BUDGET TRAVEL BLOG

How to Get Luxury 5-Star Hotel Deals

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Travel is an industry that sells you temporary luxury. It's why a one-week vacation for a family of four costs the same as their monthly at home cost of living. Fortunately, the price of attaining luxury can vary substantially, and high end resorts rarely change the same rates across the board for the same rooms. Whether you want to stay at the Four Seasons, the Fairmont, Ritz Carleton, or the Mandarin Oriental, here are proven ways you can snag great luxury hotel deals. 


Over Water Bungalows
If over water bungalows have been beyond your financial reach, you need to know about the AVANI Sepang Goldcoast Resort. Just 10 minutes from the Kuala Lumpur airport, these over water bungalows go for as little as $83 U.S./night ($102CDN). In the screenshot below you can see this fare in my search result which is accompanied with over 5,000 reviews and a 7.2/10 guest satisfaction rating.


If you love this deal, but aren't keen on going to Kuala Lampur, PriceOfTravel.com compiled a list of the worlds's 28 cheapest over water bungalows with the bulk of them being in the Maldives, Malaysia, and the closest one to North America being in Panama. View the full list here.


Luxury Downtown Hotels
Looking for a metropolitan experience? Luxury hotels located near convention centres routinely offer discounted blocks of rooms for conference goers, with the best luxury hotel deals being for conferences attracting high net worth professionals (i.e.: executives, lawyers, doctors, dentists, entrepreneurs).

Now you never heard the next part from me, but you can get these discounts even if you aren't attending the conference. Of course, your stay has to be during the conference dates to qualify, but all you need to do is call the hotel, say you will be attending the conference, and say the conference quoted you the group rate you saw on their website, and that they told you to call to book your room. 

How to Find Group Discounts at Luxury Hotels:
1. Lookup the upcoming events at the city's biggest convention center. For example, here is the list of upcoming events at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver:


2. Look for conferences that attract high net worth professionals. For example, I'm going to select the Rocky Mountain Dental Convention, and you can see the convention center has a link to the conference website which I'm going to click:


3. Once on the conference website, lookup the section for exhibitors, and it almost always has a tab with accommodation options: 


4. This is where you will find the discounted conference rates. In this case:

  • 36% OFF at the Four Seasons ($235 v.s. $368 standard rate)
  • 23% OFF at the Hyatt Regency ($199 v.s. $259 standard rate)


5. To book a room at these discounted fares, you need to book you room direct with the hotel:
  • If the conference posted a discount code, use that code on the hotel's website when booking your reservation.
  • If no discount code was posted, call the hotel, say you will be attending the conference, and that you were told to call the hotel to get a room at the conference group rate.

* Before you Do This: Every conference agreement is unique, and you will occasionally run into unexpected roadblocks. But with the sheer volume of conferences taking place in every big city, you will occasionally snag better luxury hotel deals using this hack than with other strategies.


Hidden Luxury Hotel Deals
Before you book any luxury hotel, always compare the price you found to Priceline which sometimes offers deeper discounts than other websites. You will often get a better fare for a 5-star hotel in the same area as the one you were considering. The catch is, Priceline does not reveal the exact hotel until you pay a non-refundable booking. This isn't as crazy as it may sound, as Priceline does reveal: 

  • City name and area of town (i.e.: Central Park South, NYC)
  • Hotel category (i.e.: 5-stars)




Keep the 3rd Party Commissions for your 5-Star Room
Anytime you book a room on a third party website, that website earns a third party booking fee from the hotel which can add up to as much as 30% of your fare. Hotels choose not to undercut these websites because it boosts their profits for direct bookings, and it inflates all hotel costs across the board. 

To get a cut of this booking fee, hotel booking websites Triphop.com and TRVL.com split the commission they receive from hotels with you. Better yet, they disclose how much you will get in your search result, which can be upward of 10 - 20% of your room rate:

This Triphop.com listing at the 5-star Park Hyatt Dubai offers $102.39 in cash back (18.5% of the total fare) for a 3-nigh stay.


Cities with Cheapest 5-Star Hotels

This study by PriceOfTravel.com ranks 104 cities with the least expensive 5-star resorts in the world. Number 1 on the list is Kuta which in the outskirts of Bali, Indonesia, with 5-star hotels going for as little as $24/night. Kuta overtook Phuket which dropped from the top spot to number 4.

As incredible as this deal is, you might not be willing to fly to Bali for it. Here's what you can do instead:
  1. Start at the top of this list of cities with the world's cheapest 5-star hotels.
  2. Scroll down until you find a destination you'd like to visit. That is where you should take your next 5-star escape.
  3. To deepen your discount, leverage the above mentioned hacks using Priceline, conference discounts, and/or collect 3rd party booking commissions.

