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Showing posts with label Money Saving Tips. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Money Saving Tips. Show all posts

Thursday, March 10, 2016

5 Important Things To Know When Considering Hiring Me As Your Travel Advisor

 1.    You are not bothering me if you just need an airline ticket and a hotel in Chicago. I can indeed book more than just your exotic annual vacations and will do so gladly. Plus, I will likely have access to free amenities at the hotel that you might not find on your own because of my industry connections.

2.    If something goes amiss when you’re on your trip, call me immediately so I can fix it. Don’t be shy and say you didn’t want to make a fuss. You’ve paid money for this vacation and I’m your advisor for a reason. Little things that mar the experience can typically be fixed quite easily and that’s what I’m here for.

3.    When you compare the vacation packages I’ve offered you with what’s available via an online travel agency or discount website, please know that you’re probably not comparing apples to apples. The hotel I’ve selected is in a locale I think you will like, based on what you’ve told me. The room I have reserved for you is guaranteed in its category, meaning when you check-in, you won’t be given inferior accommodations, based on the desk attendant’s mood. Plus, if you’re looking at a website that brags that it has the lowest pricing available, you’ll likely be getting the lowest quality room available. Trust me.

4.    When you’re online and you see a deal that looks too good to be true, it probably is. Travel companies don’t give away things for no reason. Is there any small print you’re not reading because you’re so excited about the price you’re seeing? Do bring any deals you see to my attention and I promise to give you my best expert opinion as to what you’d actually get for your money.

5.    Do make travel a priority in your life. Every moment is precious and if you keep putting off that family vacation or that couple’s getaway, you may never do it and only end up with regrets. Let me craft a trip for you that will make the most of your time together so you’ll end up with fabulous memories. Live for the now; who knows what tomorrow will bring? 


Saturday, January 30, 2016

Getting the Best Cruise Value


When planning your family's next big cruise vacation, finding the best values will make you a hero, especially if you have funds leftover for some cool "extras" that you might not have thought possible when first putting your budget together.  The key is to find the right money-saving tricks.  Here are just a few to consider that can, when added together, provide some serious monetary value for your vacation: 
  • Book early.  When I say early, I mean up to a year or more in advance. Yes, those few last-minute "deals" you find might seem tempting and the way to go, but do realize that last-minute also equals slim pickings in choice of category or room location, if there is any availability at all in your desired room type.  When planning your vacation, know that the best deals and the best selection go to those who plan ahead... 8, 12, or even 15 months or more in advance.  For the cruise lines, the months of January - March are considered "Wave Season", providing the most significant discounts, upgrades, and freebies for those guests who plan ahead.  October is another key month when additional discounts and offers are available for those who plan ahead.  
  • Book a package.  More and more many cruise lines are offering package deals on specialty dining, wine, and excursions with discounts of up to 25% over a la carte pricing, effectively creating more of an all-inclusive atmosphere onboard.  As an example, Norwegian Cruise Line offers packages of 3 specialty restaurant dinners for just $47 per person, which is a great saving vs. buying them individually onboard. 
  • Go all-inclusive.  The larger mass-appeal cruise lines, such as Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Carnival, etc, will charge for beverages, shore excursions, specialty dining, gratuities and more all as add-on fees once onboard - though during wave season several of them are offering great value promotions with free inclusions for any or all of these items. Luxury lines such as Seabourn, Crystal, Silversea, etc, have become much more value-conscious in the past few years by offering an all-inclusive experience... one price gets it all included.  Regent Seven Seas goes even further, by bundling in guests' airfare and all shore excursions.  So even though the total price might be slightly higher when comparing the luxury lines to the mass lines, the overall experience and satisfaction are likely to be better thanks to a more rewarding experience with a higher staff-to-guest ratio, and more intimate ships.
  • Sail the off-season.  Many lines offer reduced fares for repositioning cruises (i.e. moving ships from destination to destination, such as prior to or after the conclusion of the Alaska season, or moving through the Panama Canal from the Atlantic itineraries to Pacific itineraries, etc).  Another off-season time in early December, before the Christmas holidays and peak pricing.  
  • Use the services of an experienced cruise agent.  Choosing a cruise might seem simple - just look at the options and pick one, right?  Not necessarily, as even similar-looking itineraries can yield vastly different experiences. Cruise agents are experienced travelers and experts in their profession, helping to navigate the sometimes choppy waters of the vast array of options, lines, stateroom categories and so much more.  Experienced cruise agents work with each individual client to craft the best possible vacation experience for that client's needs and desires.  No one-size-fits-all website provider will do that!  Plus experienced cruise agents will be able to find the best value for their clients, even though the best value isn't always the lowest price.  Though they do often go hand in hand, remember that "value" and "price" are not one and the same.     What is a "great" value to you, might not be held in the same esteem to your friend or neighbor, even if you each paid the exact same amount of money.  While you might view the price paid as the most important aspect, your friend might view the intrinsic value of the overall experience(s) enjoyed as more important than the monetary value of the price paid.  Value and price are not one and the same, and experienced cruise agents work to match the client to the experience, whereas most websites simply offer cruises as products to be purchased for a set price, regardless of whether or not it is the best value for you, the individual.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Saturday Savers - Saving While Onboard Ship

