolls around, this is a great way to waste travel funds.

Cram as many people as possible into your cabin. It works. Some cruise lines have standard-sized cabins that will accommodate up to five people. Cruise lines base their world on double occupancy (two to a cabin). Solo travelers often pay twice as much but cabins with three, four or five pay far less as cruise lines commonly discount the third or more passengers in a cabin.

That’s good to know if on a really tight budget but begs the question: “Just because we can fit five in a cabin, should we?” In many cases the answer is a resounding “No!” I remember one time as a travel agent when a client called me from their fabulous cruise ship upon boarding then checking out their cabin. This lady was hoppin’ mad at me for allowing them to book four adults in a small, inside cabin, even though I’d warned her about the drawbacks.

Four people in one cabin means four people needing to use the shower and/or restroom at the same time to get ready for dinner. It’s trying to find a place for four people’s luggage, bodies and personal time. Add in that these were four very large people who barely fit in the third and fourth upper bunk bed-like berths and all of the sudden saving that money up front was not nearly as important.

That’s a very common flaw of cruise traveler buying habits too. Up front, there is a lot of concentration on price, much like they might spend on an airline ticket going from point A to point B. The travelers for whom this is a problem just want the rock bottom low price no matter what it means. After they get that price, some of those same people bounce back almost immediately, now concerned about their cabin location, type or even the ship and sailing date.

Those are the lucky ones. They still have time for a reality check to think about what it will be like in that obstructed view balcony cabin that saved them a few bucks. That’s time to consider if the loss of a perfect view for their cruise of a lifetime is worth it. To many, once they think about it, they realize that they would indeed not care for that and change.

Others wait and find out the hard way that their click-to-buy wonder deal was not all that much of a good value. It’s all about taking a realistic view at the price of a cruise, our personal travel budget and how those two can play nice with each other. Getting it right can make for a rich travel experience. Getting it wrong is just a waste of time and travel funds.


[Photo Credit: Chris Owen]

Kiwi Cool: Saving Money While Traveling In New Zealand

Saving money in New Zealand - supermarket lamb
Last month, I spent three weeks traveling through New Zealand, focusing mainly on the cities and culture. After living in Istanbul for two years, it wasn’t the culture shock, the jet lag, or the seasonal switch that was hard to adjust to, it was the prices. While I knew New Zealand wasn’t cheap (though their dollar is slightly weaker than ours), I was unprepared for the sticker shock. Dinner and drinks can easily run $50 a head or more, city buses can cost more than a NYC subway ride, and $3.50 for a bottle of water seemed offensive. I did discover a few ways to save money and still enjoy the Kiwi cool.

1. Drink locally, eat globally – New Zealand is known for its excellent wines, and starting to get accolades for their craft beer as well. Whether you’re dining out or picking up a bottle in a supermarket, it’s hard to go wrong with anything made in New Zealand; even the cheapest glass of house “Sav” is likely to be pretty tasty. Also note that many pubs are likely to be “tied” houses (unlike the excellent Free House in Nelson, pictured in my first “Kiwi cool” post) and will carry a limited range of brands, giving you an incentive to stick to the “house” tap. In contrast, for cheap eats, look for foods with origins outside the country; Asian cuisine like sushi, Chinese noodles, and Indian curries are often the most budget-friendly options and given the country’s ethnic mix, just as authentic Kiwi as roast leg of lamb and Pavlova.

2. Rent a car – This is one area where I didn’t follow my own advice, preferring to explore the country on public transportation as my husband is the only driver in the family and my baby is not a fan of car rides (yet she’s perfect on planes). Generally, public transportation in New Zealand is not cheap – a day pass for the Auckland bus system is over $10, taxis from the airport can cost up to $100, and the cost of two bus or train tickets between cities often exceeds the daily rate for a budget rental car. Kiwi companies Jucy and Apex offer older model cars as low as $22 – 34 per day, if you don’t mind a less than sweet ride.

3. Book transportation online – If you do choose to go the public transportation route, it can pay to make your arrangements online rather than in person. By booking tickets for the Waiheke Island ferry online, I saved $7 on each adult fare, even for a same day ticket. As part of the promotion for the new Northern Explorer Auckland-Wellington train, Kiwi Rail was offering two-for-one tickets, check their website for current promotions.

