“Tis the season for holiday travel! As millions of people take to the air this holiday season, get ahead of the pack by planning a trip that will save you time and money. Reserve early. “Book no less than two weeks in advance for an airline ticket, hotel, or rental car. If you find a rate you like, lock it in,” says Deborah Perry, a senior buyer for a pharmaceutical company who saves $150 on each of her bimonthly, domestic excursions. Cancellation policies differ, so contact the airline or retailer for details. Join travel organizations. “They can be one-stop shopping for discount airfare, hotel, and car rental [rates],” says Perry. Some clubs, like Travelers Advantage (www.travelersadvantage.com), offer additional benefits such as low price guarantees and cash back for all trips booked. Register on airline Websites. Registered users receive e-mail notification of special and discount fares. Travel databases like the one on Travelocity (www .travelocity.com) also offer all kinds of tips on everything from booking bargain packages to packing economically. o Participate in a frequent flyer program. Membership in American Airlines’ AAdvantage program (www.aa .com) can earn you miles when you patronize its air, hotel, and rental car partners. Booking with a rewards/rebate credit card will help you redeem points to receive frequent flier miles, cash back, and more. (See “Make the Points Add Up,” October 2003.) Get bumped. Airlines usually overbook (call ahead or inquire at the airline counter), so if you accommodate them by switching to a later flight, they usually offer free miles, tickets, upgrades, or even cash. They are required to ask for volunteers before they choose anyone to be bumped, so speak up. Ask for a special rate. Always inquire about rates you may be eligible for as a student, senior citizen, government employee, or member of an organization like AAA or AARP. Also, many hotels have special weekend rates, such as the W Hotel’s WOW program (which includes two signature cocktails). Pack light. Heavy bags mean a heavy fare. Checked luggage weighing 50 — 70 pounds costs $25 per piece; 70 — 99 pounds costs $50 per piece. To avoid excess baggage fees, check your carrier’s policy before flying. Consider shipping gifts and other items.
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by Dev T. Smith