Monday, December 28, 2009

my book - Winning the Airfare Game - on eBay and Amazon

Just found a listing for my book, Winning the Airfare Game, on eBay. Actually, I do see it listed every once in awhile (I receive alerts from eBay).

If you want to buy a copy directly from me--a brand new fresh never been read copy-- buy it at Amazon: The seller "lowerairfaresdotcom" is me. I am redesigning and am not currently selling copies there.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

$25 off JetBlue flights and no pay until April 2010

Here is an exciting offer from JetBlue. You can save $25 on your next JetBlue flight. Only one $25 discount is permitted per person. Although you can book flights until December 18, I suggest you do it right away. Click the JetBlue ad below or here to start shopping for cheap flights. Happy Flying!

Bill Me Later Offer!
We are excited to announce the launch of our Bill Me Later Offer! When you use Bill Me Later you can save $25 off your tickets for holiday flights! This offer takes place TODAY Wednesday, December 9 until Friday, December 18 11:59 PM EST. Hurry and post the below creative to take advantage of this great promotion!

Please see Terms & Conditions for detailed information. Offer ends December 18, 11:59 PM EST.

JetBlue Sale

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Holiday Shopping - Get Your Travel Points

Surely you are not one of those people that are already finished with your holiday shopping. There are countless deals out there in cyberworld. I want to make sure that you remember to "earn" as many points as you can.

As I prepare to buy anything online, I visit rewardsdb to see what mile/point values are awarded for my desired vendor. For instance, if I intend to buy something from, I see how many miles per dollar each airline (hotel, etc.) program will award.

I use this process because I have several accounts that I can add points to. If you have only one (or just a couple), it may be easier to go directly to the source and buy. By the source, I mean the point issuing website and not the vendor. For instance, logon to and link to the Eddie Bauer website, in order to receive United Airlines miles.

Besides earning bonus points, holiday shopping gives consumers a great opportunity to keep accounts active. Billions of points expire annually from inactive accounts. You do not have to travel to keep your account active. You can spend as little as $1 (buy a song on iTunes).

There are many promotions also. US Airways has a 250% bonus, in addition to the other earned points. To qualify, you need to buy from 5 separate merchants.

If your miles are going to expire and you do not want to buy anything, or you have the holiday spirit, you can donate your points. Make-A-Wish is one charity that can really use any donation of frequent flyer points. Check your desired airline's website for more charities and suggestions.

I intentionally did not go into much more detail in this post. There are other websites and people that cover this topic better than I. For all things related to optimizing travel, I frequently visit A mileage guru that you should follow on Twitter is Gary Leff.

© 2009, Charles McCool

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Trip Ideas - Travel Awards

Last night I read the latest issue (Nov. 2009) of one of my favorite travel magazines, ITN. They just announced a new award for travelers; the Phileas Fogg award. The award is so new that it is not yet listed on ITN's website. The concept of qualifying for an award seemed like a decent blog post. Some travelers need an inspiration, a challenge, to get outta town.

ITN travel awards are available only to subscribers and represent travels to a certain number of places. There are awards for visiting all 7 continents, all countries in Africa/Europe/CentAm/SoAm, all 24 time zones, and more.

Here is the complete list of ITN's travel awards and requirements:
  • Phileas Fogg - visit destinations from "Around the World in 80 Days"
  • 100 Nations - visit 100 of the 195 listed
  • Quarto Mondo - visit 49 countries
  • Travel is My Forte - visit 40 countries
  • World Traveler - visit the 40 most popular nations
  • ITN Globetrotter - visit the 20 most popular nations
  • 24 Time Zones
  • Continents - separate awards for 6 and 7 continents
  • Following the Equator - 13 countries at the center of the world
  • All of Africa - all 53 countries
  • Half of Africa - 27 of the 53
  • All of Europe - all 44 countries
  • All South America - 13
  • All Central America - 7
Subscribers can receive a certificate by confirming their travels--checking off the countries on a list or listing the month/year of visit. No receipts or documentation is necessary. Each certificate costs around $7. Each issue lists several recipients in the different award categories so people evidently like this program. I can imagine undergoing the challenge of completing the tasks but being realtively unfulfilled with a paper certificate. Perhaps it is said best by ITN in describing their Following the Equator certificate: "It's perfect for covering up cracks in a wall."

