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Making your mystery shopping assignments work for you on vacation

While no one mystery shopping assignment alone will make you rich, by strategically taking on a variety of related endeavors, you can rack up savings on things you need or love to do anyway. As a recent Yahoo Travel report detailed, there are mystery shopper families who have accounted for entire vacations by taking advantage of opportunities and maximizing reimbursements.

Expecting your assignments to foot the entire bill for a given trip is probably unrealistic. But if you're an avid traveler, it's worth looking into how you might be able to augment a limited budget with work that doesn't feel any different from how you'd ordinarily spend your vacation.

  • Hotel assignments are available in great number, which makes sense given the premium placed on customer service in the hospitality industry. Nearly every aspect of the experience, whether at a five-star resort in Miami or a roadside motel in Nebraska, is up for evaluation. That means you can be paid to grade the cleanliness of the rooms, the timeliness and efficiency of hotel staff services, the ease of access to amenities such as the hot tub or the exercise room or the quality of restaurants on site. The decision-makers want to know whether customers had issues with their room keys or if there was sand on the bathroom floor when they got to their room. And if you're capable of reliably and efficiently providing such reviews, you'll put yourself in position to receive more assignments that can account for significant portions of your travel lodging budget.
  • Restaurants and commercial districts line most tourist destinations, and much like hotels, their business hinges on polite, efficient and peer-recommended service. Meal expenses can quickly add up while you're traveling - without your own kitchen, you can't really cook - so finding assignments for which you can be reimbursed will seriously aid your trip budget. Even if you're staying at an all-inclusive resort where paying for dinner isn't required, you can be compensated for your evaluations of the cuisine, the decor, the service and the general experience. Mystery shopping opportunities at retail centers may present themselves with less regularity, but even if you're able to work one secret gig into your trip, that's one less purchase you're on the hook for when you tally up the expenses after returning home.
  • Travel sites are not immune to assessment, given the competition that exists and the number of new companies entering the space to provide unique services. Mystery shoppers can find assignments related to booking flights, searching for hotels, renting cars and comparing prices on all sorts of other packages. As rideshare services and resources such as AirBnB continue to saturate the marketplace and become used by a wider range of consumers, they too will likely begin generating more opportunities for savvy traveling shoppers. Consider the combined cost of the services such travel sites filter: Between flying to your destination, staying in a hotel for three nights and renting a car, you can easily exceed $1,000, depending where you're going. As a result, the service that most effectively bundles - or reduces - those costs is a valuable one, but there's still a level of user-friendliness and customer service involved. If you can offer succinct, helpful reports on the sites that do the best overall job across all these areas, you can further limit your bottom-line expenses by being paid for it.

No one wants to spend their entire vacation counting costs, but if you can cut down on some of the expenses you can't avoid, you may enjoy your time that much more.