Luxury Furnished Condos

How does two hours of your time sound in return for upwards of 50% OFF a fully furnished condo for a 3 or 4 day stay? I routinely stay in furnished condos at deep discounts in return for attending timeshare sales presentations - and often leave with freebies which have included dining vouchers, discounts on excursions, hotel gift cards, and it's even how I got my DVD player!

Two ways to get invited to a timeshare sales presentation
  1. IntervalWorld.com has a list of vacation ownership companies you can browse. These websites often post deals on their homepage, and you can contact them directly to book your ownership presentation.
  2. Timeshare companies also exhibit at consumer travel and vacation shows where they have contests you can sign-up to. Although I've never won a prize this way, I always get a follow up call offering me a discounted stay at their resort if I agree to attend their ownership sales presentation. 
Once you book your ownership sales presentation, watch this video for details on what to expect, and how to navigate the presentation to not buy anything.


5-Star Hostels

Before you frown at the mention of hostels in a luxury travel article, meet HostelGeeks.com co-founder and world traveler Matt Kiefer who may be the world's most hosteled person. In every major city, Matt found the best, swankiest and classiest hostel, ranking it as a '5-Star Hostel. "From roof-top swimming pools, to stunning set-ups in former wineries and art galleries, we have certified one amazing hostel in almost every major world city" Matt says. His acclaimed list of 5-star hostels includes Captain Coconuts located in Gilli Air, Indonesia (picture below). Click here to see a video of the hostel:

                 

Leverage Strategies to Multiply your Savings
The following video shows how I got 60% OFF at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier by leveraging a corporate rate I was entitled to, with gift cards I got from from Costco and a BMW test drive:


Summary on Getting Luxury Hotel Deals

Unlike most luxury travel articles that tell you where to stay, this article empowers you to find luxury hotel deals anywhere in the world. This is your 'how-to' guide for planning 5-star luxury vacations online, and is sure to land you lavish digs at enviable rates.


Here's to Toasting in Luxury Hotel Lounges!


P.S.: If you do this, consider accessing Triphop.com via a link within this article. I earn a small commission at no cost to you, enabling me to offer free content without any ads.



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 StopDreamingStartTraveling.com.


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

Leverage Business Travel to Fund Personal Trips

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N.B. If you book a room on TripHop (to pocket half the booking commission paid to TripHop by hotels), consider using the link in the article. I get a small referral commission at no cost to you, enabling me to offer free content without any ads.


This Fortune survey
says 46% of business travelers extend business trips for personal time and 54% occasionally bring a partner, friend, spouse or kids. Vacation-starved business travelers are reclaiming work-life balance by mixing business with pleasure, and are stretching their travel dollar at the same time.

When leveraged properly, business travel can afford you a travel lifestyle that might otherwise be unattainable. In my early corporate audit days, I stockpiled hundreds of thousands of points I later used for personal travel by:                                  

  • Paying business expenses on a personal credit card, and later getting reimbursed by the company. 
  • Enrolling to the loyalty program of every travel operator I stayed with.
  • Extending business trips by a few days to explore the area on my own dime. 

These strategies earned me more than 20 FREE trips and elite status with a number of travel operators. 


      CLICK HERE to hear me discuss how to do this on Corporate Talk with Charlie & Eva.
                                               
                                                  


If you work for a large company
, chances are your employer has a corporate travel agent that books business trips for employees at preferred corporate rates. These companies often encourage employees book personal travel through their corporate travel agent. Booking your personal travel this way usually entitles you to:    
  • Corporate rates that average 10-15% off hotels.
  • Flexible terms to cancel or make changes at reasonable fees.
  • Unlimited mileage on car rentals.

If you have a professional designation, you likely have to earn continuing education credits on an ongoing basis to maintain your standing. A great way to piggy back your vacation with your conference is to lookup your associations' event calendar and look for conferences scheduled in cities you would also like to visit. The best time to bring this up with your boss is the year prior to the conference for funds to be budgeted.

If your company won't cover the cost of traveling to your conference, you might be able to at least claim the cost as a deductible expense. Seek the expertise of a tax professional for your specific situation.

If you travel for work, the easiest and most effective way to stockpile travel rewards for personal use is to pay your business expenses with a personal credit card that offers points/miles per dollar spent, and later claim those expenses to your company for reimbursement. 

To get the most value from your credit cards, shortlist those that offer at least three travel related benefits in addition to points/miles per dollar spent. To quickly find which travel rewards credit cards have the best combination of benefits for you, Click Here to browse my list of Top Travel Rewards Credit Cards.

