Ten top travel secrets from frequent travellers

Sarah Coles
jet plane flying in blue sky ...
jet plane flying in blue sky ...

Why is it that on every flight, in every hotel, and on every cruise, you always meet someone who paid less, got better service, and suffered fewer inconveniences than anyone else?

See also: Ten tricks to getting a cheaper hotel

They're not just lucky: they're probably privvy to all sorts of secrets that only those who travel regularly seem to know. Either that or they've done a shedload of research beforehand. So we thought we'd take the short cut and ask them just what it is they know that we don't. And we discovered some fascinating secrets, which we're nice enough to share with you.

Ten secrets of frequent travellers

1. You can get a better seat
Before you check in, check out seatguru.com. This will look at which plane you are likely to be flying on, and will show a seating plan. It will detail the pitch (legroom) and width of all seats, and highlight particularly good or bad seats on the plane. This may include, for example, bad seats at the back of the plane that don't recline, or good seats in emergency exit aisles or with extra legroom because of the design of the plane. You can then request these seats when you check in online or at the airport.

2. You can get peace at the airport
Check online in advance to see whether you can pay to get into the business lounge, and how much it costs. If you are expecting a wait you may think it's worth it. You could also check if there's a spa at your chosen airport, where you can relax as you pass the time. Alternatively, if you're looking for peace and quiet without it costing you anything, you can visit the airport multifaith chapel, where as long as you behave appropriately, you can pass the time in serene silence.

3. Cookies can be costly
If you search for flights online, beware the airlines which use cookies to see if you have searched for a flight already. If they can tell you have already checked out a flight, they know you are keen to buy and often the price will go up. If you want to check prices for a flight more than once, clean your cookies and cache before you start, or use another computer.

4. You don't need to eat in the dining room on the first day
When on a cruise holiday, the vast majority of people will head straight for the buffet while they wait for the cabins to open. To avoid the bun-fight, check in advance for alternative dining areas that may be open. In the evening, most people will eat in the main dining room on the first night, so you'll get a more relaxed experience at one of the specialist restaurants. If you book in advance for the first night, some will offer a discount, while otherwise will offer freebies.

5. You can eat better plane food
If you fly out of Heathrow's new £25 billion Terminal 2, you'll be able to take advantage of 'mile high food'. All the 17 restaurants will let you order food to take on board (ready within 15 minutes) - and Yo Sushi will let you order meals from security to pick up on your way to your flight

6. You can get a credit card freebies
You can get credit cards which are affiliated to airlines, hotel chains or cruise companies. Before you book your holiday, check whether it's worth getting one linked to any of the providers you intend to use. Some of them offer a range of perks, from free upgrades to money to spend on board a cruise, and vouchers for a free night in your hotel. Of course, you'll need to check for annual charges and ensure you pay off any balance before you end up paying sky-high interest.

7. You can avoid an exchange rate rip-off
When you're using a credit or debit card on holiday, you may be asked if you want to pay in pounds. It can be appealing, because you can easily understand exactly how much you're spending - without having to do the maths. However, it's never a good idea. If you pay in pounds, the shop's bank will do the currency conversion for you and you'll get the kind of exchange rate you'd get on the high street. Pay in the local currency and your credit card will do the exchange for you - and, because they do so many currency exchanges, they get a infinitely better rate.

See also: Cheap holidays in November: Best places for a bargain

8. You can avoid credit card charges
When you spend on a card overseas, you can face any number of charges. Most charge a 'load' fee on transactions in another currency (typically 3%), some also charge a separate fixed fee whenever you spend, and some will charge interest - even if you pay in full and on time. However, there are some which are far more generous. These include Halifax Clarity, Capital One Classic Extra, and Saga, which have no load fee for use anywhere in the world, no transaction fee, and no interest when you pay in full and on time (except when you withdraw cash from an ATM).

9. You can get a peak-time bargain
Michelle Rosinsky, a senior manager of Hotwire.com, which offers discounts on secret hotels - told AOL that in most cities, there are far more discounts available if you travel out of season. However, in very year-round popular destinations, there is often a bargain to be snapped even when you think there won't be. "In Amsterdam, for example, there are consistent savings available all year: it's less impacted by seasonality."

10. You can see the sites without the crowds
If you are planning to go anywhere that's in high demand, do an internet search for something like 'quietest time to visit (then the name of the attraction)'. You'll discover, for example, that your best time for a trip to the Eiffel tower is 8.45am on a weekday, while you should time your trip to the Louvre after 3pm, when it's quieter and cheaper.

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