Best Price Guarantees

There is a simple way to make money for future trips that takes little effort from you.  Most of the major travel sites have best price guarantees.  This means if you find a better price on another site for the exact same item, they will match the price and give you a credit for a future booking.  You can use this strategy on airfare, hotels, and car rentals.  I’ve used it both for airfare and hotels on Travelocity and Expedia.

It takes a little effort, but not much.  You just need to search multiple travel sites for any of your bookings (something I would suggest anyway, since you always want to get the best price).  The fun begins when you find something you want to book and you have a site that it priced higher than another (on a site that has a best price guarantee).  You make note of which site had the lower price, but you book the item on the higher priced site.  You then follow the best price guarantee procedure for that site.  That usually means submitting an on-line form or calling a customer service representative.  You tell them what you booked and where the lower price can be found.

I’ve used this for our flights between Oahu and Maui on our last Hawaiian vacation.  It took almost no time and I got a $50 credit towards a future booking.  I’ve also used it on a hotel booking for a trip to Maine.  They matched the lower price and I got a $50 credit towards a future booking.  Each of these probably took me about 10 minutes to submit the documentation.

A few important points:

  • Make sure the site you’re booking with has a best price guarantee
  • Make sure that the lower price site item is for EXACTLY the same item as the higher price site
  • Submit your best price guarantee documentation as soon as possible (no more than 24 hours later) since prices can change fast
  • There is a blog called The Best Rate Guarantee Blog that talks about how to use the best price guarantee on hotel bookings
  • As stated on The Best Rate Guarantee Blog, Hotels Combined is a great starting point for hotel bookings.
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Expert Flyer and KVS

There are 2 web sites that most people in the cheap travel game use for finding flights – Expert Flyer and KVS Tool.  These sites allow you to search for airfares, frequent flyer tickets, and how many seats exist at each fare class for many airlines.  Let’s say you’re looking to redeem frequent flyer miles for a flight.  This tool will allow you to see which flights have frequent flyer tickets available and how many tickets they have.  From this information, you can determine which legs of the trip are preventing your desired trip from being available for frequent flyer redemption.  You can then look for alternate routes to get you to your desired destination.

Another great use of these tools is described in this week’s Travel Sort blog.  It describes how you can use married segments to find cheap flights.  As he alludes to in the article, this is what people use to string together mileage runs.  They are looking to find the cheapest dollar/mile trips to help them get status with an airline.  When you have status with an airline, you accumulate mileage faster and you often can upgrade to first class for free.

This article is fascinating.  If you are looking to book a trip which is long enough where you could have a connection, you should definitely check this out.  I ran a couple of tests based on the information in the article and saw hundreds of dollars difference for the exact same flights using his advice.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!  I hope you do something for yourself today.  My mom friends and I have a tradition of going out to dinner together for Mother’s Day.  That way you’re always guaranteed to have a little me time on your day.

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Sample trip planning – Hawaii

This last February I was lucky to take my first trip to Hawaii with my husband and kids.  I spent a lot of time planning for the trip months ahead of it.  I know 2 people who live in Hawaii so I asked both of them for tips.  The most basic question I had was which islands I should visit.  They gave me descriptions of the islands.  She said:

  • Oahu – this island is the most populated.  This island is good for people who like to go out to clubs and shopping.  It also has a lot of historical sites including Pearl Harbor.
  • Maui – this island is a balance of remote activities and urban activities.  There are many high-end resorts.  This is a popular destination for honeymooners.  You can drive the road to Hana, bike down Haleakala, or take in a round of golf at world famous PGA courses.
  • The Big Island - this island is known for it’s volcano, ecological diversity, and history.
  • Kaui – this island is known as the Garden Island.  It is known for it’s remote destinations and hiking.
  • Lanai – this island is remote but has 2 top resorts.

Based on those descriptions and flight availability, we went to Oahu and Maui.

Airfare: Last year, my husband and I both got the British Airways 100k credit card sign-up bonus.  We used those points to get all of our airfare.  Since each ticket cost 35k in miles, we needed 140k for all of us.  BA allows  you to create a household account so you can combine miles for anyone who lives in the same house.  We did this so that we wouldn’t have remnant miles in our single accounts.  After getting our tickets, we still had 60k in our household account.  We flew into Oahu and out of Maui.  We bought puddle-jumper flights between Oahu and Maui on go!Mokulele.

We were worried about the long flights down to Hawaii.  We weren’t sure how our boys would behave being couped up for a long time on flights.  I have to say that I was really surprised at how well they did.  We bought them both a DS before the trip so they would have something to keep them occupied.  They also enjoyed looking out the windows and seeing how high in the air we were.  And jet lag wasn’t too bad of a problem either.  We made sure to tell them before we left that we would expect them to sleep at the hotel when we got in.  We got in around 11 PM, which in east coast time is about the time they get up.  But I think because it was dark outside and the long day of traveling, they didn’t have a problem sleeping.