BTW, ITN will send you a FREE sample copy.

In my next post, I will write about some other trip ideas. Meanwhile, let me know what you think about these awards or if you know of other awards. What travel challenges have you or someone you know attempted? How about all of the tours offered by A&K, Rick Steves, or Tauck?

© 2009, Charles McCool

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Air Traveler's Holiday List

I published this back in 2002. How much is still true?

The following is the last verse, to be sung to the tune of the popular Christmas Carol, "The 12 Days of Christmas." Enjoy!

On the Twelfth Flight of Christmas, the airlines* should give us:
Undamaged Baggage

Pleasant Customer Service
Easier Check-in
No Overbookings
More Non-stop Flights, Please
Better Eating Choices
Convenient Parking
Increased Leg Room
More jetBlues**
Fewer Delays and
NO Lines at Se-cu-ri-ty

* Sure, the airline are not to blame for every air travel problem. What fun is there in teasing the airports or FAA?

** Substitute "Southwest" for "jetBlue," if desired.

Happy Holidays!
Charles McCool

author, Winning the Airfare Game

Monday, November 9, 2009

How to save on airfares the easy way

This is my article published many years ago on I have been involved recently in many research projects. I will continue to re-publish favorite travel skills articles. Let me know what topics are of interest to you

How to save on airfares the easy way

Check various routes to ensure you find lower airfares. A nonstop flight may be more or less expensive than a connecting or direct flight. Lower airfares may result from connecting in certain airports rather than others. Being a bit more creative with the routing can save you a bundle. On longer (such as transoceanic) flights, try splitting your itinerary into two separate roundtrips. For instance, lower airfares between Northeast cities and Hawaii can often be found through California (LAX, SFO, OAK). Buy separate Northeast-to-California and California-to-Hawaii roundtrip tickets; the total price can be much lower than the Northeast-to-Hawaii fare. In addition, split tickets allow consumers to select preferred airlines and create a stopover vacation

It pays (saves!) to shop around. Sometimes lower airfares are offered by certain websites, travel agents, or directly from the airline.

When you see a fantastic fare price, such as during a fare war (which can be up to nine months before flying), make your plans. You might not find better deals as the travel date approaches. When the fare drops, however, most airlines allow consumers to rebook and receive a travel voucher for the difference (as long as seats are available).

-Charles McCool, author, Winning the Airfare Game

Monday, October 26, 2009

8 Steps to Getting Lower Airfares

This is my article published many years ago in the Baltimore Sun and other newspapers. I have been involved recently in many research projects. I will continue to re-publish favorite travel skills articles. Let me know what topics are of interest to you.

Be Flexible The most important factor for getting lower airfares is flexibility. When possible, check alternate airports, a range of days and times, other carriers, and various routings. Opportunities for lower airfares increase when you have more options.

Buy Early Most discounted airfares must be purchased several days before the flight­­—usually 21 or 14 for the biggest discounts. However, the lowest prices are offered during fare wars (sales), which may be several months before you want to fly. For instance, the cheapest summer flights to Europe are traditionally sold between the previous Thanksgiving and Christmas. One way to discover fare wars is to use a customized homepage (such as My Yahoo!) and continually check fares for your favorite routes. Investigate whether a sale is in progress when prices suddenly change. Many web sites, including airline and booking web sites, notify subscribers by e-mail when fares drop.

Buy Late Many airlines offer distressed inventory as last-minute airfares. They rarely match the lowest airfares offered during fare sales, but last-minute airfares can be great deals for emergency flights or impulse trips. Airlines release last-minute airfares each week around Wednesday morning for flights that weekend. However, a recent trend is to offer “last-minute” fares for flights more than one week into the future. Sign up to receive e-mail notification from each airline or, who compiles the information from all airlines for most cities.

Surf for Lower Airfares Compare fares offered by major booking web sites to fares listed on the airline’s web site. The airline’s price may be lower or they may offer bonus frequent flyer points. Booking web sites do not include Southwest Airlines, so visit Southwest’s web site to find their fares.

Use a Travel Agent Travel agents usually save you time and stress and often save you money. For instance, they may have preferred discounts with certain airlines and can offer lower airfares than you can find. They can also sell consolidator fares and charter flights that are not available to consumers.

