While you’re unlikely to get an all-expenses-paid trip unless you win a game show, you can still get portions your trip for free if you book certain promotions or take advantage of some alternative modes of travel. Here are my picks for top limited-time and long-term “free” travel deals worth checking out.
1. Kids Fly Free to French Polynesia
Never considered French Polynesia for family vacation? Maybe Air Tahiti Nui’s kids-fly-free deal will persuade you. When you book two adult Air Tahiti Nui fares from Los Angeles to French Polynesia from January 12 to May 31, 2009, you’ll get two free fares for kids ages 11 or younger. The deal is valid for flights to Papeete, Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea, Bora Bora, Rangiroa, Manihi, Tikehau, and Fakarava. Adult fares start at $1,428, including all taxes. You’ll still be responsible for paying taxes on the free children’s fares.
2. Organize a Group Tour, Travel for Free
If you organize a group of people to book a package tour together, many tour companies will allow you, the group leader, to travel for free. You can choose to accept the freebie or spread some savings out to everyone in your group. Either way, it’s a good deal. Each tour operator’s group tour policy varies a bit, but most require you to put together a group with at least 10 paying individuals before you’ll get a free spot.
For example, Grand Circle Tours, a company that runs trips geared towards mature travelers on six continents, lets a group leader travel for free with 10 paid travelers on river cruises or 16 paid travelers on land tours. Go Ahead Tours, a similar operator, gives two free spots for every group of 12 or more paying guests. Be sure to ask your tour company if they offer similar deals.
3. Pay for Three Nights, Get Seven at Club Med
Club Med’s recurring “Seven-Day Weekend” package is back, promising seven nights for the price of three at eight of its all-inclusive resorts. The deal is valid at family-friendly Club Meds in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; Cancun and Ixtapa, Mexico; Sandpiper, Fla.; Caravelle, Guadeloupe; and Buccaneer’s Creek, Martinique; as well as adult-only Clubs Meds on Columbus Isle, Bahamas, and on Turks and Caicos. You must book by December 15 and travel by February 13 to take advantage of the promotion. Seven-Day Weekend prices range from $793 per person (normally $1,190) at the Sandpiper, Florida Club Med to $1,065 per person (normally $1,610) at the Buccaneer’s Creek, Martinque Club Med.
4. Free Weekend Rental Days From Hertz
Hertz knows the only the thing better than a weekend away is a three-day weekend away. The company makes it easier for renters to take longer weekend trips by offering the first day free when you rent a car for three or more weekend days, including a Saturday overnight. The deal applies to economy- through premium-class cars rented through March 31, 2009, in the U.S. and Canada, excluding Hawaii
5. Kids-Fly-and-Ski-Free Packages
For the past several winters, United and American Airlines have partnered with popular Western ski resorts to offer kids-fly-and-ski-free vacation packages. Generally, these promotions allow children 12 and under to fly and ski for free when an adult pays for an air-hotel-ski package at a participating resort. While not all fly-and-ski-free promotions have been announced yet for the 2008-2009 ski season, Steamboat Ski Resort in Colorado is already advertising its package, which requires a two-night minimum stay at a ResortQuest Steamboat vacation rental. Valid travel dates and blackout periods apply. Be sure to check the American Vacations and United Vacations websites in the days to come to see if other resorts join the promotion.
6. Swap Homes, Stay Free
Why not swap your apartment in New York for a cottage in the English countryside? Or maybe my Utah ski condo for your second home in Costa Rica?
By participating in a home exchange, you can get free use of another person’s house if you’re willing to let them stay in yours. It’s a common practice for a certain segment of travelers who prefer staying in vacation homes over hotels and are a bit flexible with where and when they travel. Essentially, two home owners in different places agree to switch places for vacation, using one another’s homes for no charge. Home exchange websites make it easy to find and make arrangements with other home owners, with the website usually charging a membership fee in order for you to make contact with potential exchange partners. HomeExchange.com is one of the largest of such sites, including more than 24,000 listings in destinations across the globe. A one-year membership costs $100.
