BUDGET TRAVEL BLOG

Ways to Save on a Weekend Escape

READ MORE

                                                 
 

When's the last time a trip cost less than you expected?
This travel spending survey says 68% of travelers overspend when on vacation. If you're like most people, you likely don't get to travel as much as you'd like to. And when you finally do break away for a quick escape, you justify overspending using the logic you deserve it, and that you won't let a dollar deprive your long overdue holiday. 

TRUTH IS you don't need to spend a fortune to have a great vacation, and here are some quick and easy ways you can save money on a weekend road trip. 

                                                                
CLICK HERE to hear me discuss ways to cut the cost of a weekend road trip on CBC.


WAYS TO SAVE on ROAD TRIPS

                                                             
To find the best price for gas at nearby gas stations,
Gas Buddy is a GPS integrated app that lists all nearby gas stations with prices by fuel grade and directions from your current location.


If you are a Costco member, just about every Costco store sells discount coupons redeemable at nearby restaurants, hotels, spas and attractions in the form of $100 pre-paid gift cards you can purchase for $80, and also in bundles of 3 for the price of 2. You won't always find these discounts on the store's website as they are local deals, so you can call a store in your destination city to find out what discount coupons they have, or simply stop into a store once you arrive: 



If you subscribe to either Groupon or Living Social,
two weeks before your trip, change your hometown in your account to the destination you will be visiting to get emails with discount coupons that target locals. These deals target locals and tourists are often unaware of them:



For 2-for-1 coupons and upward of 40% OFF 
activities, restaurants, golf, spas, hotels and excursions in most major U.S. cities, travelzoo.com has more than 1,600 discount coupons neatly organized by city. On their homepage, simply type the name of the city you will be visiting in the search field, then browse all the discount coupons specific to that destination. I did this prior to visiting New York City and scored 2-for-1 tickets to the Lion King on Broadway:



To find inexpensive things to do,
before your trip, run a google search using the name of the city you will be visiting with the words 'events newsletter.' When your google search returns all the local events newsletters, sign-up to those that interest you. This is a clever way to learn about free and inexpensive events most tourists do not know of. I did this before traveling to Phoenix, and it's how I learned of a Major League Baseball Cactus League festival taking place in old town Scottsdale. The festival was free to attend, and I would have never known about it had I not signed up to that newsletter:



If you are looking for a last-minute flight,
air traffic are prices are heavier on long-weekends, so being flexible is important to getting a good deal. I find great flight deals by following a handful of newsletters and social media pages that scour thousands of online deals and share the crème-de-la-crème for you to cherry pick from. They consistently impress me with great deals, and I list them here.

The most common mistake travelers make on a weekend escape is trying to do too much by cramming as much as you can into the little time that you have.  Yes I get that you want to make the most of your weekend escape, but don't discount the value of rest and relation.

CLICK HERE to hear me discuss ways to cut the cost of a weekend road trip on CBC.


Once feeling unable to afford to travel, Russell Hannon uses lean principles to travel at a fraction of the going rate. He has been featured on CNBC, FOX, CBS, America Tonight, CTV, CBC, Around the World Travel TV and nationally broadcast lifestyle and personal finance shows. He also wrote 'Stop Dreaming Start Traveling: The Ultimate Guide to Traveling More and Spending Less' available at stopdreamingstarttaveling.com

FREE GUIDE: Download 'Beat the best Online Fare - Every Time, Every Flight at breakthetravelbarrier.com                  

Top Travel Planning Guide: Save Time and Money Without Skimping

READ MORE
                                       

Did you return from your last trip to a scary credit card bill? Are you holding off on booking your dream trip due to the cost? Do you have safety concerns about traveling abroad?

If any of this resonates, you are in the perfect place because you are getting the ultimate travel planning resource - front row access to my New York Times and Travel & Adventure Show talks:

   - Expecting the Unexpected - Planning Ahead for When Disaster Strikes
   - 99 Ways to Cut Your Travel Costs - Without Skimping.
Watch the first 5 minutes of this talk below:

          

To see my full talk, sign up for Travel Tips at BreakTheTravelBarrier.com (see screenshot below). Within 24 hours, you will get an email with the presentation:

                    

If you missed the highlights of my U.S. tour on my Facebook or Twitter pages, here they are with video of my New York times Travel Show panel talk:

Chicago
My first trip of the year was to the windy city which was also the first stop of my U.S. tour. When staying in hotels, I prioritize chains that include Wi-Fi and a continental breakfast in the base fare. These tend to be 3-star hotels like the Best Western Plus, Holiday Inn Express, Home2Suites by Hilton, and Embassy Suites (which is where I stayed in Chicago) gets bonus points for having an open bar and free snacks every evening from 5:30 - 7:30pm.