 


Pocket 10%+ of your Hotel Cost: Hotels pay booking websites a commission for rooms booked through their website. To get a piece of the commission earned from your hotel booking, book your room on hotel booking website TripHop which splits their booking commission with you. Commissions amounts vary by booking, yet it is not uncommon for your portion of the commission payout to exceed 10% of the rooms' cost:



TripHops' cash back payouts of 10% or more yields you a better return than what the best loyalty programs offer, which tend to be 1 free night per 10 nights stayed. Better yet, TripHop's cash back offer beats those free night programs because you your cash back upon checkout, and can spend it on anything you wish.

PRO TIP When booking business travel on TripHop, use your personal credit card to pay for the room and claim the expense using your checkout receipt. Not only will your company refund you the amount paid for the room, but TripHop will also credit you half the commission  they earned, which can be 10% or more of the room cost - that's free money in your pocket!

If you are a small business owner
, imagine how many points you could stockpile by charging your payroll to a credit card that offers points per dollar spent. Jeff Young from Payroll Rewards Inc. explains you can do exactly that by having a third party middleman charge your credit card and transfer the funds to your payroll account.

But
be warned, you will have to absorb any credit card vendor charges which range from 1.5 - 3% of the transaction value. Costs measured as a percentage balloon quickly when dealing with six and seven figure payrolls.


Before purchasing global travel insurance, check to see if your medical benefits offered through your employer extend includes global coverage.



CLICK HERE for an article I was quoted in on how to Piggyback your Vacation on your Next Business Trip.



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, 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 & Spending Less.’

FREE GUIDE: Download ‘Beat the Best Online Fare – Every Time, Every Flight’ at BreakTheTravelBarrier.com

Dream Honeymoons that Don't Break the Bank

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If you are getting married,
a survey of 2,000 newlyweds suggests you may be more excited about your honeymoon than the wedding itself!

  • 67% look forward to the honeymoon MORE than the wedding.
  • 84% would skimp on their wedding if it meant a fancier honeymoon

CNN Money found the average wedding costs $28K. When you consider many newlyweds are early in their careers where salaries aren’t as high as they one day will be, it’s no surprise many feel they may need to scale back on their honeymoon.

Truth is... you don’t need to toss your budget out the window to have a dream honeymoon, nor do you need to skimp on your wedding to make it economical.

CLICK HERE to see me on Breakfast TV discussing ways to have a Dream Honeymoon that doesn’t break the bank, or read on for extra details below:

                                           


Agreeing on a Destination
A fun way to narrow your list of honeymoon destinations is to have your
fiancé and yourself try
this Honeymoon & Romantic Survey and share your results. The survey suggests honeymoon destinations that align to your travel type.

Registries
Wedding registries were traditionally used to help newlyweds settle into their new home. Today, couples live together long before they get married, and already have pots, pans, toasters and blenders.

Instead, use your registry to fund your honeymoon. 
Honeyfund.com for example is a crowdfunding platform specializing in honeymoons and you might have seen this website on Shark Tank where Shark Kevin O’Leary invested in the company.                                


W
hat's great about Honey Fund is that it enables you to extend your reach beyond your wedding party to everyone in your social network. Their biggest success story comes from a Chicago couple who funded a full year trip-around-the-world for their honeymoon.

There is no charge to setup a basic crowdfunding profile, but you can add some bells and whistles to your profile for a small fee. Honey Fund retains a small percentage of the donations made a service fee which is how they make their money. (Of course, if Kevin O’Leary is investing, they must be making money).

In Canada, you can setup a honeymoon registry with 
FlightCentre.ca you can use toward a Flight Centre vacation (Click here for registry details). People can donate to your registry online, by phone, and at any Flight Centre store:

 

Inexpensive 5-Star Resorts
When it comes to destinations, this Price of Travel survey ranked the top 100+ cities with the least expensive 5-star resorts, and ranked Bali, Indonesia at the top of the list. With lavish 5-star resorts available for as little at $24/night U.S. Bali is a place where you can have 5-star accommodations on a 2-star budget.

Consider Low Currency Countries
Whatever you want to get out of your honeymoon, look for destinations that offer those things in low currency countries.

Let’s say you want to go to the tropics, much of the Caribbean is pegged to the U.S. dollar. Alternatively, South East Asia has just as amazing tropical islands and counties there have the lowest valued currencies of any place you will visit in the world. In Vietnam, the U.S. dollar will earn you 15K Vietnamese Dong which has miles of white sandy beaches and rock formations similar to those you will find in Thailand.

For more ways to stretch your travel dollar in low currency countries, 
CLICK HERE to see me share my favorite Inexpensive Alternatives to Top U.S. Travel Destinations on Breakfast TV.