7. Free Universal Orlando Theme Park Passes
This coming fall and winter, Universal Orlando is giving kids ages 3 to 9 free Unlimited Admission theme park passes when parents book four or more nights at a participating hotel and buy adult Unlimited Admission tickets. Unlimited Admission passes grant the holder seven days of access to both Universal parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Passes cost $95 each for both kids and adults, so the free child’s ticket is a big savings.
To get the free passes, you must book a stay of four or more nights at one of six local hotels, including the onsite Loews Royal Pacific Resort. Valid travel dates and blackout periods vary by hotel, but all require bookings to be made by the end of December.
8. Free Airfare for Crystal Cruises Panama Canal Sailings
When you book one of three Crystal Cruises’ Panama Canal sailings, you’ll receive free airfare between Los Angeles and Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, or Palm Beach, Fla. The cruises, which range from 14 to 16 days, sail between Miami and Los Angeles, so Crystal is essentially promising a free flight home from the final port. Departures include January 6, February 16, and May 7, 2009. Cruise fares start at $3,595 per person, not including taxes and fees.
9. Skip the Hostel, Couch Surf for Free
For young budget travelers, sometimes hostels just aren’t cheap enough. In that case, why not crash for free with one of the nearly 800,000 members of the Couch Surfing Project, a worldwide network that helps travelers link up with hosts offering free accommodations. The mission of the network is to promote cultural exchange through free hosted overnight stays. Travelers can find and request stays with potential hosts on the CouchSurfing website. Hosts offer a free place to sleep and oftentimes show guests around or share advice on places to visit nearby. As a member, you can request places to stay and host guests as you please. The site has some checks in place to help ensure the safety and trustworthiness of hosts and surfers.
10. Free Meals and Attractions for Kids in Hawaii
Families staying at ResortQuest Hawaii hotels can take advantage of free meals and free attractions admissions for kids year round. There are 26 participating hotels and condo resorts located on Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island.
Upon checking into a ResortQuest property, children ages 12 and under receive a special ID card good for the length of your stay. With the ID, kids get free meals and admissions at dozens of island restaurants and attractions when accompanied by a paying adult. For example, on Oahu, kids get in free to the Polynesian Cultural Center and Honolulu Zoo with an adult admission. On Maui, children eat free with the purchase of an adult entree at the Kobe Japanese Steakhouse and the Beach Club Restaurant.
When it comes to selling things, the human tendency to package can make life easier. When you’re marketing yourself and trying to sign on new clients, you’ll want to take full advantage of aspect of human psychology. Bundle services together and suddenly a new client will be bringing you as much business as two or three clients in the past.
When it comes to buying things, packages are attractive because they seem to simplify the client’s life. If an insurance company offers me a package deal on car insurance, home owner’s insurance, and life insurance, suddenly I have so many fewer decisions to make-and I don’t have to deal with three different insurance agents. I might save some money, but even if I don’t, I save aggravation and time, and most people value their time as much as their money. Costco or BJ’s Club are good examples of packaging in the retail world, and the number of people that flock to these giant stores indicate the popularity of packaging. Fast food places have the value meal, which is a package of a sandwich, fries and a drink.
What is also important is to offer different packages, i.e. to give the client options. When I first started out, I offered piecemeal services at standard rates. Then I realized that clients work in a different way. Many people like options. They don’t want to be “forced” into taking something that doesn’t suit them. They want the option of small, medium and large. Going to the example I gave of the restaurant, they have a small value meal, medium or large.
”Small, medium, or large” doesn’t quite work for accounting services. The principle I use to distinguish between levels of service is this: the more accessibility to me and to my staff a package offers the client, the higher the fees. So while we can custom tailor the service package to fit their needs, nonetheless the services are packaged based on frequency.