This was my first talk of the tour, so I stopped by the travel show a day early to do a test run:


                                 

I took advantage of the unseasonably warn mid-January weather to explore the city, using Uber to get from my airport area hotel to the Bean:
                             


Our Uber driver took extra time to show us his favorite sights. We had lunch at 
Gino's East which is legendary for deep dish pizza, then we rode the ferris wheel on the Navy Pier, and took in this amazing view from atop the John Hancock Center:



Manhattan
I landed in New York City a few days early to enjoy the city, and arrived to find this article in the New York Times about my speaking engagement and book signing.

It's no coincidence that travel shows take place in mid-winter. Lucky for me, New York was also having unseasonably warm, and I took full advantage to jog in Central Park:



I also walked to the Lincoln Center to see Romeo and Juliette - en francais:




To cut  my accommodation costs, my friend and Marriott Vacation Club owner Travel Coach Chris referred me to a Marriott ownership presentation that I attended in return for discounted accommodations. The property was under renovation, so after my three nights there, I was ready to move to the Marriott Marquis which is usually beyond my budget, but is the New York Times Travel Show's partner hotel. Here is the priceless view from my room:



The big day! As I arrived at the Jacob Javits Center, the size and scale of everything was imposing:
  
 

Here we are for our panel discussion 'Disaster Prevention - Planning Ahead for When Disaster Strikes.' From left to right in the picture below are:

- Lee Abbamonte, the youngest American to visit every country in the world (Cassandra De Pecol has since claimed to have beat that record doing it by the age of 27).
- Kelly Walton with the Center for Disease Control.
- Karen Christensen, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Overseas Citizen Services.
- To the far right, fortunate to be in the company of these amazing people is me! :D




Click any question to watch me answer it:

1. "What do you recommend to those traveling on a budget? And what would you say to those who feel they cannot afford travel insurance?" 

2. "Tell us a story of an unexpected disaster you had while abroad."

3. "What do travelers commonly overlook when planning a trip?"

4. "What's your top travel safety tip?" 

After our panel talk, I was whisked away to my book signing where I was humbled to find a line of people waiting for me with a copy of my book already in hand.

Although I have been to New York City half a dozen times, I had never been up the Empire State Building. So after my book signing, we went up to watch the sunset. When we got to the top, we ran into non-other than King Kong himself!:


                                                    

San Francisco Bay Area
As mild as the east coast winter was, it cannot compare to California's sunny skies and palm trees. Little did I know, the day I landed in San Jose was the first sunny day in more than two weeks. The night before my appearance, I strolled over to the Santa Clara Convention Center and snapped this picture with Levis Stadium in the background:



I set a day aside for a day trip to a Redwood forests, and when I arrived at the entrance to Castle Rock State Park, I couldn't believe the park entrance was barricaded, and that I was handed this leaflet:



So I continued driving West on highway 17 to Santa Cruz, and was again stunned to see the east bound lanes closed due to a landslide. When I finally got to the coast, I literally melted as I sat on the beach watching surfers in the distance before snapping a picture of this sunset:


Las Vegas
I had 6 days to kill between my Bay area and Los Angeles travel appearances, so I flew to Las Vegas for some rest and relaxation (yes really!). I got 3 FREE nights at the Hilton Vacation Club for attending a timeshare sales presentation. The way it worked is that I paid $200 up front, which was credited back to my account after attending the presentation. This was the second ownership presentation in three weeks, but I have become accustomed to how they work. To learn how to survive a timeshare sales pitch, watch this video.

I spent my last evening in Vegas strolling the strip when I spontaneously went up the Eifel Tower and captured this stunning 360 degree panoramic video of the strip:


Los Angeles
The clear desert sky had me all forget about California's endless rain, that is until I landed in it at LAX. I had a commitment in Santa Barabara during my visit, and my drive there was thrown into a hiatus when a landslide came down on the 101 Freeway northbound as I was driving there. Here is a picture I took during the hour I spent stuck in traffic:



Despite the setback, I was determined to make it, and the kind folks at the Ventura Visitors Information Center showed me a back road to get from Ventura to Santa Barbara via Lake Casitas in the mountains. It was not without it's challenges, but 5 hours after leaving Encino, I made it to Santa Barbara (usually a 1.5 hour drive) and took this picture adjacent to the waterfront:




Show Time!
 The next day, I was back in Los Angeles, and it was a thrill to speak at the Travel and Adventure Show where I was the last speaker of the day. Here are the first 5 minutes of '99 Ways to Cut Your Travel Costs - Without Skimping':

