By Christine Krzyszton
Welcome to part three of our little series based on the premise that having a predetermined destination when you travel is detrimental to the pocketbook, and that taking that annual two-week vacation to the same beachfront condo may get in the way of you seeing the rest of the world. (Oh, and by the way, it doesn’t make you much more interesting than you were last year.)
If you can consider visiting a country you’ve never visited before at a cheap price, you could visit several countries a year and not spend as much as you do on a two-week vacation to Boca Del Vista. Let me ask you a tough question: If you could go to Australia for cheap (or free) but you only have a few days to do it, would you go? By now maybe you’re warming up to the idea that, as a Baby Boomer, you have the option to reevaluate how and where you travel.
Let’s recap where we’ve been: We’ve gone to www.farecompare.com, typed in our home airport, searched the world for the cheapest ticket we could find outside of the United States, and scored a deal on airfare to Istanbul (for example). I use this example because I recently booked such a deal to Istanbul for Thanksgiving.
Now, finding a cheap hotel is not a difficult task, but with some preplanning you can stay in more upscale digs just as cheaply. In addition, you can take advantage of some sweet perks and even earn free rooms.
The first step to getting these great hotel deals is to sign up for a few hotel loyalty
programs. Some of the more popular ones are:
- Hilton (www.hiltonhonors.com)
- Starwood Preferred Guest (www.starwoodhotels.com)
- Intercontinental/Holiday Inn (www.priorityclub.com)
- Marriott (www.marriottrewards.com)
- Hyatt Gold Passport (www.hyatt.com)
Once you’ve signed up, the emails will start flowing into your inbox and the deals will be there for the taking. Your benefits also begin immediately as you gain such perks as late checkouts, free newspapers, free local phone calls, free Internet access, and even room upgrades.
My rule is that I never stay at a hotel or motel chain without joining its frequent stay program — never. I do not want to miss out on future offers that may bring me perks and/or free rooms. With my membership in these frequent stay programs, I’m privy to the real deals, such as a recent promotion where I stay two nights and get a certificate for a third night for free.
Here’s the beauty of such a promotion: You stay twice in one of their cheapest hotels (in this case it was $59/night), earn your free certificate, and use it for a room at one of their top-notch resorts in Hawaii, for example, which costs over $400 a night. Free. I know because I’ve done it and so have other Travel For Boomer contributors. I actually used free-night certificates for high-end hotel rooms in Copenhagen, Toronto, Rome, Quito, Helsinki, and Hawaii, all within a year. For other methods on getting a great deal on a hotel for your weekend somewhere in the world, see the Travel for Boomers post, “How to Book Hotel Rooms.” Kim’s method works anywhere in the world.
So we’ve booked our cheap air ticket and our hotel and now we’re off to see the world in a weekend. I use the term weekend loosely as it can certainly mean a long weekend or an extended holiday weekend, which I frequently have to do because I still have a “real job.” But I do challenge you to stretch yourself and plan your next trip without a predetermined destination and see what might present itself. You may just end up in Istanbul for Thanksgiving!
Well, we’ve just scratched the surface in our quest for cheap travel. You’ll have to visit us often here at Travel for Boomers and we promise you information that will help you travel like you never traveled before: better and cheaper, travel how it should be.