Alamo has typically been my go to for rental cars. Unlike the budget ones that offer teaser rates that inevitably will be higher once you pay extra for things that should be included, Alamo just gives you a no nonsense rate that includes everything you need and nothing you don't, and they don't try to get you to pay $5 a gallon for gas when you get back.
Just a few tips that we use, that save us a bunch of $$$ on our trips.
1. Try to book the mom and pop places over chain hotels. A perfect example would be near silver dollar city and Dollywood. We ended up paying $35 a night for what ended up being really nice hotels/motels, that were on par and better than most chain hotels. The nearest chain hotel wanted $85 per night. If mom and pop places are not an option, we book on hotels.com. Every 10th night is free thru the rewards program.
2. Buy your tickets before your trip on either theme park review, or other discount outlets. I also have gotten very lucky and saved over $300 on tickets buy going on ebay and buying a discount code for certain parks. We used a code (it only cost us around $2-$3 for the code on ebay) for silver dollar city, and got a 2 day ticket for less than the cost of a 1 day. The same thing for seaworld.
3.Look into meal plans and refillable drink cups at parks. If you don't want to go thru the trouble of leaving the park to eat, a meal plan usually pays for itself after 2 meals. If you don't want a drink cup, most parks will always give you free ice water.
4. Try to book acomidations that offer breakfast in the morning. Typcially, the room costs just a few bucks more, but you have to eat anyways and why not book a nicer place to sleep for a minimal amount more...or sometimes the same price. Sometimes you get lucky, and the nicer hotels also have a free shuttle to the parks, and that saves $$$ on parking. But ALWAYS read the reviews for the hotels before booking. What you think is a good deal, may actually be a nightmare. Always check if there are any additinal fees that are not included in the nightly rate. We have been hit with parking fees, and $100 a night deposits that were not listed...always call and ask about fees. We stay away from the hotels that charge a deposit for the night. It's happned a few times that we did not get our deposits back until a week later, and a big hit like that could impact your trip budget. Twice, we actually had to fight with a hotel because they claimed they refunded our deposit but did not. It's a big headache to have to deal with that, so stay away from those places. Plus, sometimes there is a reason they are charging a deposit to begin with.
5. Another suggestion about hotels, is to try and book one that's 10 miles from a park. Not only are they cheaper most of the time, but they are nicer in some cases. We saved $40 per night a bunch of times just for staying 10 miles away. Whats a 15 min drive to the hotel if your saving big $$$?
6. Take advantage of rewards programs for gas and hotels.
7.If possible, try to plan your hotel stays and park visits during the week, as the prices tend to be much cheaper.
8.Do not purchase fast passes until you arrive at the park and judge crowd levels. I couldn't tell you how many times I have seen people buy the fast lane before they arrive, and the park ends up being a ghost town.
9. Set a budget, and try to come in below it.
10. Map out your route and try to keep the parks 4 hours or less apart. We just got back from our mega coaster trip 2017, and it really did not feel like we did a ton of driving because we broke it up into 4 hour or less drives. This also really helps keep you fresh for those long hot days in the theme parks.
11. Always try to fill you gas tank away from large cities. Gas tends to be cheaper in less populated areas. Or if your a costco member, try to fill up there.
12. Months before your trip whenever you get a few extra bucks, buy gift cards for gas or the park you plan on going to. We do this for our larger trips like Disney, and its nice having those gift cards handy for souvenirs.
13. if your planning on hitting a bunch of parks that belong to the same chain (six flags, cedar fair, Busch...ect) look into a season pass. Not only will it save you money on admission and parking, but most season passes have other discounts as well. Six flags passes offer you 20% off in gift shops and food discounts for example. Most will offer you good discounts on fast lanes as well if you have a season pass. Figure if you visit 4 six flags parks and parking is $20 each visit, that right there will pretty much cover the cost of your pass. We also added the all season meal plans to our cedar fair and six flags passes. This has saved us a ton of money. It's about $100 to add it on, and its good for the entire year and at all of the chains properties. A typical meal at a park will run you around $15-$20 each time you eat. They typically pay for themselves in 3 visits.
The only thing I'd caution on #8 is if a park is known to have a limited supply of skip-the-line passes such as Dollywood. On the day I visited, they ran out of TimeSaver Unlimited passes so I was fortunate enough to have booked it online. Granted my primary motivation for that was using it for Lightning Rod which backfired, but the point still stands.