Leverage your Wedding Costs to Fund your Honeymoon
I often preach you can multiply your savings by using leverage. So what can newlyweds leverage? The cost of the wedding of course! Some online retailers offer big time travel points (as many as 15 points per dollar spent) to lure you from brick-and-mortar stores. You can buy almost anything you need for a wedding online from rings, dresses, invitations, photo albums and even flowers.

To see which online stores have the best promotions, you can browse point promotions at
EVreward.com:

                                                                

 This is how I learned that a few times a year, shop.ca offers 15 Aeroplan points per dollar spent:
                              

 
By purchasing 10K of wedding expenses during this promotion, you will earn 150K points, enough for two economy round trip tickets anywhere in the world. Shop.ca does not announce these promotions in advance, so the best way to keep current is to sign up to their newsletter, and you will get an email notifying you of every promotion.

Credit Card Travel Benefits
All travel is booked online so you have to have a credit card. Since major travel operators all partner with credit cards that offer travel benefits, you can use these benefits offset your honeymoon expenses.

My favorite credit card benefit for honeymooners is the Companion Pass that entitles you to bring a guest with you on one a round-trip flight every year. Terms and conditions vary by card, but the companion pass generally requires you to pay a fixed rate to redeem it, it usually only applies to economy fares, and does not cover surcharges or taxes.

Cards with Companion Pass Benefits:
  • The Delta SkyMiles Platinum and Reserve cards (U.S.) have a hefty $195 annual fee, but come with a plethora of travel benefits including a free annual companion pass, free checked bag, priority boarding and discounts on in-flight purchases.
  • Alaska Airlines has credit cards with Visa (U.S.) and MBNA (Canada) come with an annual companion pass you can redeem for $121.
  • Westjet RBC World Elite Master Card (Canada): Companion fare varies from $99 in Canada and Continental U.S. to $399 to for London.
  • Lufthansa Premier Miles & More Barclaycard Mastercard (U.S): comes with an annual companion pass benefit for round-trip flights crossing the Atlantic. A weekend surcharge fee may apply. CLICK HERE for full details.
                                   

For more information about credit card travel benefits, CLICK HERE and scroll down to ‘Credit Card Sign-Up Bonuses.’

Indulge Selectively
Take a moment to think about what you are willing to compromise, so you don’t need to skimp on what you want most. In other words, pinch your budget where it doesn’t hurt, so that you don’t need to pinch it where it does.

Finally – Don’t forget to mention it’s your honeymoon! People tend to soften up when they know it’s your honeymoon, and you might just return to your room to find a complimentary bottle of bubbly and chocolates.


CLICK HERE to see me on Breakfast TV in Montreal discussing ways to have a Dream Honey Moon that Doesn’t Break the Bank: 

                                      

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, 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.

Economical Winter Escapes

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Still paying off your summer vacation?
 Holding off on booking a winter escape due to the cost? If so read on because you are in the right place.

Truth is, your last trip likely cost you five times more than it needed to. That's because travel is an industry that charges five times the local cost of living. For example, an average 3-star hotel goes for $160/night, compared to a one-bedroom apartment in the same area that rents out for $900/month (or $30/night). If you stay in that hotel, you are paying five times more than the local does who lives there. The same applies when you eating out three times a day while traveling, as it adds up to five times your at-home grocery bill. 


CLICK HERE for my CBC interview on finding winter travel deals.


Overwater Bungalows                                  
Think overwater bungalows are beyond your travel budget? Rates at the AVANI Sepang Gold Coast resort in Kuala Lampur are as low as $102 CDN/night ($80 U.S.):





All-Inclusive Resorts                                
Seeking the tropics? PriceofTravel.com ranked the 17 cheapest all-inclusive resort towns in the Caribbean, and found Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic to be the cheapest. For details on all 17 destinations click here



Cruise Deals

To quickly find amazing cruise deals
cruisesheet.com scours the best online cruise deals and posts the best ones on their website. I also recommend cruisecritic.com which 
is the most comprehensive online resource for 'everything cruises' including tips, reviews, ship descriptions, sailing routes and destination information.


My top money saving cruise tips
are laid out in the article 'Cruising on a Budget - How to Find the Best Deals & Make the Most of your Next Vacation' which is sure to save you money and help you get the most out of your next cruise. This is the most in-depth  cruising article I've contributed to with fellow contributors Colleen McDaniel (Cruise Critic), and Tanner Callais of Cruizely.com.