          

To see the full presentation, sign up for Travel Tips at BreakTheTravelBarrier.com (see screenshot below). Within 24 hours, you will get an email with a link to the presentation:

                     

The Los Angeles Convention Center is attached to the Staples Center, and as my book signing wrapped up, an L.A. Kings game was starting. By the time I made it to the box office, the first period was nearly over, and I got a $133 ticket 15 rows from the ice for just $66. Here is a picture I took from my seat:




Philadelphia
The city of brotherly love was the last stop of my speaking tour where I was took the stage twice, moderating a Travel Planning and Safety panel discussion in addition to my '99 tips' talk.

I had the pleasure of getting to know Orlando Rivera, who handles expedited passport requests at the Philadelphia passport office, and Henry Hand who has worked at a number of embassies around the world. Both men are a wealth of knowledge on everything travel safety, how to manage your passport, and about what resources are available to you when encountering a crisis abroad. They have incredibly interesting stories, and were a ton of fun to speak with.
Click Here to read a Philadelphia Sun article about our panel discussion.

After the travel show, we did what every visitor to Philadelphia needs to do, and that was head over to Spataros in Reading Terminal Station for Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches:




Then it was time to head home. I love how the train connects directly from the beautiful 30th Street Station picture below) to PHD ($8 one-way):



These 5 travel shows attracted more than 100K travelers combined. In every city, people came to me to share how I was their favorite speaker, and that the savvy tips, tricks, steals and deals I divulge are invaluable. 

Once you see
'99 Ways to Cut Your Travel Costs - Without Skimping', it will be the single biggest influence on your ability to save money traveling, and I'm sure it will save you a bundle on your upcoming trips.

To watch it, sign up to my Travel Tips newsletter at
Breakthetravelbarrier.com. Within 24 hours, you will get an email with a link to the presentation:



*PS: Your family and friends will love you even more than they already do once you share this with them.


WANT MORE?
 Get my FREE GUIDE 'Beat the Best Online Fare - Every Time, Every Flight' at BreakTheTravelBarrier.com 


Once feeling unable to afford to travel, Russell Hannon uses lean principles to travel at a fraction of the going rate. He has been featured on CNBC, FOX, CBS, America Tonight with Kate Delaney, CTV, CBC, Around the World Travel TV and nationally broadcast lifestyle and personal finance shows. He is the author of 'Stop Dreaming... Start Traveling: The Ultimate Guide to Traveling More & Spending Less' available at
StopDreamingStartTraveling.com.




Travel Inexpensively Using the Sharing Economy

READ MORE

Save Money Traveling Using the Sharing Economy
                                          

              

                               
New York City - Once infamously known by tourists for its private bed and breakfasts, it was long considered by visitors as 'the only way' to experience the big apple.

If you had the pleasure of staying at an NYC B&B before the city cracked down of private rentals, you were part of what has come to be known as the early days of the sharing economy. And even though we understand why so many people recommended this as an authentic experience and inexpensive alternative to hotels, no one ever imagined what the sharing economy would evolve to become.

Thanks to the World-Wide-Web, the sharing economy is disrupting entire industries that are screaming bloody foul as they get undercut by services offered through peer-sharing websites that are not subject to the same regulatory, license, permitting and tax requirements.

Maybe this is a response to the short coming of big businesses – overly bureaucratic, slow to adapt, overly expensive and a sense of entitlement to charge inflated prices.

As regulators scramble to amend laws to account for peer sharing business models, you in the meantime, have access to an unprecedented array of travel options to:

  • Immerse yourself in local culture
  • Connect with locals offering personalized services
  • Travel at a fraction of the going rate.

AirBNB and Uber are often first websites that come to mind when we discuss the sharing economy, but they are just two of countless peer-sharing websites that are sprouting up all over the internet. Here are some lesser known up-and-coming websites you can use to travel better AND pay less. 

CLICK HERE to see me discuss these options on Breakfast TV. Since this TV interview aired, bookalokal.com narrowed its service offering exclusively to private in-home dinning experiences. You’ll find the latest details below:

Private Culinary Experiences
Food tourism is of the biggest trends in travel right now. I call it ‘the Anthony Bourdain effect’ where you look to food as a way of immersing yourself in the places you visit. At eatwith.com, you’ll find local chefs, cooks and locals offering private culinary experiences in their homes:

 
These dinners (and especially the alcohol) can be less expensive than what you will pay in restaurants. Hosts often do this for the pleasure of hosting and meeting people as much as to make money in their spare time. And if you happen to have a talent in the kitchen and a place worthy of hosting, you can post your own listing to host and profit from your passion. 