In addition to packaging your services, you should consider cross-selling. Many years ago I learnt while attending a seminar by the legendary marketer Jay Abrahams that there are 3 ways to grow your practice:
1) Increase number of new clients
2) Increase the fees paid by each client
3) Increase the frequency of purchase or sell the same client more services
Cross selling is the way the CPA practitioner increases the frequency of purchase.
When you have a relationship with the client, you can offer them other services that will help the client. How does one go about finding out the services that your clients need? Not to oversimplify it, but really, the best way to find out is by asking. We recently conducted a survey and we called up most of my business clients to ask them how we were scoring and what else we could do that could help them. It’s really very instructive to hear the clients’ perspective on things. I have also found this to be one of the best ways to find out other services we should be providing.
Here’s a partial list of additional services to offer:
Financial planning or wealth management services
QuickBooks consulting – Outsourced accounting (A couple of years, we packaged our QuickBooks consulting services as either a 10-hour package or a 20-hour package, to be used in one year.)
Business valuation services
Using this list as a starting point, talk to your clients and find out what services they need that you could offer. Specialize in what your target clients want, and you’re just about certain to grow your practice.
With Google you can run advertising campaigns on what is called ‘Google Adwords’. If you go to Google and search for anything you’ll see that there are listings down the side of the page and a couple at the top. These are paid advertisements. Go to Google and search the words sell my house adding your city to the search term first.
Ex: ‘Charlotte Sell My House’. Look at the different ads of local realtors and investors selling property. You can also search other keywords and include your city name. Keywords like, foreclosure, Buy my house, sell house fast, etc. Simply go to Google and set up an account to run your ad and when the user clicks on your link it will take them to your website. If you don’t have a website you can get a generic website very cheap but remember that you get what you pay for. If you get a generic website then you’ll be very limited in how you can customize it. The neat thing about Google is that you can set a daily and monthly budget. You can also set it up so that your ads will only show if someone in your area is searching for your particular keywords.
If you are in Orlando, FL, you may only want people who live within 50 miles to see your Google ad so if anyone further away searches, your ad won’t appear and that’ll save you money. You pay based on cost per click, not if they buy anything or sign up for more information. This is why it’s important to make sure you have a website that will capture their information before they leave. Google Adsense Google Adsense is another type of Google advertising. Have you ever visited a website and seen the ads down one side that reads; ads sponsored by Google? These are adsense advertisers. You set it up the same way but you specify that you want it to be put on other related websites. You can still select a geographic area so you aren’t wasting money. Google Search This method of locating properties actually qualifies for 4-5 methods. I’m mentioning it because with Google advertising, it is marketing.
There’s so much more to Google. You can Google anything. Think about how you could find motivated sellers, where you could market your properties, how you could build your buyers list of investors, how you could build your dream team, find local attorneys, appraisers, rehab contractors, etc. Here are a few samples of searches you could do to find all of these above ‘Free Real Estate Ads’ ‘Free Real Estate Listings’ ‘Sell my house’ ‘Buy My House’ ‘Foreclosure Listings’ ‘Investors Club’ ‘Investor Loans’ ‘Hard Money Loans’ ‘Find contractors’ ‘Find Attorneys’ ‘Find Appraisers’ ‘Find Local Realtors’, etc. You can also add your location in front of any of these searches to localize your search. Remember, you don’t have to know how to spell because anything spelled incorrectly, Google will ask you ‘Did You Mean?’.
Google Alerts Google Alerts is a FREE service provided by Google that allows you to list certain keywords and when something is posted to the internet, Google will send you an email with a link to the page. I have an alert on my name so anytime someone posts anything about me, I know about it. Let’s look at how you could use this as a real estate investor. What if you set up an alert with your location and keywords you’d use in searching for a property? Here are a couple examples: Charlotte Fixer Upper, Charlotte handyman special, Charlotte foreclosure or Charlotte motivated seller. The list could go on and on.