For the hotels, I always read reviews and look for a minimum user rating of 3.5 or above. I usually end up paying $70-90 for a hotel, which I think is fair. And honestly the worst night I've ever had at a hotel was a Quality Inn so you aren't necessary any safer at a chain over a local place.
Top 5 Wood- Lightning Rod, Phoenix, Boulder Dash, Wildfire, Outlaw Run Top 5 Steel- Steel Vengeance, Expedition GeForce, Fury 325, Twisted Colossus, Iron Rattler Most Recent Trip Reports- Parc Saint Paul &Lake Compounce
When traveling across multiple states check out the price heat map on gasbuddy.com. You don't need to use it to find the cheapest place (although you could) but you want to know ahead of time when you pass state lines and gas prices jump by 40-50 cents per gallon.
As usual, my analysis is free of charge! Original enough to not steal someone else's quote as a signature
I always use the Gas Buddy app when travelling by car. Sometimes there's a 50 cent per gallon difference in the same town. In one of the towns near me for example, there's a Chevron that's $3.55/gallon and directly across the street there's an ARCO that's $2.99/gallon. Even if you like to stay loyal to Chevron, using the app you'll find another Chevron across town that's $3.09/gallon.
Shell just started a version of Fuel Rewards recently where you just register your phone number and email and don't have to link it to a credit card and just enter your phone number before pumping you'll automatically get 5 cents off a gallon and 10 cents off a gallon the first time you use it. If Shell is within 5 cents/gallon of competing nearby stations and I need to fill up I'll always go there.
Also look into getting a card that gets you a percentage back on gas if you drive a lot. I use a Costco Anywhere Visa as my main credit card which gives 4% back on gas (plus 3% on restaurants and travel, 2% at Costco non-gas, and 1% everywhere else). The only annual fee you pay is being a Costco member (which is $60 and well worth it), but I ride on my dad's membership being the second member on his so I don't pay this anyway. If gas is at least $2.50/gallon (and it almost always is here in CA) than I'm getting 10 cents back a gallon eventually in the form of a yearly rebate check. So when I'm looking for gas, I'm always looking for the cheapest credit price. If the credit price is within 10 cents a gallon of the cash price I'm paying with the card. Also being a Costco member gets me access to their gas stations which can be up to 30 cents a gallon cheaper then nearby stations, which I take advantage of if they're open when I'm near one and have enough time to wait in line.
For hotels my go to is hotels.com, although I cross search other sites. I don't really like to stay loyal to one specific brand and I pick hotels based on a mix of price, location, amenities, and average review rating. I really like hotels.com's rewards program where for every ten nights you stay they average the cost of those ten nights and you get that off your next night. I've used hotels.com many times and have yet to have a problem with them. I occasionally use Priceline if I can get a name my own price deal, but that hasn't worked for me much in recent years. I've also used Hotwire for deals where I know the area, star level, and user rating but I don't know the specific hotel until I've booked and I've gotten some really nice 4 star hotels for under $100 a night. For Vegas hotels, I search these sites but book directly with them since they seem to always match or beat the third-party site rates and have rewards of their own (most are owned by Caesars or MGM).
For flying, I have miles/points with many airlines including AA, United, Southwest, JetBlue, and Alaska/Virgin America. I use Google Flight Matrix and Kayak searches for flights but always book with the airline directly. While I feel comfortable booking third-party websites for hotels since they won't move locations or change times or have weather delays, flights are a lot more unpredictable and I like to be able to keep a close eye on them. It's a lot more of a nightmare to have your flight reservation screwed up and have to scramble for another flight or time that could impact days on your vacation than to have to find another nearby hotel with a vacancy.
For international flights (especially to Asia and Europe) I try to have the long haul flight be on a foreign airline that will be vastly superior to the US counterpart if the price and flight schedule allows for it. I use both the One World Alliance (through AA) and Star Alliance (through United) and will try to pick flights operated by one of these partner airlines when booking through AA and United and get my miles to one of these airlines. When I flew to Japan I booked through United but the long trans-Pacific flight was on ANA, and when I'm flying to Europe this fall, my trans-Atlantic flight both ways will be on BA although I booked through AA.
