Cruise Lines make a lot of money from shore excursions. You can often save 50% or more by booking or planning your own tours. This is best done before you get on the boat.
First of all, research your ports of call and decide what it is you want to see. I always go through tour books or the internet to find what points of interest are recommended. Find out ahead of time what shore excursions your ship offers. If you are interested in any of them, you can research similar tours on the internet. Just google the destination and type of tour. You'll usually find that other local tour operators offer the same type of excursion for much less.
For example; we wanted to swim with the stingrays on our Cayman Island stop. I googled 'Cayman Island Stingray tours' and was given a choice of excursions. I then checked on line reviews about that particular tour company and tour. Tripadvisor.com is a great place to get reviews.
Often when you book tours in advance, the tour operators meet you right at the dock. Remember, there is often limited space per tour so book early.
When we want an overall tour of the island, our family often grabs a taxi as soon as we reach port. We let the driver know exactly where we want to go, what time we need to be back and negotiate a price before getting into the cab. Make sure you research in advance locale safety issues and port taxi services and tips.
Do your tour as soon as you arrive and then leave time to explore the docking/port area. Remember, it is YOUR responsibility to get back to the cruise ship well ahead of the scheduled departure time. If you are not there, the boat will leave without you.
With these tips in mind, go ahead, do your research and save your money.
This time of year I find myself yearning to escape to a sunnier place. A cruise can be just what the doctor ordered and it's easy to research.
The first place I check is the Vacations to Go site. This is where I narrow the choices to one or two different cruises. I love this site because it's well organized and easy to use. It lists cruises from all over the world, prices and more. It even converts to Canadian dollars.
The one thing you have to realize is that many of the sites on the internet (including Vacations to Go) are from the United States and therefore not covered by TICO.
In Ontario, The Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO) administers an industry-financed travel compensation fund. This means that if you buy travel through a registered Ontario travel retailer and that retailer, service, air or cruise line goes bust, you are reimbursed if a refund is not otherwise given. If you don't live in Ontario, check your province or state to see if there is similar coverage offered.
In my experience, many Ontario travel agents will match or even beat the prices that I find on line.
The next step is to find an agent that will do this and give travel reward points. I chose the local Cruise Ship Center and not only did we get the best price, TICO coverage and aeroplan reward miles, we also received personalized service. Of course we paid with our travel rewards credit card.
So if you are dreaming of a cruise, take a few hours on line, call around and soon you can be sailing the bright blue seas.
One of the best ways to save your travel buck is by using reward points.
If you haven't already done so, join a travel reward program, or two...or more.
There are many travel reward cards out there: credit card and consumer incentive programs (ie AirMiles). You can often double dip by using an AirMiles card while paying with your reward credit card. You have to admit, there is something beautiful about massing credits for free flights while you purchase things you need to buy anyways.
It's surprising how fast those points can add up. My family of four have flown three times to Hawaii, once to Europe and around the country just buying groceries and gas on credit cards!
When choosing, remember not all cards are created equal and what one family considers a benefit, may not be as big a deal for another.
Some of my favourite credit cards have a membership fee. However, when you use your credit card for almost everything you buy, it more than pays for itself with practically free flights, (you still have to pay taxes and some fees on flights). The best part is that some of these cards include different types of travel insurance that could easily cost you hundreds of dollars if purchased separately.
Take caution, you must always pay your card off in full or the interest fees will devour your travel budget.
The important thing is choosing the correct travel incentive credit card for your family's situation. Reward Canada's site is my favourite place to start the research. It's a wealth of information including timely articles and a Travel Credit Card Comparison Chart. Once you get onto the site, click on Program info. Other countries may have the same sort of site, just google Travel Credit Card Comparison.
Just over two hours ago, another earthquake hit Haiti.
The more I travel, the stronger grows my belief that we are all connected and not that different from each other. Most people have the same basic desires, worries and wishes for a happy future. When something like the recent earthquakes in Haiti occur, it's difficult to comprehend the suffering and sorrow of the victims. It's the stuff of nightmares.
These people need our help. It's heartening to see so many places where you can donate to Haitian relief. So where do you donate?
Since I'm always searching for the biggest bang for my travel dollar, I want the same thing for my donation dollar.
Between January 12 and February 12, 2010 the government of Canada will match your donation if you contribute through a Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) approved agency. I did my donation on the Haitian Relief section of Plan Canada's web site
My name is Kimberly Scutt and I am a travel addict. Most of the time my trips are shared with my extremely patient spouse and 11 and 13 year old sons. We're often joined by friends and family.
One of life's greatest joys is planning the next vacation. Unfortunately, travel can be expensive so I've become adept at finding unique and inventive ways to stretch my travel dollar.
On this site I'll share tips and strategies for fellow travel addicts with hopes that in return they share their tips and comments with me. Topics will include finding accommodations and flights for less, making reward points work for you and travelling with allergies, to name a few. You'll also find reviews on destinations, attractions, accommodations, services and transportation. Don't be surprised to see travelogues when we are on the road. Information on this site will be given from my personal experience, understanding and research. Feel free to add or improve on it.
If you've been dreaming of a special vacation but think it is out of your reach, keep an eye on this site. You may find some tips and inspiration to make your dream a reality.
Kimberly Scutt lives in Southern Ontario with her husband and two boys. When not dreaming or planning her next vacation, Kimberly spends her time writing travel guides for kids and running a marketing/special events company. She is currently putting the final touches on her “Kid’s Guide to Venice” and writing a “Kid’s Guide to Hawaii.”
Kimberly is not currently affiliated with any travel service or product.