I’m packing for my next marathon adventure, but thought I’d add some general travel and planning pointers that I’ve learned or realized.
1. Plan Ahead. First, and foremost, because it’s fun. Its exciting to start planning. As soon as the idea is planted in my head that I might want to visit a city for a marathon or event, I go to www.Kayak.com and set up a price alert for flights – I always use the daily alert, not the weekly alert. Fares can change like the seasons, and in order to take advantage of a good rate you need to know about it.
2. Early Bookings can be Great Deals. I know we typically hear talk of “last minute bargains,” but I find that some of the best bargains are found sooner rather than later. Some trips, especially for popular marathons in large cities, are best planned before the town wakes up and realizes that there is a big opportunity to make lots of money. Point in fact…. Last year, right after the Miami Marathon, I decided I want to go back again for the 2012 Miami Marathon. Miami hotel rates, especially for the marathon weekend, are very VERY expensive (as in other cities such as New York, Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles). But I looked around, and the Marriott Marquis downtown, a four star hotel very close to the start and finish of the marathon, had apparently not realized that the marathon was the last weekend in January. So, I booked a government rate (yes, I’m eligible for that rate – – one should always explore and exploit all of the rates they are eligible for) for less than $110 per night. Pretty incredible.
3. Flexibility. Remain flexible and don’t commit if possible. Yes, I said plan ahead. But also recognize that you don’t want to back yourself into a corner if you don’t have to. Plans sometimes change, and its great to know you can change your destination, your hotel or your dates of travel. Hold hotel rooms, but don’t opt for non-refundable if possible. For example – I’ll cover it in another post, but knowing how to use Priceline can be great in planning trips. However, on at least two recent occasions, I got fabulous deals on Priceline for a Friday to Sunday stay, realizing, long after, that I’d prefer to go from Saturday to Monday, and I was stuck. A bargain is only a bargain, if you use it.
4. Keep checking. Hotels, Airfares and Car Rentals change. If you are renting a car, make a reservation early. They can nearly all be canceled without penalty. Often, car rental prices keep increasing – and if you placed a reservation early, you will have the benefit of that rate. On the other hand, if the price decreases (and you’ll only know that if you check back), then you can cancel and take advantage of the lower rate. Point in fact, I reserved a car a number of months ago for this upcoming four-day trip to Houston. $120 sounded pretty awesome. Curiously, I checked back about a month ago, and the going rate had dropped to $107. Today, I checked and it was $93 with a number of companies. I checked my emails, and I had an offer from Hertz, to take $5 per day off. I called, and got the rental for under $90. The representative must have really liked me because she said she had a special deal for $40 off and applied the promo code – bringing the rate down to under $70 for the four days for a mid-size car. Wow.
5. Use all advantages you have. Read blogs and sign up for emails, and point and mile programs. Much more to follow on this. For example, based on a tip, I signed up for the frequent flyer program on Kingfisher Airlines. Nope, I never heard of them either. But, they were giving away “silver” elite status just for signing up. And since they are a future partner of American Airlines, and other One World Airlines, that may mean the ability to check bags for free (ok, I almost NEVER check bags, but still….) or perhaps even boarding a flight early or getting a better choice of seats. So… Hello Kingfisher.
6. Be persistent, but not annoying. Be nice. Be very nice. If you are dealing with a representative on the phone, and the conversation does not seem to be going in the desired direction, don’t argue and don’t plead. Hang up and try again. Because…. you never know!!!
7. Priceline and Hotline are your friends. Do not be afraid of sites such as Priceline or Hotline. You can get some amazing deals. There are lots of tricks to get the most out of these websites. (I love www.betterbidding.com – check it out!).
8. Loyalty is rewarded. Show some loyalty, if possible. If you can concentrate your flights on one airline, or hotel stays at one hotel brand, you may be able to get “status.” Its not about snobbishness – its about good prices, good treatment, late checkouts, free wi-fi, etc. A late checkout is worth the difference between showering or not showering after a marathon. And to me, that’s worth A LOT!
9. Take advantage of credit cards. Get some credit cards that have special offers. Don’t just buy because the card has a good advertisement. Read up on the deals. Listen to the experts’ reports on why one deal is good or not. In the past year, I obtained at least 4 cards that were amazing. More to follow!
That’s enough for now – I have to PACK. But I’d love to hear your comments – any pointers or tips you have, or any questions or topics you’d like to see covered. Houston is the next trip, so expect a trip and marathon report!