Book Direct Call airlines directly to book bereavement or compassion fares. Some web sites do not offer senior, children, or group discounts. Keep in mind Step 1, Be Flexible, when calling airlines for fare quotes.

Get More, Pay Less Look for packages—lodging, rental car, and/or meals in addition to the flight—that cost a little more or even LESS than the airfare alone. Each winter, packages (including seven nights lodging and rental car) to Australia and other South Pacific destinations cost only $100 more than the airfare. Prices do not increase as the departure date approaches and a Saturday night stay is not required, making packages ideal for last-minute travelers.

Airfare Ploys Big savings can result from splitting long flights into two separate round-trip flights. You can even create a stopover and use different airlines, if you choose. Lower airfares or more convenient flights may be found when using co-terminals, which are different airports in the same city or area. Open jaw, charter, courier, consolidator, or round-the-world flights result in lower airfares in some situations.

Charles McCool is a travel consultant specializing in helping consumers and businesses save money, time, and stress on all aspects of travel. He is the author of Winning the Airfare Game and operates

Friday, October 16, 2009

travel deals on Twitter revisited

Well, I did not get much reaction to my blog post about Twitter not being great for travel deals. I will assume, then, that it is still true.

In the October issue of Conde Nast Traveler magazine, Wendy Perrin wrote an article titled, "How to Tweet Your Way to Amazing Travel Deals," with a sidebar article to 21 Twitterers to Follow. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Thank you.
© 2009, Charles McCool

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

$163 cross-country flights

There are only a couple of hours left in this sale (expires 7 am Pacific time, September 22). Virgin America is having a business special for last minute travel. I combined these low almost-walk up fares with my promo code (for Elevate members, 20% off, sent by e-mail on Sept 3) to get this wonderful roundtrip fare.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Recommended Travel Book: Power Travel

It is not often that I am impressed by another travel reference book. I am only about 50 pages into a current one and I am thoroughly impressed. The book is "The Wall Street Journal Guide to Power Travel: How to Arrive with Your Dignity, Sanity, and Wallet Intact" by Scott McCartney (aka WSJ's Middle Seat columnist).

Scott's writing is unpretentious, straightforward, and, most importantly, valuable. So far in the book, he outlines important websites (and specific features and methods) for booking airfares.

Again, I have only read a small percentage but I believe this book is better than any other travel reference book published since 2001. More details to come but I do not hesitate to suggest that you go buy it (or check it out from the library, as I did).

© 2009, Charles McCool

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Travel Book Special for 09/09/09 ONLY!

*** SORRY, Deal has expired *** and Charles McCool (author of Winning the Airfare Game) have a very special deal for travel consumers to celebrate September 9, 2009 (09/09/09).

Less than 100 mint condition copies of Winning the Airfare Game remain in our inventory. For one day only, we are offering one copy of our book PLUS a free gift, along with FREE shipping--all for a low price of $9.99 (local pickup from Northern Virginia ZIPCODE=20191, otherwise add $4 shipping).

Your free gift will be your choice of a current travel guide (including Zagats and other travel reference books), older travel guides, or a collection of travel magazines (current year, local pickup only for magazines). The free gifts will be first come, first served. I will send the updated list of available titles to buyers in chronological order, according to when payment is received by PayPal.

Each bonus travel book costs over $10. Retail value of Winning the Airfare Game is $13.95. With today's special, you get two travel books (worth over $20) for only $9.99. You will dave at least 50%. PLUS, I always guarantee that you will be learn to save money, time, and stress from my book. If you are not completely satisfied, return your order for a complete refund.

Please select the appropriate option from the drop-down list below and click the Buy Now button. Credit cards are accepted and your financial data is confidential. PayPal payments are completely safe and secure. If you wish to pick up your copy of Winning the Airfare Game and your bonus travel guide (or collection of current year travel magazines), select "Local pickup." If you want your two books mailed to you (for only $4!), select "Ship It!"

Please note that I have limited supply and this offer will expire prior to midnight on September 9, 2009, if enough orders are received. If too many orders have been received and I have not had a chance to update this web page, I will issue an immediate PayPal refund (sorry, I do not have a real-time automated inventory tracking system). Act early to get best choice of BONUS travel guides.

