Recently I’ve gone to two major travel shows, one in New York and the other in Boston. The New York Times Travel Show drew a record-breaking crowd of 30,000 participants in the span of 3 days and nearly 600 exhibitors. The Boston Globe Travel Show was considerably smaller but also attracted a strong turnout of attendees, exhibitors, and speakers. I sat in on numerous sessions and spoke with travel experts. And–whoa, Nelly—did they have a lot to say! While reviewing my notes, I highlighted tips that I found most interesting. Some came as surprises; others reinforced inklings I already had. While I can’t personally vouch for all eleven, they came from credible sources. Here they are:
Tip 1: Go places where others aren’t going, as long as there’s a strong and stable government in that country. The best deals can be found after something has scared other people away. The terrible events in France, for example, have taken a toll on tourism. That makes it one of the best destinations for value at the moment.
Tip 2: There are only two kinds of bags: carry-on and lost. Avoid checking bags, said Peter Greenberg, travel editor for CBS News. He Fed Ex’es luggage ahead of his travels.
Tip 4: If searching for hotels, research rates and reviews on Booking.com, Agoda.com, and HotelsCombined.com. Oyster.com is especially helpful for its user photos, which sometimes expose gaps between what hotels’ own websites promise vs what they deliver. For luxury hotels, Magellan Vacations often provides good rates and upgrades, although the service is limited to certain locations.
Tip 5: For booking the best hotel rates and amenities, do your research and then speak directly with the hotel. Ask if they will sweeten the deal, such as throwing in free Wifi, parking, or breakfast. A friend put this advice to use when he called an inn where he has stayed before and asked if they would offer a discount to a returning customer. They welcomed his repeat business by shaving $100 off the price.
Tip 6: In between online searches, clear your cache to erase your browser history, open an incognito window, or switch browsers. Prices might go up if cookies track that you’ve searched prices before.
Tip 7: Beware of resort fees that make rooms seem cheaper but are only shifting the cost elsewhere. Several savvy travelers reported success in getting resort fees waived.
Tip 8: Don’t broadcast that you’re away. Disable location sharing on social media. Post about your travels only after you’ve returned home to avoid being a target for burglars.
Tip 9: The cheapest days to travel by air are said to be Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday; the most expensive are Friday and Sunday. There are no fool-proof strategies for when to purchase tickets, however several experts contend that Tuesday and Sunday offer a slight edge. Avoid buying tickets on a Friday. Pauline Frommer of Frommer’s Travel Guides recommended booking roughly 2 months before departure for domestic travel; 5-6 months in advance of travel to Europe and Asia, and 2-3 months before going to the Caribbean, Central, and South America.
Tip 10: It’s essentially impossible to get significant travel rewards from airline credit card programs. Peter Greenberg quipped, “I don’t trust the airlines as airlines, so why would I trust them as banks?”
Tip 11: Make planning part of the pleasure of travel. Read up on your destination ahead of time. Get good guidebooks, and let the anticipation begin.
Those are the most interesting tips that I heard at the travel shows. I’d love to hear how your experiences compare. Have you tried any of them? If so, how did that work out? Are there other tried-and-true tips that you swear by when planning travel?
I’ll conclude by sharing some of my own tips which I delivered in my presentation at the NYT Travel Show. I was honored to be invited to speak there. My topic was Markets as a Window into the Soul of a Place. In contrast to others’ tips above, mine focus on how to make the most of the experience after you’ve arrived at your destination and, specifically, how to make the most of markets wherever you go.