Find the best travel deals

The cheaper alternative is something you should always be looking for. Toronto Star travel writer Bill Taylor says, “Why line up and pay a bundle to go up the Eiffel Tower when you can go to the ninth floor coffee shop of the La Samaritaine department store, next to the Louvre, and enjoy the view for the price of an espresso! If there’s a highrise around, always ask if you can go to the top.”

But the world’s an awfully big place. How do you find out about the many, many ways to save a buck on your travels?

Site seeing
It starts with the weekend travel section of your favourite newspaper. This is the marketplace of the travel business where all the latest deals are posted. It’s easy to get started with websites for airlines, like or where sales and frequent flyer points promotions are listed. Some of the best travel sites are American – like or Let’s not forget www.carptravel.comcovering everything from cruise deals to a foreign exchange calculator.

Then take your choice from the national sites, like the British Tourist Authority’s and France’s, to sites for every city and town you’re likely to visit. Contact the closest consulate or travel bureau for the country or region you wish to visit and within days you’ll have a whole library of information, including books of discount coupons.

In the gorgeous (and free) Magic France book, for example, you’ll read about a 40 per cent discount on Europe’s trains, and a 4.5 kilometre walk through parks and gardens of Paris, starting near the Bastille.

Do your reading
If you’re going to a metropolis, upon arrival, buy one of those city magazines like Time Out in London, England, Vancouver Magazine, or Toronto Life, which are always stuffed with good deals and finds as well as the latest about what’s on. Next, find out where and what hours the half-price ticket bureau operates – and don’t be sidetracked by any ticket touts haunting these locations. It’s all part of a travel philosophy we’ll call “living like the locals”.

Also, avoid those heavily-hyped “tourist attractions” like the Tower of London ($25) and theme parks – instead, look for what’s public and low-cost. For example: why spend $50 or more racing around Manhattan Island on a speed boat. When you’ll see more going at a slower pace – and right past the Statue of Liberty – on the Staten Island Ferry, all for free.
Most cities have off-the-beaten track museums or other attractions that are unique – and often cheap. Senior’s admission to the New York Botanical Garden, one of the horticultural wonders of the world, is $7.50 (U.S.), and it’s just across the street from the wonderful Bronx Zoo, where senior rates are a trifling $2 to $4, depending on the season. (You’ll also get discounts at New York stores and attractions with the ExplorePass New York, $9.95 (U.S.) from travel agents and hotels.)

Look for combo deals: The fascinating River Thames boat tour from Westminster to Greenwich costs a modest $12 return – and that includes 20 per cent off admission to Greenwich Observatory and the newly updated National Maritime Museum.

Getting from A to B
Public transit is the mature traveller’s best friend: you don’t drive, and the price is right. And almost every city has bargain travel cards for visitors, often with special senior prices.

In Paris, the card giving you free access to just about every transport system, plus attraction discounts, is called Paris-Visite and can be purchased for under $30 for three days at metro stations and elsewhere. German cities also heavily promote tourist cards – $13 will buy you two days’ free transit plus half-price attractions in Frankfurt.
With a London Visitor Travel Card, purchased before you go, you can hop off and on buses and travel the underground free as well as enjoying discounts at a number of attractions. In London recently I bought a daily travel card for $9 (good for travel all day after 9.30 a.m.) and found I could buy a combination train and public transit ticket for the day for less than $20.

Even notoriously expensive Venice has its deals. The bus that leaves every few minutes from outside the airport will carry you just as fast and a heck of a lot cheaper than a taxi across the causeway to the sublime city. And once there, the constantly circulating water buses are a comparative bargain.

And don’t forget the joys of ferries. People pay thousands for spectacular Alaska cruises, yet you can see much of the same scenery by taking a 15-hour B.C. Ferries ride from Port Hardy, on Vancouver Island, up the Inside Passage to Prince Rupert. Fares in spring and fall are less than $100 (you can take along your car for less than $200), and modestly-priced meal packages are available. For further details, visit their website at

Because Europe is so expensive for Canadians – gasoline is generally three times as much as here – passes on their mostly excellent rail networks are worth considering.
Used to be you bought a pass for 30 days and it sat in your pocket unused for most of that time. Now they have flexi-passes, giving you, for instance, 10 days’ travel within a 30-day period. You can tailor the pass to the countries you’ll be visiting, and in fall there are often specials, such as the classic “second person goes half fare” deal. You can also combine the rail pass with car rentals at places you’ll be stopping.

In most European countries, including Britain, people 60 and over can buy senior passes providing generous rail reductions – but times of travel are often restricted.
Globe and Mail travel writer Douglas McArthur reminds us that in countries where distances are great – like Australia – or where road and rail links are poor, national airlines often provide great deals on internal flights. In Brazil, for instance, Varig Airlines will sell you a five-trip coupon book covering the whole country for $490 low season, or a four-coupon book covering northeastern Brazil for $290, low season.