A cruise vacation can be a wonderful, relaxing, nearly all-inclusive experience (getting all of your onboard meals, accommodations, all onboard entertainment, and transportation to various ports of call included in your cruise fare) – but unless you have booked on a luxury line (a la Seabourn, Oceania or Regent Seven Seas), do keep in mind the key word NEARLY, as each of the other lines do charge for various experiences and add-ons that are not included in your cruise fare.  Today we’ll take a look at just a few of these items, and how you might save money with each one while onboard the ship.

Once onboard, you’ll find that ships today have a wide array of add-on or “plussing” that you can do to enhance your vacation experience.  Whether that includes shopping, dining in specialty restaurants vs. the traditional dining rooms, enjoying alcoholic beverages, shore excursions or playing your favorite games in the casino (for those ships that have one)… saving money onboard really boils down to what YOU deem to be necessary or not to the betterment of your vacation experience.  

Generally, the following categories, while nice enhancements to your fun – aren’t very good overall values onboard, and could save you a lot of money if you avoid them.  However, if you absolutely cannot skip them – there are a few tips in each one that might help you at least improve the overall value for you, and reduce your personal expense.

1. Onboard Photographers
In the days before digital cameras, onboard photography was a huge money maker for the cruise lines, as they would each staff their ships with multiple roaming photographers, capturing the crowds every night, and then printing out every decent image putting it on display in their photo galleries for all to see and peruse.  Many guests would then buy multiple shots to take home as souvenirs from their cruise experience.  But with the advent of digital photography, not as many guests are buying the photos any more, despite the cruise lines still printing them and putting them on display.  The cost of each print has risen through the years, with the average cost of an 8x10 image hovering around $10.  Nevermind that guests can take very similar shots of their own with their own cameras, and then print them at home at their local drug store or big box store for around $1 each – or less, depending on the size.  Guests can very easily take hundreds, if not thousands of their own photos.  The packages on board aren’t worth the extra cost, in my opinion.  Selecting one or two images from the onboard photographers can still make for a nice souvenir memory, without breaking the bank.

2.  Casinos
Playing a slot machine every now and again can be a fun way to spend a few dollars, but beware, onboard casinos generally do not pay out as handsomely as land-based casinos do (but then, Las Vegas doesn’t even pay out as much as it once did).  While it can be said that some people in the past have succeed in winning big jackpots onboard ships, most of the time it just doesn’t happen.  If you choose to partake of the gaming opportunities onboard, set a very strict limit for yourself, and do not exceed it.  Determine what you are willing to lose before you ever step foot onboard, and then if and when it happens, don’t let yourself be disappointed.  However, if you then decide it’s okay to exceed your pre-determined limit, you will a) be disappointed and b) start to rack up extra costs that you did not budget for in your vacation calculation, and you will be spending more than you bargained for.  The best way to save money onboard a ship with a casino, is simply to not enter the casino in the first place. 

