The perfect travel guide for women?baby boomers and beyond?who want to become savvy, safe travelers, and have fun doing it!
Whether you already belong to a Red Hat Society chapter or just want more fun and pizzazz in your life now that you have time to indulge, this book answers every nagging question and includes practical tips and helpful info on:
- Deciding when and where to go
- Taking a trip with your girlfriends
- Choosing where to eat and stay in twenty top vacation destinations
- Traveling by train, plane, and auto
- And more!
Full of advice and tips from the ladies of The Red Hat Society, this fun, informative guide addresses your greatest travel concerns?such as negotiating airport security and staying healthy and safe, and simplifies the sometimes complicated tasks associated with traveling?like reading subway maps or understanding the rules of tipping. Discover hundreds of fabulous boutique hotels, favorite local restaurants, and insider tips on shopping, all recommended by Red Hat Society members around the country!
For time- and money-saving ideas, safety tips, packing and shopping plans, and destination suggestions that span the USA from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Brooklyn Bridge, turn to The Red Hat Society Travel Guide.
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Sold by:||HarperCollins Publishing|
|File size:||745 KB|
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The Red Hat Society Travel Guide
Hitting the Road with Confidence, Class, and Style
By CYNTHIA GLIDEWELL Thomas Nelson
Copyright © 2008
All right reserved.
Chapter One Getting Started
Getting started can present two of the most difficult challenges of any trip, deciding where to go and when to head in that direction. There are a few things that you can do before you make those difficult decisions that can help get you in the mood for adventure.
JOIN THE CLUB
Before you start planning your trip, even when it is just a twinkle in your eye, do the following:
Join the Red Hat Society. First and foremost, if you are not a member of the Red Hat Society, there is no time like the present to join. Fun after fifty is for women everywhere, no matter where or when your journey begins! Tapping into one of the largest networks of women anywhere who believe that now is the best time to be alive, is an amazing feeling. The Red Hat Society provides endless opportunities to communicate, share information and ideas and even meet new friends around the world. Not only do you get the benefit of being part of a growing phenomenon, but with the Red Hat Society Purple Perks Membership, you have access to incredible travel benefits as well. Go to www.redhatsociety.com and click on membership benefits. Check out the Purple Perks benefits section for Travel Discounts. You will find discounts on rental cars, cruises, and over 40,000 hotels worldwide. Red Hatters get tremendous discounts on Amtrak as well. Even more travel discounts are available when you book your Red Hat Society travel through Carlson Travel.
Join AAA. The benefits of AAA are countless. The Web site holds many treasures, including hotel discounts, travel planning guides, fuel price finder, and maps, maps, maps! Joining AAA, which has a proven track record, costs about $62.00 per year. You probably do not need a premier membership; the basic one provides many advantages. To top it all off, AAA makes all of the information available in hard copy too. If you are not Web savvy, no worries! Call AAA or go by a local office and pick up your TripTik. As a side note, even if you never take that trip, any woman out there driving or riding in a car should have AAA. Go to www.aaa.com or call 866-222-2582.
Check out AARP. AARP membership costs $12.50 per year. I don't know that I would join AARP for the travel benefits alone, but it has some great discounts that are worth a look. If you haven't yet joined AARP for its general discounts and the great magazine, that is something to think about. Go to www.aarp.org or call 888-OURAARP (888-687-2277).
Sign up for hotel rewards and membership programs. By signing up for the hotel loyalty programs, you can earn points toward stays. When I originally started traveling, I did not sign up because I did not think I would ever be on the road enough to make an impact. Boy, was I wrong. I soon figured out that even if I never earned a free night, the benefits of the free membership were well worth the few minutes it took to sign up for it. Some include other travel partners and/or discounts within their memberships, such as the ability to earn airline miles or rental car discounts. Check out the programs and determine which work best for you. Check out which hotels have locations you are likely to visit, which ones have suite hotels or hotels in the price range you are interested in frequenting, and which ones have point programs in which the points do not expire. You will soon learn that earning those points will factor into your deciding where to lay your head at night. (This is exactly why they have them.)
It may take you a few stays at a few different hotels before you decide which program is best for you, but be sure to sign up so you don't lose any nights. At a minimum, I would sign up for the following clubs. (I've listed the hotels and their brand partners so you will know which ones are included with each membership. Note that the phone number listed is not the number for reservations. It is the number for signing up for the loyalty club.)
www.marriottrewards.com or 800-450-4442 Marriott | Renaissance | Courtyard | Residence Inn | Fairfield Inn TownePlace Suites | SpringHill Suites | Sheraton
STARWOOD PREFERRED GUEST
www.starwoodhotels.com or 888-625-4988 Four Points | Loft | W Hotels | Le Meridien | Westin | St. Regis | The Luxury Collection
www.hilton.com or 800-HHonors (800-446-6677) Conrad | Double Tree | Embassy Suites Hotels | Hampton Inn | Hampton Inn & Suites Hilton Garden Inn | Homewood Suites by Hilton | The Waldorf-Astoria Collection
HOLIDAY INN-PRIORITY CLUB REWARDS
www.holidayinn.com or 800-272-9273 Holiday Inn | Intercontinental | Crowne Plaza | Holiday Inn Express Staybridge Suites | Candlewood Suites | Hotel Indigo
BEST WESTERN-GOLD CROWN CLUB
www.goldcrownclub.com or 800-237-8483
You may be surprised at how quickly you can earn that first free night.