** SORRY, Deal has expired ***

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Global Top 5 Under $5 Must Eat Dishes

In the September 2009 issue of Travel & Leisure, there is an article called, "30 Dishes Worth Traveling For." Of course you would have to be a hypertraveler to have tried more than a few of them.

What particularly caught me attention was the sidebar that they called Global Top 5 Under $5. Here they are:

* Duck-fat fries at Hot Doug's, Chicago
* Soup noodles with braised brisket at Kau Kee, Hong Kong
* Custard tart at Pastéis de Belém, Lisbon
* Poutine at La Banquise, Montreal
* Soup dumplings at Nanxiang Mantou Dian, Shanghai

Sorry, no mention of In & Out or Five Guys.

Has anyone tried any of these dishes? Are they worthy of inclusion? What are your top 5 under $5?

Thank you.

© 2009, Charles McCool

Friday, August 28, 2009

Is Twitter all that?

Is anyone reading this?

I am on Twitter (CharlesMcCool), use Twitter, but am not that impressed. Am I wrong?

Sure there is a lot of "social networking"--"follow me," "I'll follow you," "here is an article I found (probably written by one of your Twitter BFFs)," "ooh, look at me retweet someone's link to another article."

Most (if not all) of the information I find on Twitter is also posted elsewhere. Do you find it quicker on Twitter? If anything, it is more difficult to find worthwhile information on Twitter with all of the crud.

The most valuable and recent news item I remember finding on Twitter before anywhere else was jetBlue's All You Can Travel promotion. I happen to be on Twitter when jetBlue's tweet popped onto my screen. I was likely the first person (out of millions, it seems) to retweet the news. This promotion even spawned a Twitter acronym (Trending Topic) and accounts dedicated to the trip.

Sure, that is all entertaining but not informative.

So, what travel skills can be gained from Twitter?

:: cricket, cricket ::

Enlighten me, will ya, if there is some value for DIY travelers using Twitter. I have seen a couple of hotel properties list special rates and jetbluecheeps lists rock-bottom, last-minute fares (essentially useless since they are valid for just one day). Other than that, Twitter is not "all that." If it IS all that to you, please let me know what I am missing and who you are following.

Thank you.

© 2009, Charles McCool

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

European Hostel Tips

I just finished reading Rick Steve's article about hostels in the latest issue of International Travel News. Of course you should read the entire article but here are some quick tips I got from it:

• stay in Northern Europe hostels (much less expensive than standard lodging)
• skip hostels in Southern Europe (budget lodging is plentiful)
• city and on-the-Eurail-path hostels are overrun with younger travellers
• rural and off-the-train-path hostels are more quiet with mature travellers

I must admit that I have only stayed in hostels in Anchorage and Cairns. I have seen my share of budget lodging in Europe (rooms, inns, the car) but have not tried any of their hostels. Next trip...

© 2009, Charles McCool

Friday, July 24, 2009

Quantity Discounts - NOT

You would think that by buying more of a product that you would get a price break. Sure, that works in practically every industry, except travel. What can you do about it?

First, let me explain a bit. You should already know, if you are a loyal reader or just a common sense travel consumer, that travel suppliers charge more when there is higher demand. Rates (airfares, cruise prices, lodging, car rentals) are at their peak, for instance, during the New Year's break in the Caribbean and many destinations. Makes sense, right? On a micro level, airlines charge more when capacity is fillings and hotels charge more during the week than on weekends.

Let's say that you are a group of four travelers. There are only two seats on a flight at the lowest price. However, when making your reservation (whatever source you use), the airline will charge the higher price times four. Hotels do the same thing. The weekend rate is substantially lower than the weekday rate but the property will charge you the weekday rate for each day; or they will charge you less each weekend day but not as low as the available weekend rate. I have seen it time and time and time again.

What can consumers do?

For the airfare situation, I will find out what the price is for one passenger (then two, then three, until I find the "magic" price break point). Many times, I have broken the group reservation into two separate itineraries to save money. For example, if two seats are available at $100 but the next two are $150, then I will buy 2 @ $100 and 2 @ $150, instead of 4 @ $150 (and save $100).