3. Gratuities
Just as they are on land in table service restaurants and so many other places, gratuities and service charges are a part of cruising. You should pay the recommended daily amount and no more or less. Every single drink and specialty restaurant meal that you sign for already includes a service charge added to the price.  Unless you absolutely feel that an extra tip is warranted, don’t write in an extra amount in the space that you will see for an additional tip. You have already paid the service charge, so there is no reason to pay an additional tip.  If you do want to give a crewmember a special tip you should hand it to them in cash very discretely.  Any gratuities that you give by signing a tab or charge slip will most likely be put into a pool and shared by all the people in that department.  Even though pre-paying your gratuities is not saving money, in doing so, you are lessening the outlay that you must make while onboard ship.  Since all cruise lines require full payment about 60 days prior to departure (a few are 75-90 days),  your vacation is essentially paid in full months before you even leave port.  Anything that you do onboard then is extra and must be paid for prior to disembarking the ship.  It is easier to just pre-pay the gratuities, funding that cost with the overall cruise fare, and not having to worry about an additional outlay while onboard ship.

4. The Spa
The Spa is a wonderful place for an indulgence; however, we must recognize that cruise ships generally charge higher spa prices than many of the tony resorts and spas on land, and much higher prices than some of the newer massage franchises like Massage Envy. Expect to pay as much as $125 for a 60-minute massage, two to three times what a professional massage therapist will charge on land.

To get the most out of your spa appointment we suggest booking a morning appointment. Most masseuses onboard work all day, and they get tired. Because of their busy schedule they also do not work as hard as many land-based massage therapists. The standard massage treatment on a cruise ship is a "Swedish Massage," also known as "classic massage." You should know that Swedish is a style of massage that does not necessarily focus on deep tissue work. It involves long, flowing strokes, rubbing and kneading. But if you have a knot in your neck or under your shoulder blade what you need is deep tissue work.  If you want a therapeutic massage its suggested that you ask for a deep tissue massage.  A great way to save money is to schedule your massage for a day when the ship is in port, as many cruise lines discount the spa services on port days – sometimes as much as 50% vs. sea days. 

Another aspect of cruise ship massage sessions is the hard sell at the end of the session for additional products and services such as lotions, bath salts, and more.  There is no stopping this, so there’s not need to be upset by it.  Simply be polite and let them know that you understand it is their job to offer these products and services, but let them know that you won’t be purchasing them… you’ll just be enjoying the afterglow of your massage, and then be on your way. Then thank them and leave.  Also be sure to watch out for available services such as “fat burning wraps” that claim to take off inches from your body immediately, at very high prices.  They don’t work, and you’ll be burning the money in your pocket faster than the wraps claim they can take fat off your body. 

5. Beverages – Both Alcoholic and Non-Alcoholic
While onboard ship, many people enjoy partaking of a few drinks, and the cruise lines certainly do make it easy with multiple bars and lounges scattered about, and wandering servers carrying trays of beverages just waiting to be purchased.  Add in the “drink of the day” that the ships offer, and wham, the availability is very prevalent.  But be warned…drinks onboard ship can be very expensive, and your bar bill can add up very quickly if you are not careful.

Some cruise lines do allow you to bring your own alcohol onboard – but you must know the rules in order to be successful with this.  For example, Royal Caribbean will allow you to bring one bottle of wine or other alcohol onboard to be consumed in your room.  Disney Cruise Line will also allow you to bring it onboard to be consumed in your room.  As will the ships owned by the Carnival Corporation – Carnival, Cunard, Princess, Holland America & Costa).  Each line will have a corkage fee if you take the bottle in to the dining room for dinner.  No lines allow you to consume alcohol that you bring onboard in public spaces (other than the dining room).

Many cruise lines offer drink packages where you can drink as much as you want for a set amount per day. Some of these packages are for alcoholic beverages, while others are for non-alcoholic beverages such as soft drinks.  Each line is different in what they offer, but if you consume multiple beverages in a day at a la carte pricing, you will very likely save money by going with the offered package.  With the exception of the luxury lines, Disney Cruise Line is the only one to provide soft drinks included in the cruise fare. 

Be advised that it is not wise to attempt to skirt the rules regarding bringing prohibited beverages onboard ship.  Luggage is x-rayed prior to embarkation, and the cruise lines will remove any contraband beverages that they find, holding it in the ship’s storage, until disembarkation when you will receive it back again. 