If you are not a member of your local Sam's Club, look into signing up. The clubs have the best gas prices around and nifty travel packages too.
I have a friend, Anne, who has the most incredible knack for finding bargains. She seems drawn to them like a moth to a flame. I bet you have an "Anne" in your chapter. She is that gal who walks into your favorite bargain basement store about 4:00 PM after a blood-and-thunder sale and is successful among the chaos. You know the scene. The clothes are piled up in heaps. Sizes and colors are mixed and next to impossible to find. The pants are dangling under the carousel in no certain order whatsoever. Yet within ten minutes she can find a three-piece designer suit, in her size no less, for $29.99. Rebecca, another friend, will spend thirty minutes and a gallon of gas to drive across town to save $0.40 on a twelve-pack of Coke. And then there are those like me. I am all about a bargain or a sale, and I spend a fair bit of time seeking them. But as I have grown into this awesome age of fifty plus, I have discovered that I factor in more than price alone, especially when it comes to travel. Through my travels in the last several years, I have found that some things are not worth discounting. Peace of mind is one of them.
The age of the Internet, which some of us have joined wholeheartedly and others not so much, has launched a plethora of discount travel sites, lures, and enticements that can quickly consume you. You could spend days searching and researching air fares, hotel deals, tour packages, and so on. (I will cover that aspect of deal finding in the booking section.) But what about those of us who just aren't ready to put the time, effort, and learning curve into surfing the Internet? Well, there are still ways to save money and possibly get a few extra perks along the way.
It doesn't matter whether you are an "Anne," a "Rebecca," or just you. Anyone getting ready to travel should do some very basic things. They will cost you little or no money but can add benefits to your travel experience.
Rule #1: Ask!
You have heard the saying, "Ask and you shall receive." At the very least, ask! You may be surprised at the number of discounts and special rates out there for you. Always ask for the best rate available and an upgrade.
THE BEST RATE AVAILABLE
Whenever you make reservations-for car rental, air travel, any type of public transportation, restaurants, anything-always ask if there is a senior discount. Senior discounts start anywhere from that magic fifty to sixty-five. Ask for your discount before you purchase or consume the product or service: before you order your meal, when you make your hotel reservation (not when you are checking out), or when you make your car reservation. Many places have a senior rate but do not offer it unless you ask for it. However, the senior rate may not always be the best rate available. Check the regular rate and the senior rate, and take advantage of the better deal.
An upgrade may not exactly be a discount, but it can certainly turn out to be a nice little sprinkle on top of the whipped cream. Depending on your level in your chosen loyalty club, the current load of an airplane, hotel rooms available, or the type of car sitting on a lot, you can sometimes score an upgrade simply by asking.
Airlines. Some airlines now allow you to buy upgrades at the gate. You could end up with a pretty good deal and a new experience if you have never gone first class before. But if you are going to spend money to upgrade to first class, save it for a trip that is at least two hours long. That way you can enjoy the full benefit of what is left of first-class service.
Hotels. You can pretty well bet that your hotel will not offer room upgrades unless you specifically request them. Granted, in some hotels, they claimed to have upgraded my room, and the only difference was that a shower cap was included in the bathroom amenities. A few other times, I was upgraded to a suite that knocked my socks off! If there are no room upgrades available, at a minimum, ask for access to the concierge lounge. Depending on the hotel, the concierge lounge may serve a continental breakfast and/or evening appetizers! These upgrades are much more likely to happen for you if you are a member of the hotel's loyalty club.
Car rentals. Upgrading from a compact to a midsize is not very likely to happen because the midsize is the most popular rental and there are fewer of them just sitting around. However, if you have rented a midsize and would like to upgrade to a full size, ask. All they can do is say no. Make clear that you want to upgrade at no additional cost to you. Lately, due to the increase in gas prices, the larger cars are less popular with customers so they are waiting on the lot for someone to ask for them. Last week my son was renting a car in Houston, and he signed up for a midsize and got an upgrade to an H3 (Hummer). It was fun for a day! Hey, it's vacation. Enjoy the extra leg and trunk room!
Basic Money Savers
Whether you are driving your own car or a rental car, check the air pressure in the tires. Not only does it impact the life of the tires, but it will make a difference in your fuel usage.
Make sure your engine is tuned up and your oil changes are up to date.
You can calculate your approximate mileage by using AAA.com, mapquest.com, or some other mileage calculator. AAA and MapQuest even have places on their Web sites that will help you find the best gas prices in a specific area.
Rent a car. Although this may sound a bit crazy, sometimes renting a car can actually be less expensive than taking the airport shuttle. This can especially be true when the airport is more than twenty miles from your destination, parking at the destination or hotel is free, or you are traveling in a less urban area with sparse public transportation. It is worth considering.
