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Planning a trip? Here are simple tricks to save money and get the best deals

Wondering how to get the cheapest fares, how to haggle and how much to tip? Here’s an expert take on this.

travel Updated: Feb 22, 2018 13:49 IST
Associated Press
Vacation,Travel,Flight
Tourists are already charged more than locals because they’re perceived as having wealth.(Shutterstock)

Natasha Rachel Smith was good at math as a teenager and intrigued by personal finance. As an adult, she was determined to turn “marketing techniques on their head”. Today, she works for TopCashback.com, which offers rebates and other deals to consumers who make purchases through the website — including for travel. She shares vacation-planning strategies:

The flight

For a last-minute winter getaway, Smith’s first stop for booking was Skyscanner.com, where you can input your departure airport without putting in a destination. She then looked for whatever the cheapest fares were to anywhere from her home airport. Instead of searching for exact dates, you can search flights on Skyscanner for a whole month or for the cheapest month.

Accommodations and ground transport

Next, the hotel. Smith compared hotels in the Bahamas through vendors like Hotels.com and decided prices were high. Instead, she booked an Airbnb, $400 for four nights as opposed to $200-$300 per night for a hotel. To figure out ground transport for any trip, Smith compares car rental prices with Uber, and taxi fees. On another trip, this one to Barbados, she asked her Airbnb host what she should expect to pay to get to her lodging from other places she was likely to spend time, for example, an area with restaurants. Her host said cabs would run around $10 Bajan or $5 U.S., so when a local taxi driver told her to set her own price for a fare, that’s what she offered. The driver accepted, though he told her he thought she was underpaying a bit. A different driver on another day asked for $15, and she opted to walk instead.

Travellers shouldn’t be reluctant to negotiate prices, whether they’re getting a cab or buying from a vendor in a market. (Shutterstock)

Tips and haggling

Smith says travellers shouldn’t be reluctant to negotiate prices, whether they’re getting a cab or buying from a vendor in a market. “It’s just a business transaction,” Smith said. “You aren’t trying to take advantage of someone as much as you are looking for a fair price.” If your offer is too low, it won’t be accepted, but do your homework so you’re in the ballpark. And be prepared to walk away if the vendor rejects your price.

From a cultural perspective, she added, in many countries “it is expected that you’ll negotiate”. Tourists are already charged more than locals because they’re perceived as having wealth, she said. That doesn’t mean you need to be cheap; it just means deciding “what is reasonable and fair”.

As for tipping, research local expectations. Tipping 15 to 20% is normal in New York but in some places, 5 to 10% is the norm. And in many regions of the world, like parts of Asia, tipping is simply not done.

Etcetera

* Look at bonus points and partnerships offered by credit cards and loyalty programs. Smith signed up for the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card, which gave her 50,000 bonus points for spending $3,000 within three months.

* All-inclusive resorts typically include alcohol and food along with lodging, and can be a great way to save money especially if you’re planning a vacation where you want to lounge by the pool sipping a cocktail.

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First Published: Feb 22, 2018 13:49 IST