6. Internet Access
Internet access is by far the newest money maker for the cruise lines, as more and more people who go on vacation, are unable to completely disconnect from their lives at home.  From the vast array of electronic goodies that people use, and all of the demands from home, remaining connected is very important to a large number of travelers.  And the cruise lines know it, and charge handsomely for the luxury or remaining connected – often as much as 75-cents per minute of connectivity. Truly the only way to save money onboard is to simply log off.  However, if you cannot do so, here are a few tips regarding onboard electronics & connecting to the internet:

  •  iPads…you can use your iPad on a cruise ship, but keep in mind you do not want to stay logged onto your account while typing up an email. iPads are generally designed to be used only while connected to the Internet, using your webmail instead of an email program, for example. The same is true of workstations in a cruise ship's Internet center.
  • Laptops… these will give you the ability to sign on only long enough to pick up new email messages. You can then compose your replies offline and then sign on again long enough to send them. Laptops also give you a place to offload your digital camera pictures in memory so you can shoot more pictures.
  • Cell phones… if you take a cell phone onboard never use it to access the Internet. You will have to pay a data roaming charge that will generally cost about $5 per megabyte. Your cell phone should have an option to disable "data roaming" which you must use.  The best thing to do with your cell phone, is to turn it off once you set sail and don’t turn it back on again until you return to your home port.  Once you leave port, even before getting to international waters, you will be roaming, and international roaming is very expensive with the various cell providers.  If you must have cell phone access while onboard – it would be cheaper to invest in an international cell phone, and simply keep it for all trips that take you to international destinations than to use your regular cell phone. 
  • Texting… here is another warning regarding text messages. Even with data roaming turned off be very careful of incoming text messages. If someone sends you a picture by text message and you open it, you will be charged the data roaming rate even if you have data roaming turned off;  the cost of data roaming on a cruise ship is $25 per megabyte or higher.

Be sure to check with your individual cell phone provider regarding their charges and policies before setting sail.  Ask them specifically about the charges for the countries that your itinerary will be visiting, and what the charges are for roaming services.  Then you can make an informed decision and better understand what your costs will be when you return home once more. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Saturday Savers - Saving on Meals

Dining in the Disney Parks can be an expensive proposition, especially if you are a larger family, but it doesn't HAVE to break the bank! One way to save money is to simply avoid table service restaurants altogether. Sure you might not have as large a variety or selection by only eating at counter service locations, but it doesn't mean you'll be stuck with a selection of only hot dogs or hamburgers either. One of my favorite counter service locations at Walt Disney World is inside Disney's Animal Kingdom Park - the Yak & Yeti Counter Service just to the right of the entrace of Yak & Yeti itself. The menu is nowhere near as extensive (or expensive) as the table service restaurant just next door - but the menu items at the counter service location are all based on their table service counterparts. One of my favorite counter service locations at Disneyland is inside Disney California Adventure Park - the Paradise Garden Grill near Goofy's Sky School & Silly Symphony Swings. It serves up meditteranean style skewers, and the portion is terrific - you can get quite full from a meal there.   If you check the maps, you'll see that there actually is a wide array of choices in the counter service category at both resorts. A typical counter service meal will run between $10-15 per person whereas the typical table service meal will start at around $20 per person and only go up from there. 

Something to consider too, about many of the entrees and combo meals served at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland restaurants, is that they typically include a large portion - often too large. If you aren't big eaters, you could easily share the meal between two people.  My wife and daughter have done this numerous times, and other times my wife and I, or my son and I have too.  If perhaps you think that that might not satisfy both people, order an appetizer or a side dish to share between you. You can do this at both counter service and table service locations.  If you do so at table service locations, sometimes the server will bring it out to you already split on individual plates.  If you do avoid all table service locations, but don't want to split a meal, or you're traveling alone and don't want all that food - simply order from the Kids' Menu at counter service locations.  The cost will be considerably less, and the portion will still satisfy. 

The point of your vacation is to have fun, relax and enjoy yourself. If you are fretting about the cost the entire time, you won't be able to enjoy yourself. There are many ways to enjoy the magic of it all, without spending it all on food!