If you are heading out on a road trip, it could also save wear and tear on your car. If you do rent a car, do it far in advance. Car rental prices fluctuate daily according to the supply and demand at the time. Trying to get a rental car when the Mary Kay convention is in town will cost you a pretty penny.
Eat breakfast free. Many hotels include a continental breakfast and some include a full breakfast in their room price. Figure that into your accommodation cost. Paying for breakfast can add up to $20.00 per day in travel costs.
Eat dinner free. Some hotels, Marriott Residence Inn for instance, offer an evening meal at no extra charge. It doesn't usually rank in Fodor's for a food review, but it is edible. It is typically a casserole or salad and hot dogs, self-serve style, in the hotel's breakfast area. Dessert is usually cookies. These meals are served only during the business week, Monday through Thursday evenings, starting about 5:30 PM or so. By 7:00 PM the pickings tend to get a little slim. If you've joined the hotel rewards programs, you may have access to the concierge lounge, which usually has at least hors d'oeuvres in the early evening. If you have been out sightseeing all day and had a huge lunch, a light snack may be all that you want.
Use hotels that provide kitchens or kitchenettes. Now, I'm not suggesting cooking full-course meals while on vacation, but having a small refrigerator to keep snacks and bottled water handy or being able to microwave popcorn can really give your budget a boost. Hotels such as Residence Inn will even do the grocery shopping for you. You give them a list (for example, a six-pack of water, diet sodas, cookies, and so forth) in the morning, and like magic, when you return in the evening, the food will be waiting in your room. Last time I used this service there was no surcharge-just the price of the groceries and the nice tip I left for the consideration.
Use the complimentary shuttle service. Many hotels have a complimentary shuttle service from the airport to the hotel. They may also provide a shuttle to prime area attractions. As you make your reservations or check in, ask about this service.
Be coupon savvy. All sorts of coupons are available for discounts at almost every travel destination. Research your destination on the Web, and request information, including discount coupons, from the local tourist organization.
Save water bottles and refill them. Can we really complain about the $3.00 per gallon gas prices when in the last five years, we have started paying more than $1.00 for eight ounces of water? There are very few places in the United States where the drinking water is unsafe to drink. If you have questions about it, ask at the front desk, but in most cases you can refill your water bottle from the tap and save considerably.
Research and/or book online. Doing research and booking online can usually save from a few dollars to a significant sum. At the very least do your research online, and read the hotel reviews on sites such as Orbitz.com or Hotels.com. They are usually pretty accurate and will let you know right away whether you are headed for a great stay with fluffy sheets or a kiddy haven with screechers up and down the halls.
When you plan your trip, use the tools on Travelocity.com and Expedia.com that allow you to see which days the air travel is cheapest to your destination. You can sometimes save $100.00 just by shifting your travel dates a day or two.
Decide what is important and use it. If the hotel has a hot tub, pack that swimsuit and indulge yourself!
Travel close to home. I'm always amazed at how much there is to do within an easy day's drive of home. Transportation is often the largest expense of any travel budget. Get tour information on your own state and surrounding states. You may be pleasantly surprised at what is in your own backyard. Grab your girlfriends and take that two-hour drive to the city, have dinner out, stay in a nice hotel, shop till you drop the next day, then drive home. It can be an awesome forty-eight hours!
Plan ahead; buy in advance. If you know where you are going and when you are going, planning early and buying in advance are wise moves.
At this time I hesitate to even mention that any of the airlines, other than Southwest, may have senior travel rates. Too often I have found that the senior program is a 10 percent discount of the standard full-fare ticket. If you ask, "Is that the best available rate?" they will disclose some other discounted rate that is far better than the senior fare discount you would have gotten if you hadn't asked.
Southwest is one of the few airlines left that offers true senior discounts. They start at age sixty-five.
The best way to get a bargain airfare is to book twenty-one days in advance. (See more on airline discounts in the booking section.)
Amtrak often has senior discounts of 10 percent on certain routes. Discounts start at age sixty. However, if you are a member of the Red Hat Society, Amtrak discounts can be as much at 20 percent! To receive your RHS member discount you must make your reservations at least three days in advance. You will need to show your Purple Perks membership card when you pick up your tickets. Go to www.amtrak.com or call 800-USA-RAIL to find a complete list of destinations, routes, and schedules that qualify for your RHS discount.
Excerpted from The Red Hat Society Travel Guide by CYNTHIA GLIDEWELL Copyright © 2008 by Cynthia Glidewell. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of ContentsAcknowledgments vii
Let's get Started!
Getting Started 3
Sleeping, Traveling, and Tipping
Travel Safety 43
Girlfriend Travel 49
Train Travel 55
Car Travel 61
Air Travel 69
Ground Transportation 91
Travel Health 107
Dining Guide 125
Profiles of Twenty Cities
City Profiles 147
Special Thanks 317
Travel Partners 317
Helpful People on the Road 317