There’s still time to take a summer vacation. That means there’s still time to make mistakes – or prevent them. Here are five travel blunders we want to help you avoid.
TAKING THE FAMILY CAR:
It’s easy to just hop in your car and head out on a road trip. But first, consider logging those miles on someone else’s vehicle, i.e. a rental car.
"It's a good idea to look for a rental car, because you're saving the mileage on your own car-- wear and tear," said AAA’s Mark Jenkins.
Rental cars are also generally new, likely offering better gas mileage than your car. That will save you money.
It’s generally unwise to pay the “regular” rate for a rental. Be sure to hunt down discount codes (i.e. AAA, warehouse clubs, alumni associations, etc.) and coupons, which are easily found online.
BELIEVING HOTEL PHOTOS:
Hotels do a great job marketing themselves with tempting images that make every resort look like paradise. But you can’t always believe what you see.
Do your homework before you book. Sites like Oyster.com Tripadvisor.com feature user photos. Scrutinize them and be sure to read the reviews from people who’ve gone before you.
"Find someone in the know," Jenkins recommends.
A little research is the best way to protect what I believe to be the most valuable commodity on the planet: scarce vacation time.
ACCEPTING THE FIRST RATE:
Savvy travelers book their hotel in advance and then continue checking the rate—daily if need be. They’re looking for lower rates and so should you.
“If the rate changes and it gets cheaper, the hotels have to honor that rate," Jenkins said.
Generally, all you have to do is call or revise the reservation online.
Think about it: if you’re staying somewhere a week and the rate drops by a mere $10, that’s actually a savings of $70 plus tax.
Earning $70 for a simple phone call? Sign me up.
The only catch is prepaid bookings. Those are general not changeable or cancellable, so before you pre-pay for a hotel make sure you absolutely have the very best deal possible.
BUYING THEME PARK TICKETS:
Theme park tickets are out of our control. Disney’s Magic Kingdom tickets (for non-Florida residents) are up to $105 per person, per day. So it’s no surprise that families are on the prowl for a deal.
But, AAA warns that buying tickets from a stranger (like those advertised in online classifieds) is a bad idea.
"People are buying their theme park tickets in parking lots from random people and then they get to the theme park only to find out that that ticket doesn't work,” Jenkins said. “Then they're out hundreds of dollars."
To be safe: only use an authorized dealer.
Don't listen to what non-authorized re-sellers might tell you about partially used tickets. Theme park tickets are generally not transferable. Theme parks use identification technology like fingerprint readers at the gate and strictly enforce a zero tolerance policy regarding cheaters.
Again: only use an authorized dealer.
FOLLOWING THE CROWD:
Some people – like annual pass holders -- are pros in navigating theme parks in the most efficient manner. Most, however, are not. They race in, turn right, and hit the first ride they see. Then they wait in line.
But not Mark. He’s all about strategy and ditching the pack.
"You can avoid some of the traffic by going left into the theme park oddly enough," Jenkins said.
Not only does he do his best to turn opposite his fellow park-goers, Jenkins marches through the rides backward.