Q: I’m taking a vacation, room rates are ridiculous. Any way you can save me some money?
A: This is fun. You can start your own miniature bidding ware by calling up several hotel desk clerks and asking them for “the cheapest non-refundable rate.” Play them against each other. Using this method, you can save upwards of $20 off the online rate, even though they insist that that’s their cheapest available rate.
Q: I’ve discovered that it will take the passport office 3 weeks to finish my passport but my trip is only 1 week away. Is there anything I can do?
A: When all else fails, how about making your Congressman do some work for you for once. Call up your congressman’s district office and ask to speak to the constituent liaison. This is the person whose job is to prod bureaucrats into action. Tell him your story and the constituent liaison will be able to get your passport escalated up the ladder and out to you faster.
Q: Besides online comparison shopping, how can I save on airfare?
A: For buyers, not all days are created equal. Most airlines announce fare cuts on Monday nights and the other airlines have followed suit with price drops by Tuesday. So Tuesday is the best day to buy.
Q: Other than packing less or carrying your bags on, how can I avoid checked bag fees?
A: Besides having to pay for that awful food, there’s nothing travelers hate more than having to pay to check their bags. Here’s two tips to avoid those fees. One you can fly an airline that doesn’t charge them for the first bag, like JetBlue or Southwest. Second, take a look at your credit card. Some cards, especially certain airline loyalty credit cards, will cover your checked bag fees for you.
Q: What kind of fees and tackons will hotels try to add on? Can I fight back?
A: They’re gonna try and get you. You open up the bill and check out and discover it’s higher than you expected and there’s a line item list of fees for things you didn’t even use, like internet, newspaper, gym or a pool towel fee when you didn’t dip a toe in your whole time. If you didn’t use them, ask them to take those fees off. You’ll also see places try to charge more bizarre fees, like a “grounds keeping fee,” the fee for keeping the bushes and grass trimmed. Unless they put some extra petunias outside your window while you were sleeping, get it out of there. My favorite fee is the “energy surcharge fee.” Oh? You wanted to stay in a hotel that had lights that were on? That’s going to cost you extra
Q: Speaking of hotel towels, some people love to load up on them when they stay. Are hotels doing anything to curb this?
A: You might want to think twice before stuffing that fluffy towel in your suitcase next time. Some hotels have started weaving washable RFID chips into their hotel towels and linens. One hotel said they cut down on theft by a quarter after this, saving them $15,000. Now you would hope that they would pass on these efficiencies to customers with lower room rates – now there’s a line item I’d like to see on my bill, 5% discount for RFID savings – but we know that’s not going to happen.