A similar process works for lodging and rental cars. I will find out the rate for each day and for each set of days. Similarly, I can make separate reservations at the same property for consecutive days in order to save money. For example, their weekend rate is $99 (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) and their weekday rate is $199. For an entire week, they may quote $199 for each day or perhaps $199 each weekday plus a "discounted rate" for $159 for the weekend. By booking separate weekday and weekend stays, I would save $180 ($60 for each of the three nights).

Add this strategy to your travel planning arsenal and save money on your next--and EVERY--trip.

© 2009, Charles McCool

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Lifetime Deals

One of the best investments I made was a lifetime subscription to International Travel News magazine (ITN). I bought it about 20 years ago and already consider it a great deal; hopefully, I will continue receiving ITN for at least twice that in the future (that is, hopefully I AND ITN will be around for another 40 years). By the way, its current lifetime subscription rate is $244.

ITN, to me, is the best available travel magazine. Many of its articles are written by the subscribers. It is very valuable to read about world destinations and travel skills written by actual persons travelling on their own dime, rather than paid journalists. ITN is a no-frills, informative, inspiring newsprint publication (often 200 pages) that I look forward to receiving every month. Besides, is there another travel magazine that offers a lifetime subscription? Will there even be any travel magazines in another few years?

National Geographic offers a lifetime society membership, entitling the buyer to the magazine. That runs a mere $850. Mensa once (and may still) offered lifetime memberships. Travel companies used to offer lifetime travel passes. The National Park Service sells a lifetime pass to seniors for only $10. I do not think that Disney has a lifetime program, in spite of rumors.

My third principle of better travel (#1 = flexible, #2 = resourceful) is to be assertive. Ask for travel deals. Stand up for your rights when something goes wrong. Regarding lifetime deals (passes, subscriptions, admission, etc.) it would not hurt at all to ask. It shows that you intend to be a loyal customer and that makes the company happy.

What are your experiences with lifetime deals?

Thank you.

© 2009, Charles McCool

Monday, July 20, 2009

Neil Armstrong Cannot Pee in Virginia

How many times have you heard, "If they can land a man on the moon, then ...?"

Well, here is another. If they can land a man on the moon, then they can keep the rest areas open in the state of Virginia.

First of all, today (July 20, 2009) is the 40th anniversary of the first person (Neil Armstrong) to step foot on the moon. It remains an inspiring feat, a quintessential example of what can be achieved. In total, 12 men have walked on the moon, but none since December 1972; except, perhaps in his own mind, Bill "Spaceman" Lee.

Back to earth. So, the state of Virginia is closing rest areas. I have long promoted state welcome centers and rest areas as relatively untapped sources of travel information; essential tools in the travel skills toolkit. Not only an area to rest, literally, but also somewhere to get travel deals. The people (usually volunteers) working at rest areas often had access to lower hotel rates than anywhere else--even lower than the coupon guidebooks distributed in the same centers.

Rest area workers also give keen recommendations for authentic, local dining (usually diners or dives!) and off-the-beaten-track attractions and scenic drives. Perhaps you would argue that such information can now be found on the net. Indeed, there are countless blogs (hey, I resemble that remark), boards, databases, and websites; best of luck poring through them to find what you are looking for. I know that I would rather ask a knowledgeable, competent (YMMV), local person than consulting my GPS or other device.

Besides, your iPhone cannot relieve you, if you know what I mean. Well, at least, there's not an app for that yet. Relief, of course, is the main purpose of rest areas. Virginia is not closing all of their rest areas; only 19 of the 42. As you are passing one of the closed rest areas (RIP), good luck making it to the next open (for now) rest area to relieve yourself.

Hey, Guv Kaine, has the state considered a pay-for-relief program?

© 2009, Charles McCool

Monday, July 13, 2009

Pro Football Hall of Fame

The Pro Football Hall of Fame is located less than a mile from its well-marked exit of I-77 in Canton, Ohio (less than an hour from Cleveland). Although I was there longer, I estimate that a 2 hour visit is sufficient for most visitors. Die hard fans could spend 4 to 6 hours.

It is a smaller experience than the Baseball Hall of Fame. That is somewhat surprising since the football fan attachment and enthusiasm is arguably greater than baseball. Baseball, on the other hand, is more nostalgic and statistic-oriented.

