Special Reports

Saving with 6abc: Travel tips

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The high price of gas and other economic factors are making travel for work or for pleasure tough these days. But there are ways you can cut costs.

You can save money, even make money, whether you're commuting to work or traveling for vacation. You can even get a tax break worth hundreds of dollars a year just for going to your job every day.

"I live in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania in Chester County and I commute every day to the Stratford train station on the R5."

Erin Burke estimated she and her husband save about 400-dollars a month by walking, carpooling and taking the train instead of driving two cars.

There's even an online commute cost calendar you can use to see if you can save money on your commute.

And if you decide sharing a ride is for you, finding a carpool or vanpool is easy! Share-A-Ride is a free service that matches potential carpoolers based on their destinations, time of travel, and other preferences.

If public transit is an option, ask your employer about Transitchek. It lets you pay for your public transit or vanpool commute pre-tax.

"There's a federal monthly limit of $115 right now. If you take that full amount pre-tax, you can save a little over 400-dollars a year," said

If you're looking to fly not drive Mark Becker knows where to find the cheapest airfare. He started Airfaredig.com when he was only 15-years-old!

"Airfaredig lists the deals that are unadvertised," he said. Mark spends hours manually scouring airline websites to find secret sales and then publishes those sales on his website.

Kayak.com uses a computer to find low, low prices on specific itineraries you input. Its technology searches airline websites as well as discount websites like Orbitz and CheapTickets.com.

Two other air travel websites we liked are Farecast.com to figure out whether to buy now or wait for a better price. Farecast uses historic pricing data to predict whether a fare is likely to drop or go up.

Yapta tracks flights of your choice. If the fare on one of your flights drops Yapta will send you an email and here's the best part Yapa helps you take advantage of a little known guaranteed airfare rule. Most airlines will offer you a refund or voucher if the price of your airfare drops after you buy it. Since Yapta continues tracking fare fluctuations even after you've bought your ticket, you'll know if you qualify to get money back.

Disneyworld and other theme parks are popular summer destinations so we talked to the founder of MouseSavers.com.

"Disney actually jacks up the prices of its meals and its hotels during the high season," said.

Tip number one, go mid-August or September, you'll get the lowest rates and right now Disney is offering its dining plan for free for that time frame which means you'll get to eat in almost all of Disney theme park and resort restaurants without paying.

"It really adds up. It's close to a 100-dollar value for a family of four," said.

That savings is per day!

"Tip number two would be to buy your ticket someplace other than Disney," said.

Mary has listed reputable brokers on her website. AAA offers discounts to its members; you can save up to 57-dollars per ticket.

Mary said what you do not want to do is buy tickets on Ebay or buy partially-used passes.

"Because they take a partial fingerprint when you purchase a ticket and it's attached to you and you will not be able to use someone else's ticket."

Once you get your tickets they can get lost or stolen. "So you need to take five seconds and make a photocopy of the back of that ticket."

That way Disney will replace it also, while it might be easy to buy a Disney vacation package you may pay for that convenience.

"By booking your hotel separately, airfare, tickets you might be able to save about 10-percent over all," said.

And Orlando international is the closest airport to Disneyworld.

"But you might find it cheaper to fly into Sanford airport or even into Tampa which is not that far of a drive."

And take advantage of coupons. For instance, the Orlando Convention and Visitor's Bureau has struck deals with local restaurants and hotels and it's passing those deals to you with the Orlando Magic Card.

"The Orlando Magic Card costs you absolutely nothing and you can print it out instantly online," said.

If you're thinking about taking a road trip this summer why not stay someplace that will give you money for gas in return? Some hotels in Lancaster County will do just that.

Stay two or more nights at participating locations between May 18th and June 26th and you'll get a free gift card for gas valued at $25. Stay one-night and get a 10-dollar gas card. Call 1-800-290-1457 to book your stay.

Many bed and breakfasts across the country are offering similar deals called Tanks-a-lot deals. We found a B&B in California offering 50-dollar gas cards with any two-night stays plus a 100-dollar cash rebate for guests who arrive in a hybrid vehicle.

Don't let prices at the pump keep you from the Big Apple. Hitch a ride from Philadelphia to New York City on Bolt Bus for 10 to 15-dollars. If you're lucky, you may be able to score a special fare of just one dollar!

A similar service called Megabus will start offering rides from Philadelphia to New York City on May 30th. One-way tickets will cost anywhere from $1 to $18.

More tips:
* Shop for hotels on Sundays. Call directly and ask to speak to a manager on duty or director of sales. They're usually open to negotiating rates.
* You probably don't need rental car insurance. Call your credit card company and your auto insurance carrier before you a rent a car to see if you're covered.
* Some of the best deals are not online. Travel agents sometimes get even better volume discounts. You can call or look through your newspaper for deals.
* Another Disney tip, order food a la carte. They'll knock as much as two-dollars off combo meals if you for-go the fries or onion rings.
* Disney has what it calls value resorts; room rates are as little as 70-dollars a night.

For more information on these and more travel deals:
Commute Cost Calculator

DVRPC Commuter Services programs:
TransitChek: a tax break for both employers and their employees who commute using transit or vanpools
Share-A-Ride: a free, computerized ridematch programs for commuters who work in southeastern PA
Emergency Ride Home: a "safety net" for commuters who share the ride, are without a car and need to get home for an emergency during the work day
Mobility Alternatives Program (MAP): free service to educate employers (in SE PA) on the benefits of encouraging all types of alternate commutes for their employees

PA Transportation Management Association (TMA) Contacts:
Greater Valley Forge TMA (KOP and lower Montgomery Co.)
Partnership TMA (upper Montgomery Co.)  works with Asher
TMA Bucks (all of Bucks Co.)
TMA of Chester Co. (all of Chester Co.)
Delaware Co. TMA (all of Delaware Co.)
Clean Air Council (contracts with City of Phila. to cover all areas outside of Center City)
Cross County Connection TMA (Camden, Burlington and Gloucester counties)
Greater Mercer TMA (Mercer Co.)
NJDOT's Commuter Web Page
Ride Share Delaware

Websites to help you find cheap airfare:
airfaredig
Kayak
yapta
Farecast

Discounts and Deals at Disneyworld and other theme parks:
Mousesavers.com

Find Hotels and B&Bs offering gas deals:
Lancaster County, PA Dutch Country
BedandBreakfast.com

Cheap ways to get to NYC or Washington D.C.:
Bolt Bus
Chinatown Bus Lines

25 Best Travel Sites

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