For domestic flights I try to book through JetBlue and Virgin America whenever possible since they offer a better overall flying experience and have nicer planes and amenities than the other domestic airlines. I got a $99 flight from LAX to Orlando on JetBlue and a $115 return flight on Virgin America at the end this month so I'm happy about that. If I'm carrying a lot of baggage (no pun intended) or oddly shaped baggage like a case of skis and a snowboard I like Southwest since two bags fly free per passenger and that even includes the oddly shaped baggage. When my sister and I did a snow trip to Utah this came in handy as we saved a lot of money on rentals by bringing our own skis and snowboard, and I will try to fly with Southwest next time I do a snow trip out of state.
For airline credit cards I am willing to have one at a time. In the past I had a United Chase one to get $100 off my flights to Japan and 30,000 bonus miles if I spent a certain amount, two United Club passes, no foreign transaction fees and no annual fee for the first year and I cancelled it before my year was up so I wouldn't have to pay an annual fee. Now I have an AA Citi one since I got $100 off my flights to Europe and 30,000 bonus miles and also no foreign transaction fees (so I will use this card primarily in Europe) and no annual fee for the first year. Before the 12 months is over I will cancel this card because I'm not paying for an annual fee.
For theme parks if your visiting more than one Six Flags or Cedar Fair park in a year then its pretty self explanatory to get their season passes and get the ones that include the parking. For other theme parks, especially Orlando ones, look into Tickets At Work or Undercover Tourist as they are authorized Disney and Universal ticket sellers and will give you a little bit of a discount over Disney's and Universal's online prices. Check both because sometimes one is cheaper than the other depending on what type of ticket your buying. I went with Undercover Tourist because they were cheaper for a 3-day 3 park to park Universal ORLANDO ticket, but had I wanted a 4 day 3 park to park ticket Tickets At Work would have been cheaper.
http://coaster-count.com/userinfo15854.xhtml and http://www.coastercounter.com/805Andrew (I don't count traveling fairs and casinos as parks, and I count Coney Island as one park)[url=http://www.clubtpr.com][img]http://www.clubtpr.com/images/memberbanners/07c56b6e6c57795b5e848cab51dd406e.jpg[/img][/url][url=http://www.clubtpr.com][img]http://www.clubtpr.com/images/memberbanners/4bcb6d715cbe293b80fdfea5d0baf0b0.jpg[/img][/url]
I'm a very cheap person so I'll throw in my thoughts about my favorite companies.
Before telling my tips I'll tell a bit about my habits. I don't fly much so no tips there. When staying somewhere I only care more about cost, cleanliness, and safeness more than luxury. Unless I am seeking out a specific feature such as a indoor pool or hot tub. Most of my traveling is in the South, so my experiences might be different than how a brand might typically be in other places.
Credit Card- I use a Discover Card primarily. I don't have a need for a travel card or branded card (More explanation why in hotel section). Discover always gives at least 1% cash back, while offering a 5% cash back in categories every quarter. I use these to my advantage by mass buying gift cards in the respective quarter. This means gas, restaurants, Amazon, etc. They also offered a six flags deal about every other year. The reason I stick with Discover is their cash back can be applied to your account, or choose from a list of about 100 places to get extra money on the card. For example $20 of cash back can get you a $25 gift card to a restaurant. You can also shop online through their site and get extra cash back. I double dip the Discover Deals with another site like Upromise, eBates, MyPoints, or SwagBucks. I can get potentially up to 10-20% back off of a simple purchase. Their customer service is also fantastic, another reason I stick with them.
Gas- I am loyal to Speedway. The stations are clean, have good food and drink offerings, and have the best rewards system. If you work it right with gift card purchases, I easily earn a $200 gas card each year and that goes a long way in my Honda Civic! I'm not knowledgeable on car engines, but I'd say using the same brand of gas each time doesn't hurt anything. If I go outside of Speedway territory, I typically stick to Shell or BP to ensure good quality fuel.
Hotel booking / general thoughts- No matter which brand you go with- book through the actual company instead of a third party like priceline. If you ever get in a bind it is a bigger mess to fix. After you pick a hotel brand family and stick with it, the deals, promos, and rewards balance out the discounts anyway. I also recommend staying somewhere with breakfast unless you really want to eat somewhere specific where you are. This can save money and the time of stopping somewhere else. TripAdvisor is always your friend. A 10 second glance will tell you if a hotel or restaurant is a good or bad idea. If you are road tripping, put water and other drinks and a bag of snacks in your car. You can get ice at hotel and it beats paying triple for a late night coke from the machine.
