Planning a vacation? If you’re anything like us, you’re probably looking for ways to have a great time without spending a fortune. These tips will help you do just that.
1. If your destination requires air travel, book in advance and purchase round-trip tickets when possible. Flying in and out of the same airport typically saves you money, too. Try to be flexible with travel dates since some days are much less expensive than others. Keep in mind that domestic airlines typically offer the best deals at six to eight weeks out.
2. Depending on how long you plan to stay, consider renting a house rather than staying in a hotel. Houses offer greater comforts, and you may be surprised at how cost-effective the rent can be if you’re staying more than a couple days. Homeaway.com is a good site for searching homes for rent at lower prices. More room for less money is a deal.
3. Book your reservations for lodging at the last minute if you can take the chance. Last-minute bookings are often less expensive than booking in advance. And don’t be shy about asking for discounts: You may be surprised at what you get.
4. Consider using an online booking system like Priceline.com and Tingo.com to save money. Tingo will automatically rebook your room if rates go down after you make your reservation, and you are refunded the difference in price. Booking early in the week will often get you the best deal if weekend sales were sluggish.
5. Book through Travel Zoo or similar sites that offer deals at lower prices. You can find some great package deals for island resorts and many other places.
6. Eat at local cafés and small restaurants. Ask your hotel staff or a local where to find great food in the area. Meals at local haunts are usually a little less expensive. An added bonus? You’ll meet some of the locals.
7. And speaking of eating, avoid eating at the hotel if possible. Hotels typically have higher-priced meals and the quality is not nearly as good as other places you’ll find around town.
8. Eat breakfast and lunch in your hotel room or at a rental house with groceries you’ve purchased and save the dining-out dollars for dinner. Cooking some of your own meals saves you money and you can also better manage the calories you consume each day.
9. If traveling by car, take a supply of snacks, drinks and basic cooking supplies with you. Resort and beach destinations often put a higher price on these items, so plan ahead.
10. Have a beer or glass of wine before heading out to dinner. Restaurants charge a premium for a glass of alcohol, so if you have cocktails in your room before or after you go to the restaurant, you can save a lot of cash.
11. Sign up for FREE reward/loyalty programs and get points for future travel. You might also get something free for this trip. Hotels, restaurants and lots of places offer free rewards programs.
12. Purchase online deals. Living Social and Groupon are great sites where you can find discounts and deals on hotels, travel packages, restaurants, entertainment and more. Read the fine print on deals to make sure there are no exclusions to consider.
13. Purchase half-price tickets to shows and other events online.
14. Save up to 50% or more on the cost of admission to multiple attractions such as museums, amusement parks, theme parks including Disney World and other attractions in select cities. Use CityPass, Go Card, or other online sites to find these deals.
15. Skip the souvenirs. Sure, they’re fun, but you can spend a lot of unnecessary money on them and when you get home, they usually end up in the trash. Take pictures with your phone or camera to capture memories, instead.
16. If you are disciplined enough to pay off credit cards within 30 days, use them for all purchases during your trip. This helps you earn points for your future purchases. But don’t let the balance roll over to the next month or you may end up spending more in interest than you earn in points.
17. Avoid using ATMs that charge you fees for using them. Plan ahead with enough cash to be safe, and use debit cards or credit cards when possible (see No. 16 above!).
18. If you or someone traveling with you is a veteran or active military, you may automatically be eligible for discounts. Always ask; you never know.
19. Take advantage of AARP, AAA and other organizations to snag discounts. Some hotels will also offer discounts for seniors or disabled travelers, so if a member of your party fits the bill, be sure to ask.
Planning your vacation ahead will help you make the most of your trip while maximizing savings while you’re away from home.