Rental Car: Since we were going to 2 islands, I had to make 2 rental car reservations.  I booked directly with Budget for our rental car on Oahu.  I found a great discount code by Googling “Budget car discount code”.  I booked our rental car for Maui using Priceline (after checking Better Bidding and Bidding for Travel).

Hotel: After consulting, Better Bidding and Bidding for Travel, I used Priceline to book a hotel on Oahu.  I used the method described in a previous post to bid.  I was able to get a room at the Sheraton Waikiki for $110/night (when the lowest you could find using traditional sites was $260/night).  I used Starwood hotel points for one of our nights on Maui at the Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas.  And I used cash and points for 2 of our nights there so it only cost us $90/night.

Activities – Oahu: The first thing I did was figure out what activities we wanted to do while we were in Hawaii.  I knew we wanted to go to Pearl Harbor.  Since we were only on Oahu for about one day, we knew we wouldn’t have time to do much more there.  We figured we’d go to Pearl Harbor and spend the rest of the time at our resort and on Waikiki Beach.  We made sure to get to Pearl Harbor early because tickets to the USS Arizona are handed out in the morning.  If you don’t get there early, you may get a time very late in the day or not at all.

Activities – Maui: On Maui, we wanted to go to a luau, see whales, go snorkeling, and my husband wanted to bike down Haleakala.  One of the people I know who lives in Hawaii lives on Maui.  She told me that we would see whales from the shore.  We shouldn’t waste our time with a whale watching trip.  If we wanted to see them up closer, we should just do anything on the water.  Her husband also works for Maui Sunriders which does bike tours down Haleakala.  My husband booked a trip with them.  We killed 2 birds with 1 stone by booking a snorkeling trip.  We got to snorkel and see whales.  There are tons of companies who do snorkeling trip.  We went with the Pacific Whale Foundation because they had discounts for kids.  Kids 6 and under were free.  And kids 7 – 12 were only $35.  For the luau, I searched on-line and researched in travel books.  Luaus can be quite expensive.  Since it was our first luau and we were going with kids, I didn’t want to book a super expensive luau.  I found Maui Hawaii Luau which offered discounts on luaus (I believe the web site is run by Boss Frog’s because that’s where we picked up our tickets).  We booked the Ka’anapali Beach Luau (which is really the Royal Lahaina Luau) because kids 3 – 11 were free with a paying adult.  Plus they had a kids buffet which included hotdogs, chicken nuggets, and chips.

In another post(s), I’ll give reviews of the places we visited.  It was an incredible vacation.  We are looking forward to going back again next year.

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British Airways Credit Card 100k Sign-up Bonus Still Active

The British Airways credit card with the 100,000 mile sign-up bonus is still active today.  The web site said it’s good if you apply by May 6, 2011.  If you haven’t already had the card and want to start in the credit card game, this is a great card.  Here’s the link.  You can redeem British Airways miles on American Airlines.  A round-trip ticket within the contiguous U.S. is 25,000.  So you could get 4 round-trip tickets with this.

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Presidential Coins

I’m guessing that this next method that some people use to accumulate a lot of frequent flyer points might sound crazy to some of you.  I want to cover all ways that people accumulate points, even ones that some people may not choose to do.  Even if it sounds crazy at first, you may choose to do this option for cards that have high spending requirements to get the sign-up bonus.  And this is a method that some of the hard-core gamers use to rack up big frequent flyer balances.  So here we go.

The U.S. Mint sells boxes of rolls of $1 coins (Presidential and Native American) at face value and they do not charge for shipping if you order over $500 in coins.  The point of the program is to get $1 coins into circulation as the life of a coin is much greater than the life of a dollar bill.

This program has allowed people to accumulate a lot of frequent flyer points.  I will explain how they do this.  However, I want to point out that it may not be in accordance with the intent of the program.

The Mint allows you to buy 4 boxes ($1,000) every 10 days.  They buy the boxes using a frequent flyer credit card.  This allows them to get frequent flyer points based on the spend.  The coins are then shipped to them.  Some people use the coins for purchases.  Others take the coins and deposit them in their bank account.  They then use that bank account to pay off their credit card they used to purchase the coins, making it a $0 sum transaction.

A few notes:

  • Be prepared for some funny looks from bank tellers if you bring the coins to the bank
  • Some banks may not accept the coins, so check with your bank ahead of time
  • US Bank will not give you points for these transactions
  • Chase has closed accounts of some account holders who abused the program – use it responsibly
  • Amex has issued financial reviews of some card holders

To order coins, follow this link to the U.S. Mint site.

For more detailed information about this, check out this Flyertalk thread.

If you decide to do this, use it responsibly.  Do not abuse the program.  Do not get greedy.

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