Private Rentals
If you plan to bike, surf or ski while on vacation, people rent out their private bikes, surfboards, skis and snowboards on spinlister.com:

Private rentals are often less expensive than those offered by the run-of-the mill rental companies, but the downfalls are:    
                                                                                            
  1. You may have go out of your way to get your equipment. If this is the case, ask if the owner to deliver and pick-up the equipment, or at least take it one-way where you can bring it the other.
  2. Most listings are by people who are renting out their personal equipment. So when it comes to skis and snowboards, renters often only have one size available.

Tours Offered by Locals
If large group tours on buses are not for you, you might want to look at toursbylocals.com where you will find locals who enjoy meeting tourists and taking them on tours of their hometown and surrounding area:

                                                              
Itineraries and themes vary by tour operator where you can find anything from:                        
  • Photography lessons while you tour your favorite city.
  • Boating excursions by kayak, yacht and everything in between.
  • Tours of hiking trails, monuments, museums and attractions.


If you happen to enjoy showing your city to visitors, this is another way you can meet travelers while at home and make a few dollars in your spare time.

Stay in Vacant Second Homes and Cottages
If you have a second home, be it a cottage, cabin, or empty condo, my making it available to members of thevacationexchange.com, you will earn credits you can later use to stay in the vacant second homes of other Vacation Exchange members:          
  

 
No money is exchanged between hosts and guests, but the website does charge the guest a ‘facilitation fee’ for connecting the person with the host. As a testament to their service, the Vacation Exchange claim that half of their members from their 1997 launch year are still members today.

Free Vehicles
Yes, you read that right. You can get free wheels for a road trip by driving cars for people who are relocating. Two websites where people looking for drivers to relocate their cars post listings are:

Autodriveaway.com (40 offices worldwide):

                                                                
Hittheroad.ca (Canada):

Snowbirds (who go south for the winter) are amongst the most active users of this website as they prefer to fly to their destination, but want to have their cars once they are there. Listings from people who are moving across the country are also common.

Terms, conditions and compensation vary by service provider which you will find posted on their website. You will need to meet certain criteria to qualify as a driver. Drivers usually get one full tank of gas along with a mileage allowance to get the vehicle to its destination by an agreed deadline.

Buyer Beware
You won’t always get the same levels of customer service using the sharing economy that you get with major chains. As for consumer protection, these websites generally have insurance and policies to protect their users, but these safeguards might not live up to those of major travel operators. So if your host rescinds a reservation, or you aren’t happy with the food, you might need to accept it, and limit your recourse to writing an online review. That’s the good and the bad of using the sharing economy.


CLICK HERE to see Russell discuss how to Travel Cheaper Using the Sharing Economy on Breakfast TV.


Once feeling unable to afford to travel, Russell Hannon uses lean principles to travel at a fraction of the going rate. He has been featured on CNBC, FOX, America Tonight, CBS, CTV, CBC, the National Post and Around the World Travel TV and nationally broadcast lifestyle and personal finance shows.

He is also the author of amazon.ca Budget Travel #1 Best Seller ‘Stop Dreaming Start Traveling: The Ultimate Guide to Traveling More & Spending Less’ available at
StopDreamingStartTraveling.com



FREE GUIDE
Download 'Beat the Best Online Fare - Every Time, Every Flight' at 
BreakTheTravelBarrier.com 

How to Avoid Common Travel Surcharges

READ MORE

 
A recent Trip Advisor survey found 1 in 3 travelers expects to spend more on travel this year. With airlines raking in record profits and hotels increasing their rates, it’s getting harder to know the true cost of your trip until you look at your post-vacation credit card statement. The reason being is that travel operators know that you decide whether you can afford a trip based the posted online fare.

If you could see inside the mind of a travel operator, you would see they are trying to increase their profit without increasing their posted fare. That's why you’re seeing an increase in hidden ‘discretionary’ surcharges and fees.

CLICK HERE to see me on CTV discussing how to avoid common travel surcharges. This was a special interview for me as I am a big fan of CFL star Quarterback Henry Burris who interviewed me. Read on after you watch it as I do not have time to cover all the details on live TV.

COMMON TRAVEL SURCHARGES

Checked Bag Fees: Airlines are raking in record profits, largely on the back of surcharges. Last year, checked-bag fees alone generated upwards of 3.5 billion dollars which generally apply to economy class flights. If you have elite status with the airline you are flying with, you may get a free pass to check your luggage at no charge even when flying economy.