4. Check out motels – In my European travels, I’ve been using AirBnB and other apartment sites to book accommodations, as it pays to have extra space, laundry and a kitchen when you are traveling with a baby. The AirBnB craze hasn’t quite hit New Zealand yet, though you may find luck with BookABach (a bach is a Kiwi word for a vacation home that might be more basic than a typical house). I was more surprised by the quality of motels and motor lodges in New Zealand, they are often modern in style and comfortably outfitted with nice amenities like heated towel racks, electric blankets, and real milk for your coffee standard (a small pleasure compared to the powdered creamer typical in most hotel rooms). Motel rooms range from modest studios to sprawling apartments with jacuzzis. I found a useful directory of accommodations on NewZealand.com, and you can filter for features such as laundry or pool and check for special deals. Golden Chain is a quality collection of independent motels spread over both islands.

5. Create your own Wi-Fi hotspot – Another surprise I found in New Zealand is the lack of free Wi-Fi. Even many coffee shops only offer Internet for a fee, and some accommodations will limit your free connection to 100 mb or so per day. The city of Wellington has set up free hotspots in the city center, but I found the signal hit or miss. A more reliable and affordable option is to make your own hotspot by purchasing a pre-paid SIM card with data. Consult this helpful wiki for rates; I bought a SIM through 2degrees with 1 GB of data for about $20. One other tip is to find the local iSite tourism office for a short period of Wi-Fi access if you need to check email or make travel plans (they can help with booking travel and accommodation too, of course).

6. Shop vintage – After a few days in Kiwi Land, you’ll feel an urge to buy lots of nice merino wool clothing and gifts. For a country with apparently more sheep than people, it is everywhere and you can easily spend hundreds of dollars on new sweaters. Another option is to try vintage and thrift shops. I found a lovely baby sweater probably knitted by a nice Kiwi grandmother for $8 in an antique store, just as quality as the $30 one I bought at a market, and both far cheaper than most retail shops. Auckland’s K Road and Wellington’s Newtown have lots of used and “opportunity” shops, often with proceeds going to charity. Eco-friendly fashion is also becoming more widespread, and “recycled” fashion shops can be found in most cities.

7. Stay in on public holidays – One upside to the high cost of a pint of beer is that tipping is unnecessary in New Zealand; the GST tax on goods includes service. However, you will note on many restaurant menus a surcharge for public holidays of 15%. This covers the owner’s cost of paying their employees more for the holidays. Try to avoid dining out on holidays or look at it as a special holiday gratuity.

A bonus tip that may or may not be relevant in the future: follow the rugby fan trail. Started for the Rugby World Cup in 2011 to ease traffic congestion and crowding on public transport, Auckland’s Fan Trail was revived for a match against Australia last month. The trail stretches two miles from downtown to the stadium and is lined with entertainment, food and drinks, and other activities, most of which are free. Even if you aren’t headed to a game, it’s fun to watch both the performers and the fans dressed up to cheer on their team. If you happen to be in Auckland during a future big rugby match, find out if the city plans to run the fan trail again.

Stay tuned for more “Kiwi Cool: New Zealand for the Un-adventurous.”

Alabama celebrates its haunted past with an entire month of events

alabama hosts scary events throughout octoberThroughout October, the state of Alabama in the United States will celebrate its haunted past with a variety of events, including ghost walks, story-telling festivals, and a moonlit tour of Old Cahawba, a historic ghost town.

Here are some of the scheduled events:

7th Annual “Historic Haunts Walk”
Athens, Alabama (Oct 4, 12, 14, 19)

This spooky walk will begin at the Houston Library and includes stories about paranormal activity at twelve local structures. For instance, hear about the girl who fell to her death at Athens University and is still said to wander the halls. Each walk lasts about 90 minutes, with tickets costing $5. For more information, contact Limestone County Tourism at 1-256-232-5411 or Jeanette@visitathensal.com.

Storytellin’ Campfire Talk: Spooks in the Valley
Fort Payne, Alabama (Oct 22)

This free event takes place at the large pavilion in DeSoto State Park. Sit around a campfire and listen to ghostly tales and scary stories. For more information, call 1-256-782-5697.

Ghost Walk & Fall Festival
Thomasville, Alabama (Oct 23)

The Thomasville Arts Council will be acting out some of renowned storyteller Kathryn Tucker Windham‘s famous scary stories. There will also be haunted tours, street dancing, a motorcycle poker ride, a car show, and a haunted house. For more information, call the Thomasville Chamber of Commerce at 1-334-636-1542.

To view the complete list of scary events for the month of October, click here.

10 budgeting mistakes even smart travelers make

don't overpack if you are on a travel budgetWhen traveling, it’s easy to go overboard and spend more money than you expected. What’s important is that you spend your extra cash having fun experiences instead of on mistakes that could have been prevented with some planning. Read these 10 common money mistakes often made by travelers to help save money on your next trip.

