Search our Blog

Search our Blog

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Top 10 Vacation Subscriptions May Save You Money

Catering to everyone from bargain hunters to the super-elite, travel subscription services help eliminate the drudgery of trip planning and often save money.  

Memberships, clubs, subscriptions … call them what you will, but the way we travel is changing. Anyone who has ever spent hours searching Kayak for the lowest rates or untold days figuring out how to accommodate Aunt Lucy’s hotel taste with Grandma Minnie’s disability and a defined budget for a family of four will appreciate the joy of turning over the planning to someone else.

And just think how happy you’d be if, on top of eliminating an unenviable task, the service could save you money, too! Unlike using a hotel chain credit card for booking rooms, a travel subscription can open up your options for various hotels and other elements of your trip. 

TSA PreCheck and Global Entry 

Even if you only travel by air a handful of times each year, it’s sooooooo worth the $85 for five years to get TSA PreCheck. It’s a bit of a pain to go to an enrollment center, but you will thank yourself for five years running as you get in shorter screening lines where you won’t have to remove shoes, belts, light jackets, computers, or small liquids. 

If you’re going to travel internationally, enrolling in Global Entry will allow you to avoid the cattle call that is customs upon re-entry to the US as you skip the main lines to enter through automatic kiosks at select airports. It does require a background check and an interview to get Global Entry, but again, it’s worth it. Some credit cards include the cost of both TSA PreCheck and Global Entry. Check here for current offers. 

Clear Benefits 

It can be worth the $189 annual cost for membership in CLEAR, a private registered travel program that will verify your identity at touchless, biometric screening kiosks in over 50 airports, stadiums, and arenas in the US. CLEAR expedites the first half of airport screening, after which you will use the regular physical/baggage screening line or TSA PreCheck if you also are enrolled in that program.

Apply for CLEAR by filling out an online application, then visiting one of more than 50 locations any time; you don’t need to make an appointment. CLEAR will also allow you to use your smartphone to verify your age when buying alcohol, to get a spot in line before you are physically present at an event, and to check in to hotels.

That said, let’s dig into some of the most popular options catering to a wide variety of budgets and needs. 

  1. Scott’s Cheap Flights searches for mispriced fares to save you anywhere from 40% to 90% off your flight, all for a $49 annual fee at economy level, or more for business class. Proponents say they save on both the flight and the time it would have taken them to search out a deal.
  2. Flight Pass by Alaska Air starts at $49 per month for six discounted $98 round-trip tickets per year at savings of about 25%. It’s offered for 13 destinations in California, along with Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Reno. 
  3. TripAdvisor Plus joined the game in 2021. Starting at $99 annually, members get discounts on 100,000+ hotels worldwide, 10% off activities, perks and benefits from their partners, and even travel advice via text. You can cancel within 90 days, so be sure to join when you need to plan a trip and see if the advertised average $350 savings per trip pans out.
  4. Safara is shaking up the industry on many levels. First, membership is by invitation or by joining a waitlist, second, the entry-level discounts are free. “The online travel space is due for a shake-up, and it’s a good time for innovation,” says Doug Schuessler, the company’s chief executive. Get 10% credit on PUBLIC in New York or The Ned in London, spendable on future stays booked via Safara. For $199 a year, you’ll get lower rates at many hotels, ones which the company has curated for their style, hospitality, and good value.
  5. Travel + Leisure Club is free for the first 30 days for up to 60% off top hotels and resorts, curated itineraries that are customizable, and a personal concierge for planning it all. The $14.95 per month fee even includes a free subscription to Travel + Leisure magazine to inspire your next trip. “In terms of cost savings, it’s been tremendous,” says Jeffrey Eisenberg, a member living in Orlando, Fla., who travels often for his job in advertising and for fun. For a recent trip to Las Vegas with friends, he saved them each $400 by using the club, and on a subsequent trip there his hotel rate was “so cheap that basically the room cost less than the resort fee.”
  6. VIP Traveler offers personalized, discounted suggestions for free after you’ve filled out a questionnaire about your travel preferences, but its real value comes with the $495 annual fee that nets you the 24/7 services of a human travel planner. “The industry is geared to serve people at the end of their own decision-making process,” says cofounder Joshua Borenstein. “No one was doing a good job of serving travelers before that last mile.”
  7. Exclusive Resorts caters to families with plenty of money to spend. Don’t be bothered by pesky annual fees when you can dish out $175,000 for a decade of luxury vacation homes for which you’ll only have to pay $1,465 a night, rather than normal fees of up to $4000.
  8. Inspirato requires only $2,500 initially, then $2,500 a month to get its top-tier Inspirato Pass. Additional rental fees are non-existent, but you’re restricted on how often you can use it, and you’ll have to pay for your own airfare, rental car, and food. Speaking of rental cars …
  9. Kyte will deliver your rental car to your door and pick it up wherever you tell them. And if you happen to live in San Francisco or New York City and want to kick the tires on a Tesla for a few months, they are the cheapest we could find at about $1,350 a month, or $995 a month for a whole year. The program is coming soon to Los Angeles and Miami.
  10. Manifest is for those who only want to rub elbows with like-minded travelers. However, travel planning for trips with other members is free for the whole first year, giving you a great opportunity to check if you want to spend $2,500 annually afterward. Trips are themed, for example, a Louisville bourbon fest including distillery tours and a progressive dinner that covers several restaurants. “I believe the majority of consumers want to travel, but don’t like to plan,” says Jeff Potter, chief executive of the company.