Best Day to Book Winter Travel
                                    
Cyber Monday stands out above others for great winter travel deals. It falls on the Monday following U.S. thanksgiving, and i the online equivalent of Black Friday. This is HUGE for travel because all travel is booked online. My favorite Cyber Monday deals include 50% off at Atlantis Bahamas and 90% OFF hotels booked on Expedia's app. 

To browse my favorite Cyber Monday Travel Deals Click Here. Y
ou should also visit your favorite travel websites and those of any hotels/resorts that interest you as they may post Cyber Monday deals on their homepage. 


Cheap Destinations with Great Winter Weather                            

If your vacation dates are set, and you are up in the air on where to go, I met Roger Wade of PriceofTravel.com who was a fellow speaker at TBEX - a conference for travel bloggers. Roger specializes in making lists of cheapest travel options, and he broke down the cheapest destinations with great weather by month. Simply click the article for the month you plan to travel, and shortlist the destinations that interest you most:


Discount Airlines                              
A new website making an impression with amazing flight deals is Insanelycheapflights.com which boasts jaw dropping deals on their homepage. The website has has a search feature you can use to find the best fares specific to your desired route.

In the U.S., I love Southwest for it's combination of inexpensive flights and being the last 'big' airline to not charge checked bag fees.

Visiting Europe or Iceland? WOW air is an Icelandic discount airline selling one-way flights between Europe and the United States/Canada from $99 - $150 (tax included) with a free stopover option in Reykjavik. You can fly to 24 European cities from either Boston, New York City, DC, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto or Montreal.

Speaking of Canada (one of the most expensive countries to fly in), 
Flair Airlines (formerly GoNewLeaf) is Canada's first ultra-low fare airline. But there is a caveat:
  • You cannot book flights as far out as with major carriers.
  • Routes have limited fly days and generally only have one flight to chose from per route per day.
  • Checked bag fees are higher than with major carriers. 
  • Overhead bin storage costs range from $31 to $92. Bags that fit under the seat are free.

Gojumpon.com allows you to bid what you are willing to pay to fly on empty seats on Flair Airlines. This is feasible if you are flexible and have time constraints because the way it works is that if your bid is accepted, you are only notified 48 hours prior to the flight's departure time.


CLICK HERE for my CBC interview on finding winter travel deals.


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 stopdreamingstarttraveling.com


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

Unwritten Rules of Travel Etiquette

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Crowded airports, long lines and crammed planes are part of the travel experience. If airlines added the following travel etiquette tips to their pre-departure safety presentation, it could a long way in making the travel experience great again (or at least a bit less tedious). With many trips starting at the airport, that's where we'll start with unwritten rules of flying etiquette.

                                                             
CLICK HERE to hear me discuss travel etiquette on CBC or continue reading for my key points.
                                                           

When embarking:
If you block the aisle for more than 5 seconds and people are waiting behind you, you should move into a row to let people pass.

Don't put things that fit under the seat into overhead bins until everyone has boarded. I wouldn't be surprised if airlines make this a policy one day. We've all found ourselves to be the last to board with a carry on bag that doesn't fit under the seat, only to find the overhead bids are filled with small items that have to be shuffled around to make room for our bag.

Keep the cabin odor neutral, so no strong perfume or food with a strong odor.
This ABC News article explains how Air Canada disallowed a passenger from flying due to strong body odor that 'overwhelmed' other passengers. According to the article, the airline offered the person a seat on the same flight the following day so long as the situation was rectified.

Once on Board: 
When meals are served, take the lead and offer to the person behind you to move your seat up. After doing this once, I noticed a few people around me offered to do the same. Yes - courtesy can be contagious!

When disembarking:
Let those seated in front of you out first unless they clearly are not ready to disembark.

When arriving at the carousel to claim your checked luggage, imagine how easy it would be to claim your bag if everyone stood 5 feet away from the carousel.

If you have unruly kids on your flight and are uncomfortable raising the issue directly with their parents, simply bring it up with a flight attendant.   

If you are flying with your kids, its common to give the kids tablets with games and movies to keep them occupied. Just make sure they either have earbuds or that the devices are on mute. On a recent flight to Minneapolis, I noticed a flight attendant instructing parents to turn a kid's tablet on mute as she said 'others nearby don't want to listen to that.'

If you fall sick on flight day,
this survey by National Foundation for Infections Diseases found two-of-three Americans would still fly knowing they had the flu. If that doesn't make you queasy, I can vouch this is exactly how I caught my last bought of the flu.

The reality is that strict airline terms often pressure you to fly sick. If you ever find yourself in this situation, please consider wearing a hygienic mask on the plan (available at any pharmacy). If the plane isn't full, mention to the flight attendant you aren't feeling well and ask if you can be seated further away from others.

