Travel consultants are asked a lot of questions. One of the most asked is: what is your top travel tip? We have so many travel tips to share with our clients, picking just one as our top tip is difficult. Not all tips fit all clients, but we have come up with our #1 travel tip that we think applies across the board.
Our #1 tip is fairly simple: BE FLEXIBLE. We know, you're going to ask "be flexible about what?" The short answer is "everything." But here is the longer answer.
Be flexible in your timing.
Most often you can save money, and find more availability, if you can be flexible with your travel dates. The obvious example is to avoid peak seasons. Peak season can vary, but one impact is when most kids are out of school (so more families are traveling, which increases prices and decreases availability). Another impact is special events. Traveling to New Orleans or Rio de Janeiro during Mardi Gras / Carnival is definitely peak season in those areas. New Year's Eve in New York City? Peak season. You get the picture. If you can be flexible with your travel dates, you will often save money.
Be flexible with picking destinations.
It's understandable if you have a specific destination in mind, and don't want to change it in order to save a few bucks. But you will have times where you can be flexible about the destination. Here's an example. You want to go to the Caribbean. Other than beaches, free flowing alcohol and food, and a nice pool, you really don't care too much where you go. Certain destinations will have better airfare schedules (nonstop versus two plane changes), and better prices. But if you have your heart set on St Lucia, it won't matter if Cancun is less expensive. When you're flexible about where you go, let your travel consultant know so they put together the best options possible for you.
Be flexible when traveling.
Travel is an adventure; sometimes you get more adventure than you bargained for. Some people may say "go with the flow", but it means the same thing. I have personally hunkered down in a resort as a hurricane hit. I've missed flight connections. I've had long flight delays, and I've slept in airports. Stuff happens. And when it's out of your control, it can be very frustrating. Being flexible, and refraining from stressing out, goes along way. If you can't fly to your destination, is it within driving distance? I recently had a client fly from Nashville to Miami to get on their cruise, because their flights kept getting cancelled.
Just be flexible.
Finally, just be flexible in general. Whether you travel domestically or internationally, you'll be meeting new people, experiencing new cultures, and facing new experiences. In this regard, being flexible translates to being openminded, or when dealing with toddlers at Disney World it might be called "being a saint."
Looking for more tips?
Skim through our Travel Musings to find more tips, stories, as well as destination tidbits.
Because the Miami and Ft Lauderdale airports are 29 miles apart it is common for people to fly into one city, even though their hotel is closer to the other airport. Why? There tend to be two reasons: to save money and/or earn loyalty miles/points with their airline of choice.
For example, Southwest Airlines only flies into Ft Lauderdale. Folks looking to build their Rapid Rewards points with Southwest want to fly into Ft Lauderdale, even if their end destination is Miami.
But is it worth it? I have done this on purpose in the past just for the first hand experience. Recently I had a conference in Miami, approximately 10 miles from the Miami airport. I got a killer price on Southwest Airlines so I decided to fly into Ft Lauderdale.
Once I landed, my options for getting to the Miami hotel included a shuttle service (like GoShuttle or Super Shuttle), a private car service (can we say $$$?), Lyft or Uber, or the Tri-Rail service. Because I landed late at night, I decided to skip the Tri-Rail and took Lyft from the Ft Lauderdale airport to my Miami hotel. It was convenient door to door service with no other stops (like you can be subjected to with a shared shuttle service), but it was not cheap ($55 before adding a tip), and took about 30 minutes.
After the conference, I decided to use the Tri-Rail service. it is not for the faint of heart, and not necessarily the most efficient or convenient way to transfer between the two airports, but it's more reasonably priced. I arranged for Super Shuttle to take me from the hotel to the Miami airport where I had to make my way to the train station at the airport. I then took the Tri-Ral train to Ft Lauderdale. Once I got there I had to take a complimentary bus to get from the station to the airport terminal. It was fairly inexpensive with $24 for the Miami shuttle and $3.75 for the Tri-Rail. From the time I left the Miami hotel to the time I stepped inside the Ft Lauderdale airport terminal it took 2 1/2 hours.
