If planning the route for our Grand/Classic Road Trip was the fun part, then the pain might have been paying for it. I knew an adventure like this was not going to be cheap and had some savings put aside for it. Being a typical Scotsman, my arms are just a little bit shorter than my pockets and every penny is a prisoner. Having researched the more expensive parts of the trip I was surprised to find a number of savings could be made from the same unexpected source.
Flying across the Atlantic is never cheap and arriving and departing from different cities seemed to add to the cost. I never realised that there were so many travel companies and search engines for flights and I think I tried them all. This approach didn’t save a great deal of money, but I developed a good understanding of the different routes, costs, allowances and times. Armed with this understanding I used the discount travel service that comes with my bank account to book British Airways flights and saved 10% on the cheapest online price quoted.
The bank travel service also flagged up that they could do car hire. I had briefly considered a motor home, but enjoy my comforts too much so discounted this option quickly. I would be driving long distances in the car, travelling on good quality highways and occasionally dirt track roads to get to the locations for photo-shoots. I needed a car that could cope with this diversity, was comfortable and which returned reasonable performance. I opted for a mid-range SUV and through the bank was again able to book one from a reputable supplier again at 10% below the cheapest online price.
When it came to booking Hotels in the USA please remember that the price quoted does not include sales/local taxes as they do here in the UK, I learned that lesson the hard way a long time ago. However, one of the interesting things I did find out during my research is that two of the sates we are visiting have no sales tax. Guess where I will be buying my new Mac Book?
My criteria for hotels was proximity to the route, cleanliness and comfort; a laundry service was an added bonus. I singed up for both the Hilton and Best Western rewards programmes and started our hotel search through their portals. In the end, I choose mostly Best Western because they offered a better fit to the route. I did not make a big saving through the reward programme, I reckon I will get about £100 in Amazon vouchers back, but that’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, as the saying goes.
I am not a financial expert and don’t really understand how exchange rates work. However, I know that the pound is not doing so well in the markets and that this will make things more expensive for the trip so I did some research to see how I might minimise our losses. I choose to avoid those companies that offer tourist rates the same as market rates on money wired straight to their bank accounts. While they offer the best rates they seem to be no more than pyramid schemes and have no safety net.
I’ve noticed on recent trips abroad that retailers were offering the opportunity to convert credit card sales to sterling at point of purchase rather than back home. From my research, it appears that the big credit card companies, Visa and Mastercard, have a standard exchange rate for all currencies which is actually quite close to the market rate. The banks don’t make money off the currency exchange and instead make their money by charging a small fee for each transaction. Obviously, the bank actually making the transaction be that at home or abroad get the money. It turns out that because of the type of bank account that I have they do not charge me any transaction fee, so by far the best option for me is to use my credit card as I will get near market rates with all the protection of a reputable credit card and not incur charges.
My intention in writing this piece was to record some more of my thoughts and planning for the road trip. I did not set out to write an advert for my bank, indeed I am deliberately not naming them, and the savings I have made might not apply to you. What I take from this is that it definitely pays to do your research and shop around if you are planning a trip.