Short of the above options, luggage allowances are generally restricted to one complimentary carry-on bag. But there is a clever way you can double up on your carry on luggage at no-charge. If you bring a second carry on bag is one like a 
Jaktogo luggage jacket, you carry can it through the airport just as any other carry-on bag. When the time comes to board the plane, the bag unfolds into a jacket can you wear as you board the plane. Once embarked, remove the jacket and fold it back into a bag. Presto!

Jaktogo has distinct luggage jackets for men and women with a trench coat version and a poncho style dress. Fashionistas should know these jackets won’t make the cover of Vogue, but there is no doubting their practically with their dual sided pockets big enough for even your laptop and shoes.

If wearing a luggage jacket isn’t for you, all major airlines are affiliated with credits cards that offer travel benefits when you pay for your flight using the partner credit card. For a list of credit cards that offer a free checked-bag benefit. To find the best one for you,
click here and scroll down to 'Credit Card Travel Benefits'.

If all else fails, prioritize one of the few remaining airlines that does not charge checked-bag fees.
This list breaks down luggage allowances and checked-bag policies by airline.

Hotel Internet Charges: Isn't it ironic the most expensive hotels are also the ones that charge the highest internet fees? My rule of thumb is to prioritize hotels that include free Wi-Fi and continental breakfasts in the base rate. These are generally hotels 3-star hotels like the Holiday Inn Express and Best Western Plus.

Increasingly hotels are dangling free Wi-Fi as an incentive for you to sign up to their loyalty program. For example, you will get free Wi-Fi as a perk for being a loyalty program member with either Marriott, Hyatt, the Ritz Carleton, Hilton Double Tree and Homewood Suites. It’s always free to sign-up to loyalty programs, and since it only takes a few minutes to do, there is no reason to ever pay internet fees in these hotels. Consumer Reports compiled a list of Wi-Fi policies by hotel chain which you can view 
by clicking here. 

Avoid Expensive Taxis: Anytime you think you’ll need to hail a cab at your destination, before leaving on your trip, visit the website of your destination airport and it will have a page will all your transportation options from the airport including:
  • Many airports are directly linked to subways, trains and public transit.
  • Shuttle buses which may include free hotel shuttles and city wide shuttles that stop at all the major hotels.
  • Uber is often an inexpensive alternative to taxis. Only Uber does not operate in all cities, and even where it does, Uber is not allowed to pick up passengers at a number of airports. You should also be aware that Uber surges it's pricing when demand is high.
  • Average taxi fares from the airport to various parts of the city.

No More Roaming Charges: The best roaming plans often are not the ones you see on TV. For example, lefrenchmobile.com offers visitors to Europe roaming plans comparable to what locals pay. They send you a SIM card with a permanent number you can use every time you visit Europe. You can data only roaming plans starting at $3/day in the U.S. and $5/day in Mexico with roammobility.com. To get setup, Roam Mobility mails you a SIM card ($10 fee) with a number that’s yours to keep. To activate your plan, visit their website prior to your trip and enter your arrival and departure date and time.

 

For Americans traveling abroad, T-Mobile’s ‘Simple Choice Plan’ is hands-down the best roaming plan for travelers. For more information, Click Here for my article ‘Stay Connected Abroad – Without the Roaming Fees.

Credit Card Travel Benefits: Since all travel is booked online, you have to have a credit card. I recommend traveling with two credit cards where you keep one on your person and one in your luggage. This way, if you lose one of them, you won’t find yourself in a panic.

Nearly every major travel operator is affiliated with a credit card that offers great travel perks. For a list of credit cards that waive common travel surcharges such as the ones below, 
Click Here and scroll to ‘CREDIT CARD SIGN-UP BONUSES’:

  • Complimentary checked-bag
  • Waived foreign transaction fees which average 1-3% of purchases made abroad
  • Pay for taxies with points
  • Free access to airport lounge

Finally... remember to pack snacks and headphones so that you don’t have to overpay for them on your flight.


CLICK HERE to see me discuss ways to avoid common travel surcharges with star CFL quarterback Henry Burris on CTV.

 
Russell Hannon uses lean principles to travel at a fraction of the going rate. He has been featured on CNBC, FOX, America Tonight, CBS, CTV, CBC, the National Post and Around the World Travel TV. He is also the author of amazon.ca Budget Travel #1 Best Seller ‘Stop Dreaming Start Traveling: The Ultimate Guide to Traveling More & Spending Less’ available at StopDreamingStartTraveling.com.


FREE GUIDE: Download 'Beat the Best Online Fare - Every Time, Every Flight' at BreakTheTravelBarrier.com