There is much to do but, unless you are one of those avid fans, you will quickly reach information overload. Your strategy could be to scan displays to get a superficial experience or immerse yourself in selected areas (history, certain eras, Hall of Fame statues, galleries, and more). My favorite area was the Gameday Stadium theater, which I visited more than once.

Snack options are very reasonable and appropriate. At the Tailgate Snack Bar, hot dogs are $1.75, drinks are $1.15, and fries are $1.60. Other items included nachos, brats, sausages, wraps, onion rings, burgers, and slushes. Nothing cost over $4. The stadiums should mirror this experience. If you want to overspend, the gift shop is a mere 50 feet away.

Look for a promotion offering admission to the football and rock and roll hall of fames for a discounted rate.

A nice side trip was to the McKinley National Memorial. On a pleasant weekend afternoon, there were many exercisers running in the park and walking the stairs.

© 2009, Charles McCool

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Baseball Park Tours and Bloopers

One of my interests in touring baseball stadiums. I often enjoy a tour of the park more than the actual game. Most, if not all, of the MLB teams offer stadium tours. A quick way to view details (when, how much, how long) is to visit the team site on The ballpark tour link is under the tab for the team's ballpark, along with seating guide, what you can bring in, etc. For your convenience, here is a link to the Fenway Park (Boston Red Sox) tour.

Three mistakes or bloopers that I have seen at the stadiums are:

1. the classic blooper is the
Babe Ruth statue in front of Baltimore's Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Some say that Babe's glove is authentically period, and that such a glove could have been worn on either hand. Most, however, say that it is a glove made for right handed throwers, which is wrong. You can see this statue without going on a ballpark tour or even without attending a game.

2. during a tour of the
Rogers Centre in Toronto, I found a blooper in a luxury suite. In a glass case, there is a Blue Jays' jersey with "Clemons." Although there was a Argonaut (CFL) player named Clemons, the baseball player was Clemens (with an "E"). Confusing, Yes, but also wrong.

3. during a tour of Pittsburgh's
PNC Park, I found a couple of bloopers. Stick with me here. The first is easiest. In the PNC Club area, they have an Alex Rodriguez (BOO!) bat displayed. Nope, A-Rod never played for the Pirates. I mentioned it to the tour guide, who expressed embarassment and said it would be immediately replaced. The other involves Debs Garms. On his batting champ plaque, there is no signature; there are signatures for other players on their plaques. The tour guide said that the Pirates staff could not locate a signature for Mr. Garms. Later in the tour, a Debs Garms Louisville Slugger bat is on display--WITH HIS SIGNATURE.

I imagine there is not great interest in ballpark bloopers such as these. Perhaps I underestimate y'all. Let me know...

© 2009, Charles McCool

Friday, July 10, 2009

Hertz Florida car exodus part 2

In June, I rented a RAV4 from Hertz in Orlando and returned it to a location in Virginia. The excellent one-way rate was indeed only $100, as I mentioned in a previous post.

Just a quick note to let you know that my rate was further discounted 15% because I always use my AAA discount for all of my Hertz rentals. I was pleasantly surprised to get a rate of $85 for that weekly rental.

© 2009, Charles McCool

Friday, May 15, 2009

finding travel deals departing FROM your home airport

It is annoying, and not productive or efficient, to visit websites that do not sort their travel deal listings. That is, many websites just list a bunch of "special" rates or fares, but do not filter based on a departure city. A relatively unknown website that shows travel specials from your home airport is

Check it out and let me know what you think.

© 2009, Charles McCool

Friday, April 24, 2009

Hertz Florida car exodus sale

Hertz is having its annual Florida exodus sale. They need lots of cars there for the winter months and then they need the cars to go elsewhere for the summer. Instead of hiring drivers or trucks to transport the cars, Hertz offers super low rates to persons that can drive them one way.

Get these low rates while they are hot. I just looked at a random week in May, picking up in Ft. Lauderdale and returning to a DC airport location. The WEEKLY (not daily) rates were:

- $25 for economy class
- $30 for compact class
- $50 for midsize class
- $75 for fullsize class
- $100 for midsize SUV

Fantastic deals. You should be able to find a decent one-way flight or train ticket to get to Florida (before or after the car rental).