When the person next to you falls asleep and slouches onto you, keep in mind this innocent intrusion of space can happen to anyone, so it's important to handle it as you would want it to be done if you were the infringer. Next time someone dozes on your shoulder, simply wake the person and apologize for waking him/her only that they had slouched onto you.

When visiting scenic areas,
it fascinates me how I've sometimes found everyone taking in the view through their phone and no one looking at it with their own eyes!  When you are taking pictures or filming, abide by the 'Pokémon Go' warning by keeping aware of your surroundings, and be careful not to turn into anyone.

If people are waiting behind you, give yourself your fair share of time to take in the view, yet be considerate to those waiting behind you. The first few minutes of soaking in a spectacular view are the most dramatic. After that, the incremental benefit of looking at it longer is less and less the longer you stay.


                                                      

Odds are you've seen pictures posted online of people demonstrating poor travel etiquette. As tempting as it may be to do this, it is a form of 21st century bullying, and if the person catches you recording them, it will embarrass that person at the very least (and may embarrass you too), or worse it could escalate into an ugly confrontation.

With so much to remember, a simple rule of thumb that will steer your clear of any travel 'faux-pas,' is to abide by the same policies you do in the workplace, while also showing the same courtesy you would at church. 


CLICK HERE to hear me discuss travel etiquette 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 StopDreamingStartTraveling.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

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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.




Beat the System when Booking Travel Online

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The most daunting part of booking a trip online is the overwhelming number of options to choose from. Truth is, it's hard to know where to turn to find the best fares, and once you finally find a good deal, you may later return to your computer to find the price has since increased. This can happen due to a number of reasons:

1. Low fares are restricted to a set number of bookings, and if they all get booked between the time you run your search to the time you return to your computer, your price is going to jump.

2. Anything a website knows about you can be used to assume your purchasing power and intentions. Websites often have macros that manipulate your search results based on your demographics. For example:

·     If you logon to the website, it will know everything you have entered and done on that site.

·     If cookies are enabled on your PC, the website can see your search history on their site.

·     Websites can see what operating system you are using. Some may assume users of certain operating systems are be willing to pay more (or less) than others and could manipulate prices according to those assumptions.

Any demographic based price adjustments are likely to be in small dollar amounts, but if you are determined to conduct your search in stealth mode, I recommend not logging onto the website prior to running your search, delete cookies on your PC, and run your search from two computers with different operating systems.

CLICK HERE to hear what Kevin O'Leary from Shark Tank and I have to say about this on Toronto News Talk 1010.

                                                              

Out-Negotiate the Priceline Negotiator
Bidding websites like Priceline allow you to bid how much you are willing to pay for a hotel room. The way these websites work is they require your credit card information before you submit your bid, and if it is accepted, your card is automatically charged a non-refundable booking. What you don't know is that if you bid more than the base rate, Priceline splits the difference 50/50 with the hotel.

There is a secret way to get around this. Instead of using your credit card, use a pre-paid Visa card with a small balance (i.e. $2). If your bid is accepted, you will get a pop-up window saying your credit card could not be charged (as it has insufficient funds). You can then lower your bid, and keep lowering it until it is finally rejected. You now know the lowest acceptable bid and can book your room using your credit card at that base fare and not a penny more.


                       

Best Time to Book Flights for Best Fares

I truly believe there are too many moving parts to pin down a one-size fits all best time to book travel online. Luckily, there are incredibly powerful tools you can use that crunch historical data related to the specific flight you want to take and can show you the best price you can get now, whether the price is likely to rise or drop, when and by how much.

You can do this using a free App called
Hopper, and you can also use Kayak's Airfare Predictor. Bear in mind, as with financial investments, past performance is not necessarily reflective of future returns, but it's always good to have historical data on-hand when making your decision.

What if a Better Fare Arises After I Book? 

·    For flights, airlines allow you to cancel reservations within 24 hours of booking. Once that grace period ends, high change fees tend to offset any cost savings you would get from changing your original flight. 

·    Hotel rooms booked through a travel agent or directly with a hotel tend to have better terms, often allowing you to cancel with no penalty as late as 6pm on check-in day. Anytime you find a good fare, try to book it under these terms to lock-in that rate. If something better comes along, you can simply cancel your existing reservation and rebook at the lower fare.

·    Some websites constantly search for better fares after you book, and alert you when they find lower fares for an identical itinerary. Tingo.com (for hotels) and Autoslash.com (for car rentals) do this and allow you to cancel your existing reservation and rebook at the lower fare.

