If you were looking to book a trip in 2015, but decided to wait until 2016…I hate to break it to you, but your vacation will be more expensive. Thankfully there are still a few bargains to be had depending on where and when you travel. Renowned travel expert Chris Elliott joined me for an interview this week from San Antonio’s Riverwalk to dish on how you can travel smarter in 2016 and save money while at it. You won’t want to book your next trip until you watch this interview, believe me!
Candace Rose: With 2016 projected to be one of the busiest travel seasons in years, does that mean we’ll have to pay more to travel and will there still be bargains?
Chris Elliott: “You’re going to have to pay more, definitely. 2016 prices have already gone up. We’ve seen airline tickets prices were raised at the beginning of the year. That’s the first time in six months that’s happened – car rental rates, hotel rates, those are all going up as well. They’re expected to be up about five percent.
Just about the only bright spot is gas prices are about $2 a gallon. Around Memorial Day gas prices are going up too. It’s really a no win situation. My recommendation is that you monitor prices a lot closer than you did in years past if you want to be the world’s smartest traveler. If you see something you can afford, book now and don’t wait.”
Candace Rose: Is this the year to focus on price or are there other considerations?
Chris Elliott: “No. There are other considerations. A lot of people make that mistake and focus just on the price. What you want to do is do business with a company that really appreciates you. What I mean by that is – when I checked into this hotel, I’m staying at the Holiday Inn right now in San Antonio on the Riverwalk, they handed me one of these (please see video above for details). I’m a member of the IHG Loyalty Program and they’re right now serving their loyalty program members a breakfast. They’re also giving stuff away to them that’s pretty cool. That’s what I mean by a company that actually appreciates you for who you are. They’re not just throwing miles your way. This campaign is actually called Priceless Surprises, so you get the idea…they’re trying to surprise people and not just crediting miles to their account.
That would be my recommendation, don’t just do business or don’t just make a booking decision based on just a low price because there is other things in play too.”
Candace Rose: You advise people to “zig when everyone else zags” when it comes to making travel plans. What do you mean by that?
Chris Elliott: “Zigging when everyone else is zagging, again this is going to be busy year for travel. My advice is that when everyone else is going one place, you can consider going to another place. Remember more crowds means higher prices and people kind of take you for granted during tourist season anyway.
Again, if people are going to the beach, maybe you should head over to the mountains. Just as an example – San Antonio. It’s January and this is not tourist season here. Obviously it’s a little cool but hotel rates are really low and people are really nice to you because no one comes here during January, so it’s a good time to be here and maybe take a vacation.”
Candace Rose: Your book is about avoiding problems when you travel. What’s the most common travel problem at this time of year, and how can you prevent it?
Chris Elliott: “Right now we’re in the travel planning phase and the biggest mistake that people make is making a decision based on one criteria. For example they find a low price, they just say I’m going to go with that. You have to take a lot of things into consideration, for example: loyalty, user generated reviews, maybe the advice of a travel agent. Put those all together and you’ll have sound advice. You can make a booking decision based on that. But remember, you only have one vacation (maybe two) so you want to definitely get this right.”
Candace Rose: Where can we go for more information?
Chris Elliott: “My website is Elliott.org, and this Priceless Surprises campaign is at IHG.com/Surprises.”