Travelers on a tight budget are used to getting by on the bare minimum. After all, that’s what budget traveling is all about: to see the world without having to empty your savings account. Seasoned budget travelers have become experts in finding out the cheapest but also clean places to sleep in; the restaurants that serve giant proportions but charge you half of what other dining places usually ask for; and the best time to book flights to snag those cheap plane tickets on sale.
Having the option to travel on a small budget is good news for those who want to get around but don’t have much money to burn. It’s just as well because not all travelers can afford to book themselves in big suites at luxurious hotels, and sip champagne as they sit in the first class section of a plane. However, it’s also good to indulge yourselves a bit and get a taste of luxury even for just a short while. You don’t have to go all out and spend all your hard earned cash just to have some fun while on vacation; it’s actually the little things like some extra legroom or a nice meal that add a special touch to your trip. These little upgrades do a lot to make our travels enjoyable and memorable, so today we’re sharing with you five tips on how to get a modest upgrade and make the most out of your time away from home.
1. Know how to avail of an upgrade
We all know money is hard to come by these days. Not everyone can afford to spend hundreds of dollars to book themselves in a first class or even business class seat. Lots of airlines these days now offer upgrades depending on the time that you check in; all you have to do is pay a little extra and you can get a seat that’s a bit more comfortable than that cramped bunk at the end of the coach section. These upgrades can cost you a mere US 25 dollars, which isn’t an expensive amount even for budget travelers like us. Sometimes, airline agents can even upgrade your seat if you have a connecting flight, or if you have a round trip ticket, you can get an upgrade on your journey back as well.
Even if the airline has no available seats for you in a higher class, a better one might be made available to you, sometimes at no cost at all. Carriers nowadays have what they call premium seats for the economy class. These are usually the ones situated at the coach’s front section, with wider seats and more room for your legs and feet. Other premium seats at coach are usually the ones at the back of the exit row chairs.
You can usually discuss upgrade charges with an airline agent if you’re not too sure you can pay the amount. Agents can give you an exact amount most of the time, so you can make all the necessary computations and adjustments in your budget if you have to. Sometimes, your actual presence at the check in desk won’t even be necessary; upgrades are being offered nowadays on airline websites, too. Getting upgraded seats on a plane is one way of starting your journey on the right foot; it’s not something you have to commit to right away, and it only costs a little extra. All you have to do is ask.
2. Save yourself the trouble and purchase your tickets well in advance
It’s natural to get excited when you’re planning your big vacation. However, that excitement slowly diminishes with every minute you spend standing in line with lots of other people just to buy your plane ticket or book yourself on a package tour. You know the drill, you show up and for the next few hours, you stand in line in a stuffy room moving inch by inch towards the counter with nothing to eat or drink. Fortunately for travelers everywhere, lots of establishments have started to find ways to help you avoid this predicament. You can now buy your tickets in advance, thus ensuring your ticket for your vacation; nowadays, agencies have also started posting time schedules so you’ll know when to buy your tickets and avoid long lines as well.
Examples of establishments that have started to adopt the early bird schedule are Disney and the American Museum of National History. Since these places are quite popular attractions among the traveling public, they have learned to find ways to make it more comfortable and appealing for customers to be able to visit them. As a marketing strategy, this also gives them the advantage against other establishments because the ease in purchasing tickets entices them to come back. This service usually costs a minimal fee of US 2 dollars, but don’t usually exceed US 5 dollars; for people who have become allergic to standing in long lines, this is a small price to pay. Other establishments even go the distance by mailing the tickets to your doorstep, saving you the trouble of having to pick it up yourself.
Sometimes, taking the time to read the brochure or an entire webpage can pay off by saving you a couple of bucks. In other establishments, buying tickets by the bulk is cheaper than getting them per person. For example, if you’re taking your entire family for an entire day’s trip to the American Museum of Natural History, availing of the museum membership turns out to be cheaper than buying one time tickets for each member. A one year membership at the AMNH will cost you US 115 dollars and entitles two adults and up to four kids unlimited admission to the museum for the next 12 months. Regular tickets for the same number of people will add up to US 92 dollars, but that gives you access to the museum for just one day. What’s neat about this arrangement is that you can lend your membership card to a relative so they can treat their loved ones to a trip around the premises as well.
