SALTZMAN: Save money with these handy travel tips

Booking flights and hotels can be costly enough — especially over the holidays, when prices are inflated — but using tech on your travels could in fact save you money.

Last week in this space we looked at apps to save you money (such as Hotels.com and Pruvo) or time (Waze and TripIt,) but there are several other tips and tricks to using tech to shave costs on your holiday vacation.

From ways to reduce roaming expenses on your mobile phone to handy hotel hacks, consider the following suggestions — whether you’re embarking on a road trip, flying the friendly skies, or cruising the seas.

PHONE & ROAMING TIPS

· When checking into your flight online, opt for a boarding pass sent to your phone — whether it’s via text message, email or to be opened inside an app. But take a screen grab of your boarding pass on your phone to create an offline version, in case the Internet connection isn’t good at the airport you won’t hold everyone up behind you.

· If you’re using your phone outside of Canada, remember you’ll incur “roaming” fees, so contact your carrier before you go to inquire about the best travel plan they offer. It might only be a few bucks a day.

· Alternatively, log into the hotel or airline’s free Wi-Fi network to read messages and browse the web — but first install a VPN (Virtual Private Network) app on your phone, tablet or laptop to remain anonymous to hackers while online. That said, resist doing any financial transactions on a public network, just to err on the side of caution.

· Never pay a car rental company for a GPS unit when you have your smartphone with you. If you don’t have a good data plan, Google Maps now lets you download directions to use offline, which you can do before you leave home or when in a Wi-Fi hotspot. Also pick up a spare smartphone cable from your local dollar store instead of buying one from a car rental place (yes, they offer them, too).

· On a related note, many streaming movie services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime allow you to download TV shows and movies to watch offline — so be sure to do this before you leave on vacation. That way, you won’t incur any roaming charges while the kids stream movies in the backseat. Downloading also works for many music streaming services, like Spotify.

· You can use your phone or tablet to make free calls and text over Wi-Fi. Canadian apps like TextNow (iOS, Android) even give you an incoming phone number so others can call you.

· Be sure to backup important files like irreplaceable photos, documents, and such — just in case your phone, tablet or laptop becomes lost, stolen, or damaged. Take advantage of free cloud storage such as OneDrive, Dropbox, iCloud, or Google Drive.

· Before you leave home, scan your passport, driver’s license and credit cards in case they’re lost or stolen and keep them on a password-protected cloud account.


Amazon Fire Stick

· If you left home without your smartphone plug but you still have the cable, plug it into the hotel room’s television and it will charge up your device. There should be a powered USB port on the side or back.

· Speaking of your hotel room TV, you don’t have to pay through the nose to watch a movie if you brought your streaming stick with you, such as a Roku, Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV stick. Simply plug it into the television’s HDMI port, join the free hotel Wi-Fi, and watch your favorite shows.

· Can’t find a spot to sit in the lobby to browse the web on your device? Most people don’t go to the second floor – sometimes referred to as a mezzanine – to find plenty of seating, quiet, and AC plugs, too.

· Are you used to a standing desk at work? See if the hotel has an ironing board in the closet, which can be useful to put your laptop on and use while standing.

· If you don’t want to bring your laptop, with you but need to send a few emails, be careful using public PCs in the hotel’s business center as many people forget to log out before they walk away. Also look for an option to clear the history and cache.

A couple of non-techy hotel tips:

· If your hotel room doesn’t offer an iron for your wrinkled clothes, the ‘ol “shower trick” really works. Hang your clothes in the tub, turn on a hot shower and point the shower head against the wall. Close the bathroom door for 5 to 10 minutes. When you return, your clothes will seem perfectly pressed.

· Are the drapes opened just a crack and the sunlight is disrupting your sleep? Take a clothes hanger from the closet – the one with the clips – and clamp both sides of the curtains together.

· If your hotel gave you a disposable shower cap you don’t need, use it to put your shoes in your suitcase to keep everything clean.

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