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Lifestyle

May 5, 2013

6 things to ask before booking a summer vacation

(Continued)

Q: Is it worth adding a GPS or toll collection device?

A: You don’t need to pay up to $14 extra a day for a GPS. If you own a portable GPS, bring it with you. Or use your smartphone. Just be warned: using the smartphone’s GPS tends to drain its battery.

An automatic toll collection device will cost about $5 a day. It can save you time at busy toll plazas if you’re traveling during holiday weekends. But when traffic is normal, it is harder to justify the time savings.

If you decline the service and the car still has a toll device, make sure it is properly stored in the protective case. If a toll booth picks up the signal you’ll be charged the toll and face a hefty penalty from the rental company.

HOTELS

Q: How can I save a few bucks on my stay?

A: Ask about extra charges. Parking at some hotels might be $10 a night, while big city hotels can charge in excess of $50. Internet access might cost $10 a day or more. Many big hotels also have a mandatory resort fee — that includes Internet, phone calls and use of the pool — that can run $25 a night or more.

Look for savings on food and drink. Hotel chains such as Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express offer free breakfasts. Others offer free bottled water in the room.

Join the frequent guest program. Omni, Fairmont and Kimpton all give program members free WiFi — even those who have yet to spend a night. Fairmont gives its members free access to its health clubs. Kimpton gives a $10 credit toward snacks in its minibars.

Big chains typically run summer promotions. They offer loyalty club members rewards like a $25 gas card or a free future night after just two stays.

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