3. Learn the trick to upgrading your rented vehicle
If you’re renting a car and are worried about spending a fortune on getting it upgraded, don’t worry; upgrading a car these days will cost you a small amount, but usually not amounting to the cost of a renting a more expensive car. This lets you avail of a better car than what you originally had, without spending money on a car in a higher class.
For example, if you rented a small, economy car for about US 18 dollars each day; the car company will usually charge you around US 5 dollars a day extra to have it upgraded. Compare that to the original rental cost of a bigger car for US 50 dollars, having an upgrade will cost you a couple of dollars that can go towards food or other expenses.
If you’re planning ahead for your upcoming road trip, check out the website of other car companies and see if you can get an upgrade when you book online. This trend is becoming more and more popular these days, so it shouldn’t be too much of a problem for you to get a decent bargain. Spending a couple of minutes online and browsing through a couple of websites is a fairly easy task if you want to be able to drive a decent car when you arrive at your destination minus the big price tag.
One risk that you will have to take in this process is the unavailability of an upgrade for your small, economy car. But if you’re not planning a cross country road trip in the United States, perhaps being stuck in your economy car wouldn’t be so bad.
4. Consult with an experienced travel agent
Some travelers like to feel responsible when we’re traveling; it gives them a sense of accomplishment, knowing that they were able to envision, organize and execute a relaxing, adventurous and productive vacation in a country halfway across the world. This is no problem at all for those who have a knack for multitasking; however, some people find the entire process of planning a vacation one of the most stressful tasks that they have to accomplish. If you’re not particularly fond of scouring different websites for bargains on plane tickets and hotel rooms, we suggest hiring the services of an experienced and trustworthy travel agent to handle all the details that concerns your dream vacation.
Of course, getting help from an expert will cost you some money, but there are travel agents out there whose fees are not that expensive. For about US 35 dollars, a seasoned travel agent can be asked to relieve you from attending to lots of paperwork such as seating plans for airplanes, schedules for sightseeing, and hotel room options (double beds or single queen?). You can even consider your travel agent to be your next best friend for the entire duration of your vacation-planning phase because they do all the dirty work for you such as haggling with airline agencies and hotels to get you the best price possible. This will not only save you the effort, but also precious time as well.
Travel agents can also prove to be very useful when you’re traveling with a large group of people. Getting seated next to each other is always a challenge for groups of eight or even 15, but this is exactly the challenge that travel agents are used to. Instead of having an anxiety attack while planning your vacation overseas, you can just relax and think of the different ways on how you plan to have fun during your time off.
Travel agents are not only useful for getting decent seats on planes; they are also experienced in finding the best deals for rental cars and accommodation. They have inside information and can tell you if the prices are a bargain or if they’re still too steep.
5. Avail of room service
Ah, we know what you’re thinking, and we want to put a stop to your fears. Room service may sound like an unnecessary luxury especially to budget travelers, but one thing that people should understand is that if you actually take the time to sit down and compute the cost of the meal down at the hotel’s restaurant, and the one on your room service menu, they’re actually the same. Not only that, chances are the food choices at the restaurant downstairs is similar to the variety of food printed on that menu. Even beverages nowadays cost the same whether or not you get it delivered to your room or straight from the barkeep. The only difference is that getting your meals by room service costs a little extra. But if you look closely, a lot of hotels actually include the gratuity fee in your bill, so you don’t really have to pull out your wallet to fish out some extra bills.
For weary travelers, having your breakfast in bed is a small luxury that has magical effects. You don’t have to trundle down the hotel still groggy from sleep just to be able to catch the breakfast buffet. While waiting for your food, you can stay in bed, watch the television and keep up with the local news, take a shower, check your email for any messages, or perhaps keep track of any hotel or plane arrangements online. At other hotels, you can even place your breakfast order for the upcoming morning at a certain time so you won’t have to make an early call; your breakfast will be delivered straight to your room warm and smelling oh so good.
A gentle reminder to our dear readers, we don’t recommend having room service every day during your two week getaway—that would definitely be on the extravagant side. While there may be numerous coffee houses that offer cheaper grub compared to what the bellboy will deliver to your room, indulging in room service for a day or two probably won’t make a big dent on your vacation loot. There’s really no harm in starting your day right by digging into steaming banana pancakes and sipping hazelnut coffee while sitting up in bed.
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