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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Your Money: How To Save On Travel

 June 3, 2019 at 10:18 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 Are you ready for a vacation? We'll travel expert say more than 260 million of us are. That's the number of Americans expected to travel by air this season. Airlines are already warning of potential delays and canceled flights due to a shortage of TSA agents and the grounding of the seven 37 Max. But if you plan ahead and are flexible about your travel, you may still find great getaways at bargain prices. Elizabeth Harriman travel editor with Westways, a magazine for AAA members in southern California, spoke over Skype with KPBS midday addition cohost Maureen Cavanagh. Now, can you give us an overview of this summer's overseas travel season? Where in the world are the bargains? Speaker 2: 00:41 Well, the bargains are in places like Spain of all the European countries. Spain is perhaps the most affordable. You might not have thought of that, so that is one place where the bargains are, but really the bargains can be any place if you plan ahead. You mentioned being flexible. Flexible is really the key to traveling. Be Flexible when you fly. If you fly on a Tuesday or Wednesday, you're likely to get a better rate than if you fly on a Friday. So if you can alter the day or time that you fly, if you fly into a different airport, you might get a better rate. So being flexible and if you can travel off season. I were talking about the summer travel season, but there are some places if you want to go to Europe state in the winter, the fall or winter prices will be lower and the art seasons and the symphonies and all will be in full swing. Speaker 1: 01:37 If you are planning to fly, considering the problems that may pop up this year, this big travel season, should you have a backup connection plan in place, you should have Speaker 2: 01:47 always have a backup plan. Say if you're doing a connecting flight, Eh, you've connect through Dallas Fort Worth. Always have a plan. Say if you maybe need to stay overnight in Dallas, fort worth, know what the schedule is. The alternate schedules are and it really helps if you're a member of a frequent flyer program that really helps if say your flight is delayed, if you're a member of a frequent flyer program and the higher you are in that program, you will get first crack at the new flights and go to your cell phone. Don't wait in line at the ticket counter. If you do get a change, go to your cell phone and call that 800 number for your frequent flyer program. They will help you out. Speaker 1: 02:32 What about when you get to your foreign destination? How do you avoid spending money? You don't have to on accommodation and getting around. Well you plan ahead head Speaker 2: 02:42 and one of the best things you can do is actually opt for a tour or a guided vacation that can actually save you a lot of money. Not a lot of people are saying, Oh, I do not want to get on and off a bus with 40 other people. I hear you, but in the first place, guided vacations escorted tours are not what they used to be. They're much more immersive. You can take cooking classes and gardening and make scones in an Irish farm house, but that will save you about as much as 40% off paying for the hotel and transportation individually. Now, if you don't want a guided tour, you can take a package where you have some of the benefits of a guided tour. Your hotel is all planned, planned in advance, and maybe a city tour, but you travel individually. You don't have to wait in line at the different stops. Speaker 2: 03:33 And then there's food if you do travel alone or do you want to go it on your own? How do you save on your travel food budget? We'll definitely try all the local places. Not only will it save you money, but you get a sense of the authenticity of the place where you're visiting because really food is one of the ways that you experience a place's culture. Uh, if you're in Singapore, go to the Hawker stalls. They are totally approved. They are sanitary. I remember a wonderful time in Harlem, which is this great city outside Amsterdam. We went to this little stand where they sold Belgian fries, really French fries, but they're really Belgian fries, but they serve them with mayonnaise and all. You've never tasted anything so decadent in your life? No. Uh, I know travelers are often surprised by fees they encounter in foreign currency exchange. Speaker 2: 04:24 How do you avoid that? First of all, the best way to exchange money is do it at a bank ATM. Avoid those kiosks. Don't, don't go to Henry over there who was luring you over there and saying, you get a better rate here. No. Go to the bank ATM and do fewer transactions of greater amounts. In other words, one withdrawal of $300 rather than three withdrawals of $100 each because they'll, you know, typically charge you a withdrawal fee. Did use a credit card to pay for things whenever possible cause you'll get the best exchange rate and try to avoid foreign transaction fees. Many credit cards charge a fee of one to 3% on every purchase you make outside the u s so check your cards policy before you leave. And if it charges the transaction fee, you might consider getting one that doesn't, uh, just to use on your trip. Speaker 2: 05:15 Now, Elizabeth, you say one of the best travel values is taking a cruise. Why is that? Well, first of all, you pay one price up front. You budget in advance, you know what your vacation is going to cost. It covers your accommodation, your transportation, all your food. Well, when I say all your food, there are maybe some specialty restaurants where they might charge extra and most onboard activities. That's all included in your airfare. You can pay more if you want, like a specialty restaurant or, or some of those drinks. They keep the move with a fancy umbrellas that they keep trying to tempt you with, but you don't actually have to and you can get off a cruise. I mean, it is. You can take a cruise for as little as a hundred dollars per person per night and have a fabulous time with all those things included. And you can barely stay at a hotel for $100 a night. Speaker 1: 06:06 Now, you know, travel agents in this day and age are sometimes thought to be passe because we can book our own travel or on flights and excursions. But you say that that's not the case. Why should we still use a travel agent? Speaker 2: 06:19 A travel agent can save you time and hassle and money. Uh, you know, I a travel the travel editor of Westways and I use travel agents and it's not just because I'm with AAA. Uh, I use travel agents long before I started working for Aaa because my time is valuable and they saved me time. And they also know about deals and discounts that you might not know about. Now if you're just doing a single flight from point a to point B that you could do on your own. But if you're booking a tour or a cruise or a complicated vacation, they will plan the itinerary. They can book your hotels and your transportation and your cruise or tour. Speaker 1: 06:59 Well, so traveled bargains don't always mean going for the lowest price. Right. But, but for the actually the best value, Speaker 2: 07:07 that is a really good point Maureen. I'm so glad you mentioned that. Look for value. For instance, I say never book the basic economy, which is the economy class and below they are regular economy. You might find yourself out on the wing if you do that. Um, because if you do that basic economy, you don't get a seat assignment. You don't get to put your luggage in the overhead. But sometimes you can spend a little more and get a lot more. I remember one time my husband and I wanted to save money and we booked this London hotel and the room was about the size of a closet and you had to climb over the bed to get to the bathroom. That was a little too much budget minded. So go for affordability and value. Not necessarily the lowest price. Speaker 1: 07:50 I've been speaking with Westways travel editor, Elizabeth Herrmann. Elizabeth, thank you so much. Thank you Maureen. And she was speaking with Maureen Cavanagh. Speaker 3: 08:02 Yeah.

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As part of our ongoing personal finance series, Westways travel editor Elizabeth Harryman joins Midday Edition with tips on how to save money while traveling.
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