Mistake #1: Overpacking

This is a mistake that can rack up travel costs for many reasons. First of all, depending on what airline you are flying with, you may be charged a fee for each bag you bring. Not only that, but travelers must pay not only based on how many bags they bring, but also on how much they weigh. Once you are off the plane and at your accommodation, if you have brought more luggage than you can carry yourself you will have to consider porter and bellhop costs. Just do yourself a favor and only bring items you can see yourself using and wearing multiple times.budget travelMistake #2: Not knowing the exchange rate

If you’re looking to save money, it’s a good idea to do a little research and figure out what destinations will give you the most mileage for your dollar. For example, many regions in Canada, Australia, and Western Europe have strong currencies, meaning you may end up losing money in the exchange. However, if you plan a trip to, say, Hanoi, Vietnam, or Prague in the Czech Republic, you can end up saving a lot of cash.

When traveling, you should also pay attention to what currency exchange offices offer the best rates. For instance, airport currency exchanges are usually not the best places to change your money.

Mistake #3: Forgetting to check the weather of your destination

Last June I went to Paris, France, traveling under the assumption that France is always hot (on television the French always seem to be sipping wine in sunny vineyards and relaxing in little clothing in quaint little cafes). If I had checked the weather beforehand, I would have known that shorts and sleeveless shirts were not practical for when I was going, and I wouldn’t have had to buy new clothing, a jacket, and an umbrella that I ended up leaving behind anyway.

The moral of the story? Check the weather of your destination before you leave so you can pack appropriately and save yourself from having to buy a whole new wardrobe.

Mistake #4: Not knowing international phone rates

If you really don’t need your phone, leave it home, as you can save a lot of added costs. There are many other ways to stay in touch with people at home, such as e-mail or web chat (find areas with free Wi-Fi or see if your hotel provides it). If you must have your phone, invest in an international calling plan. While every phone company offers a different plan, I have always found that services such as Skype and PennyTalk offer the best deals. Another low-cost option is to purchase a local SIM card in the country you are visiting.

budget travelMistake #5: Traveling like everyone else

Not only is traveling during high-peak season more crowded and chaotic, it’s more expensive. If there’s an activity you love, try an off-the-beaten path destination to do it instead of following the crowd. Instead of going away in the summer, find a destination that offers your ideal weather in the spring. This can not only save you money, but can also introduce you to new, unexplored destinations.

Mistake #6: Not knowing the tipping etiquette

Tipping etiquette differs from country to country, so don’t just assume that just because in your home town you leave 20% gratuity when going out to eat you must do that everywhere. For example, an article on MSNBC.com says that tipping in Fiji is discouraged, while a server in Mexico will expect a 10%-15% tip. Know the customs before you go to avoid throwing away money unnecessarily.

Mistake #7: Not purchasing travel insurance

While travel insurance isn’t free, it can also end up saving you a ton of money if an emergency does occur. Hospital bills, cancelled flights, and natural disasters aren’t cheap and you can get very affordable travel insurance plans at Access America and World Nomads. Also, if you have health insurance or a travel credit card at home, call their customer service numbers to ask what you are already covered for abroad.

Mistake #8: Not knowing your transportation options

While taxis may be the most convenient way to get around a place, they are often the most expensive. Using public transportation options such as trains, buses, tro-tros, tuk tuks, and metros can save travelers literally hundreds of dollars. If you are unsure of how to get to a place ask your accommodation to help you plan the cheapest route. Also, before even stepping on the plane to go abroad, contact your hotel and ask them what the most cost-efficient method to reach the hotel from the airport is, what stop to get off at, and specific walking directions.

Mistake #9: Not taking advantage of frequent flier programs

If you travel regularly, it pays to either signup for a frequent flier program or apply for a credit card that will give you miles. Having loyalty to specific airlines may be difficult for some people to commit to, however, it can lead to free flights and discounted travel.

Mistake #10: Always being a tourist

This is an easy mistake to make, as when people are in a place for the first time they usually end up being drawn to all the flashy signs and salespeople offering experiences at must-see attractions. While you should see the big sights, there are often free museums, open air entertainment, and complimentary attractions in every place you visit. This goes for restaurants, too. While the big, sparkling venue with the extensive (and pricey!) menu in English may look good, wouldn’t it be nice to have an authentic (and budget-friendly) dining experience at a smaller, local eatery? Street-food is also a money-saving option, as well as grocery stores (bonus if you’re accommodation has a kitchen or serves free breakfast). Also, ask your hotel when museums, restaurants, and attractions offer discounts and promotions, such as free entry on Monday nights at an art gallery or complimentary tapas at a Spanish restaurant with a drink purchase.