People often ask how can they save/reduce spending while still enjoying life. The goal is not to deprive yourself but rather find ways to do the same things cheaper. Here are some ideas for saving money on travel.
Be flexible – Unless there’s a specific reason for going to a certain location, check out alternates. Hubby and I love the beach but we rarely have our heart set on one particular place. We like to make a list of all the places we’d be willing to go then choose the place that has the best airfare and/or lodging prices.
Know the seasons – Hubby and I decided we wanted to spend Christmas week of 2005 in Hawaii. That time of year is high season for Hawaii and we knew that. We decided in 2004 (a whole year in advance) that we’d go to Hawaii that week. Airlines release seats 331 days in advance so when the clock struck midnight (literally), we were on the phone booking our tickets.
Loyalty has its benefits – Consider joining a frequent flyer program, especially if you live in a hub city. You will earn free flights as well as get perks (and sales) that other people don’t get. Even if you can’t fly that airline all the time, most airlines have partner airlines that you can earn miles with as well. I fly Delta almost exclusively and it has paid off for me.
Be flexible on your dates – If you have your heart set on Orlando, keep your eye out for deals. An airfare sale may pop up and you’re able to take advantage if you’re not fixed on a certain date to travel. Also, be aware that weekends are the most popular (and most expensive) travel days. If you’re willing to travel Saturday – Monday (vs Friday – Sunday like everyone else), you can save money on your flight.
Once again, loyalty has its benefits – I primarily stay at Hilton properties and I get many perks in addition to free stays. Most hotel chains own a number of chains of varying prices so it generally isn’t hard to find a hotel in your chain. For example, with Hilton, I can stay at a Hilton, Embassy Suites, Homewood Suites or Hampton Inn and earn points for my stays.
Think outside the box – Hotels aren’t the only place you can stay. Condos or private villas are often lower priced and more spacious. In the past, I’ve used sites such as www.vrbo.com to find deals. Consider renting a timeshare unit from a site such as www.redweek.com.
Be direct – Booking your lodging online or through an 800 number doesn’t always get you the best price. If you’re interested in a particular property, call them directly and ask for their best rate. There are often specials that aren’t listed online or with the nationwide reservations number.
Coupons are your friends – If you’re going to a major city in the US, consider purchasing an Entertainment Book ahead of time. These can be had for about $15 and will save you money on dining out. Sites such as www.restaurant.com often sell gift certificates for less than face value.
Kitchenettes are your friends – If you have a kitchen in your condo or even just a microwave and fridge in your hotel room, you can save money on dining. Make a grocery run once you get to town or bring non-perishables such as oatmeal packets with you. That will let you have breakfast in the room once or twice and save yourself some money.
Plan ahead – Look for discounts before you go. Some employers offer discounts to major attractions. The internet can also be a source of information. Do a little research about your destination before you leave. Also, consider picking up a guide book (I prefer the Lonely Planet books) for suggestions.
Befriend the locals – Local residents can be your best source of information and are usually more than happy make suggestions. Of course, they know where all the inexpensive or free things are as well.
Of course this post isn’t comprehensive but merely an overview. What are some of YOUR best travel tips?