Last year, 22-year old college student Aktarer Zaman made international headlines after launching skiplagged.com, a website that shows you how to fly cheaper by booking indirect flights that connect through your destination city where you can simply hop-off the plane. If you try this:

·     Carry on all your luggage as checked-bags will go on to the final destination. 

·    Book a one-way flight because anytime you miss a leg of a flight, all subsequent legs are automatically cancelled and are ineligible for refund or credit.

I first learned about this in 2013 when my friend Adam showed me he could fly cheaper to Houston by booking a flight to New Orleans connecting in Houston and hopping off, than it would cost to book a flight destined to Houston.

Are the savings worth the time it takes it takes to do these things?  
Everything boils down to time vs. money. If you can afford to take a trip, you might not feel the time spent is worth the possible savings. But if it makes the difference between being able to afford a trip or not going, it's well worth the effort.

Regardless of whether I save $500, $5 or nothing at all, I am willing to try any strategy that can save me money regardless of affordability. Often those who can afford a trip are the ones who overpay. In fact, knowing HOW to save money is more powerful that HOW MUCH you may save on one specific trip, as you can apply the principles for every trip.



CLICK HERE to hear me talk about all this and more 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 stopdreamingstarttraveling.com    
                           
                               
FREE GUIDE: Download 'Beat the best Online Fare - Every Time, Every Flight at breakthetravelbarrier.com

Top Travel Scams and How to Protect Yourself

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Have you ever been scammed while traveling?
It's happened to me more than once. After a trip to London, I returned home to a credit card statement showing someone, somehow, charged $1,400 for a flight from Singapore to Kuala Lampur in Australian currency. I have no idea how the culprits got my credit card information (although I suspect it might have happened when I bought a few trinkets in a gift shop), and the credit card company never did tell me if they caught the thieves.

The good thing about using credit cards while traveling is you aren't personally on the hook for fraudulent transactions charged to your card. In my case, the credit card company had me sign an affidavit attesting that I didn't make that purchase, the charge was waived from my credit card, and that was the last I heard of it.  

It isn't a stretch to say that millions of travelers will be scammed this year. The sorts of scams you should look out for vary depending on where you go, but there is one thing all travel scams have in common - they are designed to get your money.

As a traveler, you are easy prey to scammers for a number of reasons: 
  • You tend to be more liberal with your wallet. If you get overcharged, you are more likely to go along with it than you would at home in the name of "I'm not going to let a few dollars ruin my vacation."
  • You likely let your guard down when traveling. Let's face it, who's looking out for scammers when touching down in paradise?
  • In many underdeveloped countries, the average international tourist is rich by local standards.
  • Tourist traps are treasure troves for scammers as they bring a pipeline of unsuspecting travelers who, once scammed, leave and are replaced with more vulnerable tourists the next day.
As you plan your next trip, here is a list of travel scams to look out for, where to look for travel scams prevalent at your travel destination, and how to protect yourself.

CLICK HERE to hear me discuss this on Calgary 770 News Talk Radio (or read on for details).

Demanding Money After the Fact
Scammers are increasingly clever at masking their pressure tactics as generosity until you accept their offer of a lame trinket or to take a picture with you. During a stroll along the beach in Boracay, I came across an impressive sand castle with lit candles built into it, and the moment I snapped a picture, a kid came from out of nowhere aggressively demanding money on the grounds that I took a picture of his castle. I refused to give him anything but my friend gave him some money.

Overcharging Taxis
During that same trip to the Philippines, I almost fell for another scam where my taxi drivers almost routinely suggested we turn the meter off and set a flat rate. I might have gone along had my local friend not been with me. Apparently they do this so they can overcharge you, and my friend insisted they drive with the meter on or we would be getting out of the taxi.

I wasn't so lucky in the French Riviera where my taxi driver took me from the Nice airport along the Promenade des Anglais (my hotel was the other way). He went to such great length to show me the strip and was such a good speaker I almost didn't mind when pretended he misunderstood which hotel I asked him to take me to. I knew he was playing me, but he was so nice that I caved and paid him the full fare. I now refer to him as the 'Nice Nice Scammer.'

*On the subject of getting around, I never use pedi cab drivers (bicycles pulled by a runner) as they are overpriced, and friends of mine encountered a situation where they were told after the fact the price they were quoted was "per person".

Bike Rental Scams
The following scenario is unlikely to happen to you, but it is known that some bike rental vendors in touristy areas have sent someone to follow the cyclist who knows the combination of the lock provided with the bike, and when it is unattended, they steal the bike back, leaving you to have to forfeit your deposit for not returning it.


Credit Card Scams
Don't let vendors handle your credit card beyond your line of sight. (Same applies with cash, once they take the bills you give them beyond your line of sight, do not allow them to return that same bill to you on the grounds that it is counterfeit. In this scenario, the chances are they switched your legitimate note with a counterfeit bill.