© 2009, Charles McCool

Friday, February 27, 2009

Road Trip Cost Cutting Tips

Rental car rates can vary much even at locations in the same geographic area. You can save money by shopping around.

A recent example. I am planning a trip to visit Little Rock, Tuscaloosa, and parts between and around. It does not matter where I fly into. In fact, I redeemed a frequent flyer award (more below). Since I am using a frequent flyer award and visiting several areas, I have the flexibility to fly into any area airport. I researched flights and rental car rates at most locations between Tulsa, Memphis, Huntsville, Mobile, and Houston.

Checking around, rental car rates were relatively expensive from Little Rock, Memphis, Birmingham, and others; mostly in the $250 to $300 a week range. One location was much less expensive than the others. Drum roll.... It was Shreveport, about $150 with Hertz. So, I booked my frequent flyer flight to Shreveport which would have cost $536.

I considered driving instead of flying. It would have been about 2,000 miles just getting there and back, plus another 1,000 miles in the area. I used Cost2Drive to calculate fuel usage and carbon output. That certainly helped me decide to fly, although I put the true cost of driving my own vehicle at about 50 cents per mile including wear and tear, etc. I also realized that about three days would have been burned driving there and back, leaving me less time to research and explore.

© 2009, Charles McCool

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Travel Reference Books Teach Travel Skills

Previously I talked about destination guidebooks. When you are planning a trip, it is worth reading a few different guidebooks to learn about the area, what to do, how long to spend there, and more.

The other genre of travel books, I call travel reference books. Travel reference books are extremely helpful because they can teach you travel skills; to help you save money, time, and stress, no matter your intended destination. Travel reference books can be about air travel (like my book), cruises, budget travel, luxury travel, solo travel, packing, and so on. You name it, there is probably a book for it. An example, I recently received a book called 101 Best Outdoor Towns. There are books on staying at colleges, monasteries, and aboard boats.

Perhaps my all-time favorite travel reference book, the one I would be proud to have written, is Traveler's Tool Kit by Rob Sangster. Although it is a guidebook, I am very impressed with Rick Steve's Europe Through the Back Door. It is a guidebook, in that it covers the destination of Europe. Half the book, however, is a wonderful reference guide with solid tips for having a great trip (packing, shopping, touring, etc., tips galore).

On my website,, I occasionally review travel books. Please check there for my two cents before shopping. Do you have a favorite travel reference book? Let me know by submitting a Comment. Thank you.

© 2009, Charles McCool

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Twitter Me for Travel Deals

OK, I mentioned that my next post would be about travel reference books. I will get back to that soon. This post is a recap of this blog's purpose and some quick announcements.

This blog's purpose is to teach readers skills to save money, time, and stress on all aspects of travel. By following this blog and incorporating the skills into your travel planning process, you will become better at planning travel and finding deals. I appreciate hearing from readers. Instead of sending e-mail to me, please post comments so that everyone can learn from your suggestions and experiences. I approve comments and only post those that are appropriate and useful. I have not approved some that are spam or ads. Thank you.

I do post individual travel deals on Twitter. Click here to follow me on Twitter and read my travel deal (and other) twits. Check out the people I am following; many post their own travel deals.

© 2009, Charles McCool

Friday, January 30, 2009

Job Layoff = Travel Opportunity

The news is bleak. 900k US construction workers are not working. More than 75,000 workers laid off this past Monday. Most states have over 5% unemployment.

What can you do if you are out of work or facing a layoff? Whine? File unemployment? Start a business?

Get outta town! I meant it. This is a great time to travel. I have been laid off three times (the perils of working in high tech). Twice I took the opportunity to travel. I flew to Hawaii, criss-crossed the US several times, went to Europe.

You have sensibly managed your finances, right? Obviously, if you have debt, you cannot just pick up and leave. Many cultures, countries, and people have gap years or even sabbaticals--between jobs or other major life events (marriage, graduation, etc.). Most people, however, are under the false impression that they must work. There are countless websites, books, and resources about living abroad alone or with your family, travelling indefinitely for cheap or free.