When you're planning to your next trip to the greater Miami - Ft Lauderdale area, you should ask yourself some questions:
Crunch your numbers and see if that "lower airfare" is really saving you money once you factor in the costs of a shuttle or other transportation to your hotel. Also consider what your time is worth to you. Are you okay spending 2 1/2 hours of your time between the airport and your hotel? Or would you rather spend only 30-45 minutes (assuming no unexpected traffic delays of course)?
Just because the two airports are relatively close doesn't mean they are interchangeable. Time and convenience need to be balanced with cost in order to pick which airport best fits YOUR needs.
Also, this isn't unique to the Ft Lauderdale and Miami airports. There are many areas with multiple airports, and they aren't always logistically interchangeable. Just a few examples are Chicago (O'hare and Midway), New York (LaGuardia, JFK and Newark), London (Heathrow and Gatwick), and the San Francisco Bay Area (San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland).
When planning a vacation, most people do everything in their power to avoid inclement weather, especially hurricanes. But even the best laid plans can be upset by the unexpected. We experienced this recently in Cabo San Lucas when we went from beautiful weather to full hurricane in 24 hours.
Hurricane and typhoons can occur any time of year, which proves to be challenging when trying to plan a vacation. So here are some tips you can use to minimize the impact unforeseen weather can have on your vacation.
Consider your travel dates and destination
You can minimize the chances of having bad weather impact your vacation. If you don't want to deal with snow or possible blizzards, don't travel to those areas that are likely to get snow during the winter months. Instead of going to New England, Canada, Scandinavian countries, etc. you might consider heading south to Florida, Hawaii, the Caribbean, or even south of the equator where the southern hemisphere is experiencing summer during our winter.
If you want to avoid hurricanes, consider avoiding hurricane-prone areas (the Gulf Coast of the United States, Mexico, Hawaii, and the Caribbean) during hurricane season (June 1st through November 30th).
Buy travel insurance
Travel insurance does more than cover your financial investment in the event that you cancel your trip. Insurance provides additional coverages like trip interruption, trip delay, lost or delayed baggage, emergency medical, medical evacuation, and repatriation of remains.
If a hurricane hits your vacation destination while you are there, you might receive benefits under trip interruption or trip delay. During our recent Cabo experience, my daughter had trip interruption (the airline cancelled her flight) and I had trip delay (my flight was so delayed that I missed my connection). All of our extra expenses were covered by travel insurance.
Register your trip with the US State Department
It may seem like overkill to register a simple trip to an all-inclusive resort in Mexico or the Caribbean. However, if a tourist area is decimated by a hurricane, it is helpful to the local embassies if they know in advance how many of their citizens that they need to account for after a natural disaster.
I would also recommend leaving a copy of your itinerary behind with family and/or a trusted friend.
Once on vacation, how to deal with a hurricane
Once you are at your destination if a tropical storm or hurricane hits, here are some basic tips to follow:
After the hurricane passes
As soon as you can, check in with friends/family back home to let them know you are safe. If you registered your trip with the US State Department, try to contact the local US embassy as well to let them know where you are and how you are doing.
Once the storm passes, how quickly your vacation returns to normal will depend on the storm's severity and the amount of damage at your resort. In Cabo San Lucas, there was little or no damage at our resort. They were able to resume "business as usual" within 24 hours, and everyone vacationed like nothing had ever happened. Of course, had it been a much stronger storm and the resort had experienced significant damage, they may have had to relocate guests to other properties.
If you experience a hurricane, or strong storm, while on vacation and it interferes with your travel plans, keep good notes and all receipts to substantiate any travel insurance claim that you may need to file once you get home.
At Ships 'N' Trips Travel we have been providing memorable travel experiences for our clients since 2005.