13 smarter ways to go
1. For the best deals on the internet, start by deleting your search history. If you have your eye on a bargain, clean your cookies before revisiting it. Deal sites know when they’re getting a repeat visitor and may increase the last price you saw.
2. For the best value on accommodations, call the hotel directly. A manager or booking agent will usually match or better the best price you found online. Hotel sold out? Find out when cancellations go into effect and phone exactly on the hour to scoop up last-minute openings.
3. It’s worth checking out what day of the week is the least expensive day to fly. Domestically, Wednesday is usually the cheapest option, since most holiday makers bookend their trips with weekends. Tuesdays and Saturdays are the next best days.
4. Almost every major city has its own mini off-seasons, when rates drop and last-minute specials apply. Visit New York following Fashion Week, or go to Venice after the film festival. Hotels lose a huge percentage of their guests on the final day of a major event, and top restaurants have vacancies.
5. Not all hotel rooms are created equal – some are larger or have superior views. Upon check-in, request better digs. If you have some cash to spare, ask if an affordable upgrade is available.
6. Do you know your passport number by heart? You won't need to if you've made a copy to leave with a trusted friend or a relative for safekeeping, in case of loss or theft. Better yet: if you know you'll have ready email access, scan and send yourself your passport details so you'll always have them on hand.
7. Make the most of your reward points by calling an agent for assistance just after midnight. Not only will you have the help of a pro who can think strategically with your points, you may have more options to choose from, since airlines have traditionally released new inventory at 12.01am.
8. Ask your Facebook friends or Twitter followers if they have any recommendations for the place you plan to visit. Knowing a few show-offs will finally come in handy! And be sure to "like" the Facebook pages of your destination's tourism board and key attractions for deals and specials.
9. Banks generally have sister banks abroad, which means you can use their ATM machines to take out local currency with no international transaction fees. Check with your bank before leaving home.
10. Unless it's bronze, no-one wants to take home a $20,000 cast as a souvenir. Check to see what travel insurance coverage you already have from your credit card company and health-care plan, and then fill in the gaps. Avoid insurance companies that make travellers front hospital bills. A multi-trip insurance policy with one annual rate is generally the best way to go, even if you only take a few trips a year.
11. If you find yourself stuck at the airport for any length of time, consider buying a day pass to an airline lounge. The cushy chairs, Wi-Fi access, snacks and beverages will allow you to unwind in comfort. Or if you need Wi-Fi, try sitting just outside a lounge to pick up its free service.
12. You don't have to break the bank on food while travelling. Many restaurants – particularly in holiday resorts – offer "early bird specials" in the early evening. Eat early and you'll have some extra money for ice-cream or coffee later. Or grab some fresh vegies and fruit, local cheese, and homemade bread and have lunch or dinner al fresco.
13. Keep a digital trail of your travels. Photos are a great way to keep track of important things – such as where you parked your car, what your suitcase looks like and what hotel room you're in.