For readers in Northern Virginia (if you know people in Northern Virginia, let them know, please!), sign up for one of my upcoming classes:

- Feb 11: Road Trip (Oakton, Fairfax county)
- Feb 17 and Feb 24: Do It Yourself Trip Planning (Sterling, Loudoun county)
- March 4: Road Trip (Clarendon, Arlington county)
- March 18: Quit Your Job and Travel the World (Oakton, Fairfax county)

Could that last class title be more perfect?

Whether or not I see you in one of my classes, realize that the current economic environment is not so good for employment but it is great for travel.

© 2009, Charles McCool

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Don't Forget Travel Books

Believe it or not, the internet is not the only way to learn travel skills to save you money, time, and stress. As an author, I am partial to travel books. As a travel consultant, I find travel books invaluable. When I am planning a trip, especially to an unfamiliar destination, my first stop is usually my public library--from where I will check out several guidebooks. Guidebooks provide sample itineraries and recommendations for sightseeing, lodging, eating, transportation, when to visit, and more.

There are many different publishers of guidebooks, including Lonely Planet, Frommers, Fodors, Let's Go, Rough Guides, Rick Steves (Europe Through the Back Door), Moon, Insiders. I encourage you to, as I do, use several different guidebooks when planning your trips. The more times you do this, the more familiar you will become with each series. You will likely find yourself attracted to one or more series. Each publisher has a target audience, whether it is budget or luxury, young or old, independent or not. Everyone has their favorites, including me. By the way, the above guidebook publishers are listed in the order they came up in Google (not my preference).

The main disadvantage of travel guidebooks is that the information takes a long time to get released. By the time a guidebook is published, the entries (lodging, dining, attractions, etc.) may be obsolete (changed ownership, closed, changed prices or policies). Another problem (for some) with guidebooks is that since many travelers follow their advice that the once-quaint recommendations are soon tourist traps. I have seen many stories of someone visiting a remote village only to find other travelers with the same guidebook at their breakfast table or visiting a unique spot.

The value of guidebooks is that the information is provided by people that have already visited destinations I want to go to. They tell me places to visit (stay or eat) and not to. To independently plan trips, it really helps to know how long other people spend visiting area or how to use local transportation, for instance.

OK, that briefly covers travel guidebooks.

In my next post, I will discuss travel reference books. Whereas guidebooks cover specific destinations, travel reference books truly teach travel skills--such as how to save money, time, and stress.

© 2009, Charles McCool

Monday, January 5, 2009

2009 Resolution - Slash Travel Costs

Do you want to save money on travel in 2009? Whether or not it was your expressed resolution to travel more and/or learn how to travel better or cheaper this year, I can assist you. No scams. Nothing illegal, fishy, or sneaky (well, some tips and ploys are a bit sneaky). Just advice and tips on how to save money, time, and stress--on all aspects of travel.

Finding the best travel deal is not as simple as visiting one website or calling one telephone number (unless you are paying someone to research for you). I do believe, however, that anyone can learn the skills necessary to save money, time, and stress on every trip.

This blog will be periodically updated with skills, resources, and tips that will teach you how to save money, time, and stress on all aspects of travel. Now that you have found me, take some time to read older posts and stay tuned for much more. Follow the blog (subscribe) so that you can receive a message when there is an update. Feel free to leave comments and share this blog with your co-workers, family, and friends.

In addition to this blog and my website, I offer travel courses. My travel classes are offered through the adult education departments of local public schools in Northern Virginia (Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun counties). A list of my travel courses through March 2009 can be found here. If you are interested in one of my classes but live in another area, let me know. I may be in your area and can set up a session. Of course, you can always hire me, too.

© 2009, Charles McCool

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Check for Lower Rates After Making Your Reservations

Earlier today I checked the current rates at a property I have a reservation at later this month. Sure enough, I found a lower rate, which I quickly reserved. I cancelled the original reservation after receiving confirmation of the new rate. For my trips, I typically re-check lodging and car rental rates after making my reservation and before the actual date. Of course, I encourage my clients and you to do the same.

No, the rates are not always lower. Unfortunately, rates usually increase. Sometimes, though, like today, I find a lower rate. Most often, when I find a lower subsequent rate (after initial booking), it is for car rentals rather than lodging. I sometimes find better quality lodging or car options, whether or not the rate is lower.

This is my first post of 2009 and I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Incorporate this technique into your existing travel process and you will likely save money on at least one trip this year.

© 2009, Charles McCool