Don't let vendors copy your credit card with old school carbon copiers as that gives them a permanent written record of your credit card information.

As tempting as it may be, resist the temptation to run a tab, and pay for food and drinks as you order them. This way you can keep your billing straight and save yourself from having your bill padded with extra charges.

Pickpockets
For years I underestimated how skilled and sophisticated pickpocketers are. In Barcelona for example, pickpocketing is like a completive sport amongst scammers who can empty your pockets without you noticing anything is missing. In many underdeveloped countries, kids will brazenly grab your phone or other valuables right out of your hand on the bet they can outrun you. 

A friend shared a story with me where his father went to the beach in Barcelona after a business meeting as he had a few hours to kill prior to his flight, and when a stranger started a conversation with him, an accomplice snuck up from behind, grabbing his suitcase and running with it.

A scarier common scenario in Africa is the 'smash and grab' where thieves smash your car window while at a red light and grab anything they can. Advisories warn you should avoid getting boxed into areas where you are stopped and cannot drive, and to gradually slow down long before arriving at a red light, so that the light turns green before you come to a standstill.

Street Games
Don't play them for money - ever.


Hi-Tech Scams
As technology advances, so do the means scammers use to steal our money:

  • Tap technology (officially known as Radio Frequency Identification or RFID) gave rise to credit card skimming devices that can steal your credit card information without coming into contact with it. If you are in a crowded subway or in the standing room pit area of a concert, your credit card information can unknowingly get stolen unless your cards are protected with RFID blocking technology. Wallets are increasingly sold with RFID blocking material in them, and SCOTTeVEST sells a range of jackets and vests with RFID blocking technology built into them.
  • The last few years have seen an alarming increase in high profile hacks. As a traveler, hackers can monitor your online activity when you connect to unsecure Wi-Fi connections. Hackers also create legitimate looking Wi-Fi network names baiting you into thinking they are legitimate. To secure your online activity on unsecure networks, get VPN or Easysurf installed on your mobile device, and activate it when connecting to Wi-Fi. Any time you connect to a companies Wi-Fi network, for example at a café or hotel, ask an employee to confirm their Wi-Fi network name so that you know the network you are logging onto is legitimate.

While you are away burglars at home may be as happy about your trip as you are. If you park at the airport, thieves can access your home by breaking into your car at the airport, and stealing your garage door opener and your registration - which has your address. This happened to me and words cannot convey the unsettled feeling in the pit of my stomach as I drove home not knowing what I was going to arrive to. Lucky for me, I live in a condo, and although the thieves had access to the parking garage, they could not access my condo. But had I lived in a single family dwelling, the ending would have been much worse.

10 Ways to Protect Yourself from the Most Common Travel Scams

1. Before your trip,
go to the website of your Embassy in the country you will be visiting. It will provide city specific information about things to look out for that tend to fall under the radar of national travel advisories. You can also do a Google search with the name of the exact locations you will be visiting and the word 'scams'.

2. Talk to locals about places to avoid and things to watch out for. While in Chicago, my Uber driver was a retired police officer, and he told me more about what happens in the parts of the city I was visiting than any other source could ever provide.

3. Don't tempt opportunists: Leave valuables at home or at least out of sight. When in underdeveloped countries it includes your cell phone.

4. Travel with two credit cards and keep them separate. This way, if you lose one, you won't find yourself in a panic.

5. Keep copies of your passport and drivers license online.

6. Conceal your valuables in your front or inside pockets (or better yet, in your safe or at home). If you have a bag, wear it on your front side where you can see it and defend it.

7. When sleeping in hostels, trains, buses or campgrounds, secure your luggage so strangers cannot make off with it. You can buy locks that work like bicycle locks for your luggage.

8. Many travel stores sell slash proof luggage and purses so thieves cannot cut their way into your bags. 

9. When taking taxis, stick to licensed cabs, official taxi lines and insist on using the meter. When embarking, give the impression you know the area. Keep your luggage in hand so that if things go awry, you can toss the driver notes for payment and exit with luggage in hand.

10. Use your own locks to secure devices with a combination code you set yourself.


CLICK HERE to hear me talk about top travel scams, what to watch out for and how to protect yourself.

     *PS: Keep those you love from getting scammed by sharing this with them.


WANT MORE? Sign up to our newsletter at BreakTheTravelBarrier.com for all this and more:
 - FREE GUIDE: Beat the Best Online Fare - Every Time, Every Flight
 - 99 Ways to Cut Your Travel Costs - Without Skimping



Have you ever been scammed? Share your story below.


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