My favorite part of being an airline reservationist for American Airlines for five years was doing a lot of last-minute traveling. I had access to any flight I wanted for free or at a minimal cost, but I still had to pay for hotels and other travel expenses. Here are my top three travel tips to keep in mind:
1. Pay that extra $5 on hostels, hotels or Airbnbs
If you’re booking at an incredibly low price, find out why. Is it the neighborhood? Is the amenities? Is it the dates? I always found with hostels, spending an extra $5 makes a big difference. If a hotel is close in price, I always look into why. With hotels this is important when you’re booking one of Hotwire’s or Priceline’s mystery deals: Often a few dollars can get you a full star rating higher.
2. Find out ground transportation costs ahead of time
A city can technically have public transportation, but it doesn’t make a difference if it doesn’t go where you need it to. I recently chose an Airbnb in a beautiful suburban area but there wasn’t a shuttle or any real option to get to the airport for an early morning flight. It cost me $50 to get to the airport. If I had stayed elsewhere, that money could have been used for a great meal, souvenirs, entertainment, etc. If there wasn’t cool stuff nearby, I also would have spent a fortune on cabs.
3. Ask airline reservationists about where to go last-minute
We love this question! It gives us a chance to recommend places we love that may be lesser known and could save you money. They also may be able to tell you about a special sale going on. Be detailed as to whether you want beaches, a city feel, Europe, etc.
For instance, one of my favorite places is Catalina Island during the two special weeks in the winter where there are only 200 tourists on the whole island. It’s off the coast of southern California and easy to get to with an inexpensive ferry. Rooms were half off and it was so slow the hotel manager offered to take us lobster fishing. We actually got to hang out with the locals, but if we came two weeks later, most of the restaurants would have been closed.
How to maximize your rewardsYou want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2018, including those best for:
- Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®).
- Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card (Earn unlimited 2 miles per dollar on every purchase).
- Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve® (Get 3 points per dollar on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases).
- No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card (Earn unlimited 1.5 points per dollar spent on all purchases, with no annual fee).
- Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express (Get 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or through American Express Travel, plus get access to the Global Lounge Collection). Terms Apply.
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
Fall 2018 hotel points promotions: Which ones are worth your time?
Why I prefer Airbnbs over hotels — and how they save me money
Hack your way home for the holidays: A guide to redeeming your credit card rewards