Hotel Brand- coasterbill gave some great tips for Choice, but I'm going to share why I went with Wyndham instead. Wyndham consists of a wide range of brands which honestly needs some consolidation. I normally go on the cheap end as long as its clean and safe, but have the flexibility to stay somewhere nicer. I have the flexibility of cheap and mid range, while companies like Hilton, IHG, or Marriott don't have a value option. Drury and LaQuinta are great, but not enough of them for me to be loyal. Here is why Wyndham for me: -Like Choice, they have properties everywhere, and in different income brackets. - If worked properly- their rewards program can be very lucrative. Again, it depends on how and where you travel. You get a free night for 15k points, or a go fast award for 3k. The go fast award is using 3k points plus some cash based on property. I've save tremendous money with that. In peak time the $150 night turns into a $40 plus 3k points. It is also fairly easy to earn status and more perks. Each stay (even 1 night in a cheap motel) earns 1,000 points. There is always promotions going on to give bonus points. I typically earn enough points for a award every 1.5-2 nights. I normally stay in different hotels every night in the same town to maximize points- especially if I'm alone. You can redeem at any property, ranging from the cheap, mid range, luxury, and even the condo timeshare units. -More thoughts on Wyndham Brands: - Wyndham / Wyndham Grand- Very nice properties, compare to Crowne Plaza, DoubleTree, Marriott, etc. Only stayed at a couple of these. Normally only in large cities. -Wyndham Garden- these can be really good or really bad. Typically these are rebrands of another hotel. Most are fine. - Knights Inn- Just don't do it. Most of them are drug dens or bug infested that need to be shut down. Plus most have no breakfast. - Howard Johnson / Travelodge- These range greatly in quality and amenities. Typically in big cities they are pretty bad and I wouldn't do it. However in tourist or rural areas these are normally ok. For example- Travelodge now brands itself with the National Parks, and most that I know of near a park are pretty good. Hawthorn Suites- Never stayed at one, more of them up North than in the South. Haven't heard any major complaints. Microtel- I really like these. Rooms are consistent. Most have at least 1 hot item for breakfast. Not many have a pool though if you want one. They have an option of 1 queen bed rooms, good cheap option normally if traveling solo. Ramada- These can range in quality and amenities but are normally nice. A lot are rebrands of older Marriott type or old Holidome Holiday Inns. They all have good breakfast, free at some places, extra at others. If breakfast isn't free, I typically stay somewhere else for same cost. Wingate- These are really nice. Think Courtyard or Hilton Garden with free breakfast. Some have pool some don't. There aren't many of these and are normally the priciest Wyndham option in town. Days Inn- you will see the most of these. I've never stayed in a bad one but I can thank Trip Advisor for that. Typically least consistent brand. Will have breakfast for free, typically continental but some can surprise you. I normally don't stay at these in big cities, not because of the property but usually loud and late clientele. If I can stay at another Wyndham property for $5 more I'll do it. Super 8- This brand has really improved and is the most consistent value brand. Most properties are renovated now, I really like the new furniture and beds. Each room has pictures on the wall of a local site and it adds a nice touch. More likely than Days Inn to have better breakfast. You can still get a dud but this is my most stayed brand. Baymont- this is my favorite brand, and if I'm not crashing for simply getting off the road, I'll normally splurge if its within $10 more of the Days or Super 8. They always have a great breakfast options, and the beds are the best non luxury I've stayed in. Typically a lot better clientele and amenities.
Thats a lot of info, hope that helps! Let me know if you have questions about Wyndham or their rewards. I can normally have a good Super 8 value night for half the cost of a Hampton or HIExpress, while having the option of a Baymont, Wingate, or Ramada for a little less.
Dollywood is also my home park, also can answer any questions about the Smokies
Just a heads up... apparently Canada has a new ultra-low cost airline that's hoping to launch in June of 2018. For anyone that lives near the US / Canadian border or anywhere in Eastern Canada and wants to scoop up that elusive Mindbender credit, keep these guys on your radar.
Their main hub looks to be in Hamilton between Toronto and Niagara falls so it's an easy drive for people in upstate New York, northern Pennsylvania, eastern Michigan or northern Ohio (sometimes you need to drive a little to get a killer deal on airfare, but it's worth it). Personally, I'll probably go up there and then fly to Edmonton even though I've heard Mindbender sort of sucks. At least we can hit Niagara Falls on the way and maybe catch a hockey game in Edmonton.
Speaking of ultra low cost airlines, Allegiant has cut a few routes that I mentioned in my first post, mainly the Trenton hub to Orlando or Tampa and a few other northeast airports like Scranton, PA. They still fly from Newburgh, NY and Lehigh Valley, PA though (near Dorney). There are still ridiculously cheap flights from Trenton to Frlorida through the end of the year when they suspend those routes though.
Speaking of Florida, September through mid December is an excellent time to fly to Florida from basically anywhere in the northeast. Frontier, Allegiant and Spirit all have great deals right now. Allegiant has flights from $31 one way from Trenton to either Orlando or Tampa. Spirit has flights for $50 one way from New York City (EWR) to Orlando. We're going down in a few weeks because the price was so low we couldn't resist and fares have actually come DOWN since I booked our flight for about $41 each way per person. Seriously though, this Trenton route and that Scranton route are going away because there's no demand for them. Take advantage of that nonexistent demand while you still can.
Sorry for the double post, but (ultra low cost airline) Frontier dropped tons of deals today, in many cases for flights through next August. Tons of them are $24 one way. I booked another trip to Florida in late January earlier today (Get ready Epcot, I'm coming and I WILL be drinking around the world). For a lot of these you'll need to join the discount den but it pays for itself in less than one flight in a lot of cases and is good for a year. Even if you factor that in the flight we just booked was less than 100 bucks each round trip (note: only the person booking the flight needs to join, you don't need it for everyone in your party).
Unlike Allegiant, these guys fly all over the damn place so if you have any potential coaster trips planned for basically anywhere in the United States next year, go look through this page. Not to sound like a sales guy, but these generally only stay up for a few hours / days. Check it out.
You can keep hitting "see more" or use the search feature on the left. Either enter your home airport or if you're willing to drive a little for a good enough deal just enter something in the "To City" field and see what your options are.
Also: This is random, but anyone in the Cleveland area who wants cheap tickets to Cedar Point and enjoys NFL Football (or whatever it is the Browns are doing lately, good lord they suck) should buy a ticket to next Sunday's game. All fans in attendance get free tickets to Cedar Point next season and since the Browns are so awful, tickets are only 27 bucks on Stubhub so it's way cheaper than buying a Cedar Point ticket and you get to go to an NFL football game (sort of).
5 years ago it would cost you nearly 2,000 to fly nonstop to Orlando to Memphis. It was a Delta hub.
After they have dehubbed it, we now have Southwest, A llegiant and now Frontier all offering nonstops. The Frontier flights start in November and some fares are 29 bucks each way.
Anywho, Barclay's is offering an American Airlines Aviator Red Card with 60,000 mile bonus for making a single purchase. There is a 95 dollars yearly fee. A couple could each get one and take several round trips together for basically 200 bucks. Cancel the card after you have used up the points and before the anniversary date comes around so you don't get hit for the annual fee again. The card also offers some free luggage perks.
Frontier also started Tulsa to San Diego. That's a nice way to get there. Tue, Thursday and Sun flights. Nice spacing.
coasterbill wrote:I'm really interested to hear some feedback on WOW Airlines. We're planning culture / coaster trip next year with Tivoli, Liseberg, Kolmården and Gröna Lund and they've come up on a few of my searches. We'll probably be flying into Copenhagen and out of Stockholm (unless the airfare is cheaper if you reverse it since order really doesn't matter). I don't mind a cheap airline for a 2 hour flight to Florida but a long flight like that makes me a little more cautious.
smartestcoasterkidever! wrote:If you don't mind a crash or two
WOW air is really expanding service, Saint Louis, Cleven and and so on. Icelandic is too but not as fast.
Norwegian will continue to add US cities as they get more planes. He has mentitled my city (Memphis) several times so I'm getting kinda confident. Here's an article out of Scotland on it
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