We all want to be budget friendly conscious travelers and it’s time to begin planning that summer vacation, if you haven’t already. For most us, the tough part of traveling is staying on budget without sacrificing fun, comfort or safety. Read on to find out how you can do simple things to save money the next time you go on vacation.
Use social networking.
Whenever a major storm hits an area, many stranded travelers get flights via the airlines’ Twitter feeds and Facebook pages, which are useful methods to finding bargains as well. “Social media is a great way to hear about deals. And they’re coming to you, so you’re not having to do all the work,” says Angela Lyda, senior editor at Travel-Ticker.com. Nicole Hockin, travel blogger at TravelSmartBlog.com, also leaves a good tip saying to sign up for email fare alerts like AirfareWatchdog.com. This site scours all the main sites for cheap fares and aggregates those promotional codes and special offers.
So, you’ve set a budget and have a few places in mind of where you want to go but then discover that traveling to those places costs much more than you thought. Now is the time to be flexible and let the travel deals become your vacation inspiration. Try Kayak’s Explore tool which pinpoints on a world map all the destinations you can visit within your airfare budget. Also use
Bing Travel‘s “price predictor.” Simply enter your itinerary and the site will return a list of fares with a recommendation to either buy now — meaning it expects the fare to rise — or wait for a soon-to-come fare drop. And remember, if your goal is a beach getaway, be flexible about the beach destination. If a flight to Bermuda is half the price and half the travel time, you’re still getting that beach destination but with the savings to really enjoy your vacay (and that second Pina Colada).
It’s worth a little research time to peruse online travel agencies like Travelocity, Expedia and Orbitz, who are well known for their bundled bargains. When you book your hotel packaged with your airfare, you’re gaining access to deals that aren’t available to the general public. Hotels often have rates they aren’t publishing publicly and airlines have fares they aren’t making available to the public, so agencies combine the two and you walk away with a really hot deal. Also, if you can get an all-inclusive deal where you pay just once for the whole vacation — includes lodging, food, drinks and activities — this makes it it easier to stay within your budget at resorts such as Club Med and Sandals. How nice to not be pulling your wallet out all the time for all this stuff and who likes trying to find a place for it in your bathing suit anyway?
They know their stuff! A concierge is in charge of special services for guests so on day one, ask if they know of places that provide discounts for family activities. Find out the restaurants where locals like to eat (which also tend to be cheaper), places where kids can eat for free and any other amusements they can think of. And don’t hesitate to inquire about deals and upgrades in the hotel. If you are stuck in a one-bedroom, with kids, but can land a two-bedroom instead for a minimal (or maybe no) difference in price, terrific!
Fees and Exchange Rates
Isn’t it more fun to have the cash to spend on food, drinks, excursions, museums, etc than to blow your whole budget on extra fees and exchange rates? We think so. Always keep in mind what you will have to pay in addition to travel expenses. Avoid extra baggage fees by reading SmarterTravel which offers a comprehensive list of fees from 16 major airlines. Also, to get the best exchange rates consider rejecting offers to pay in the local currency with your debit or credit card. Many companies are now offering travel currency cards – a great way to exchange money at the best rates or take money abroad. They offer some of the best exchange rates and they don’t add a ‘cash advance fee’ which you can get on your standard credit or debit card. They can also be safer than cash.
Ahh, the comforts of home! It may a new concept, but if you have a large family or are traveling with a large group, booking a home rental instead of a hotel may be the way to go. Such rentals often offer more space and amenities for prices similar to and often less than hotels. Most provide linens for bath and bedrooms as well as a stocked kitchen with the most commonly used appliances one would need to prepare meals. All you have to buy are the groceries! The rental agencies (or home owners) generally have a list for renters of what the rooms are stocked with to keep you from doing an unnecessary shopping. HomeAway.com offers the biggest selection of rentals, with more than 325,000 listings worldwide. We also like Vacation Rentals By Owner – vrbo.com
Go Retro, Pick Up the Phone
Yes, we’ve listed websites for you to look at but never underestimate the power of just picking up the phone and speaking with a live person. Egads! Is that even done anymore? Yes, and it can save you money. Call your hotel of choice and ask about potential discounts on extended stays or upcoming specials that aren’t advertised yet. They can also provide information on the most cost effective way to get from the airport to their establishment. Renting a vehicle? Contact the specific location where you’ll be picking up your rental and reserve a compact to avoid getting “upgraded” to a bigger vehicle that will increase (sometimes even double) your gas costs. And never forget that AAA offers many services to help with your travel planning. You’ll receive great ideas, special offers, discounts and travel tips to enhance your trip simply by speaking to one of their agents.
Pick Cheap Countries
This is decided, of course, after you find out how much it costs just to get there. With a little research you will find there are many inexpensive countries to visit a far as hotels, shopping and food go. They are usually less expensive to fly to as well. Matthew Kepnes, a blogger known as Nomadic Matt, put together a list of 10 “Cheap Places to Travel on the U.S. Dollar,” which includes Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Peru, Hungary and Romania. Dream a little: compile a list of the 10 places you’d most like to go and price out the basics — a task easily done via the internet or by browsing guides in the travel section of a local bookstore. So, is it goodbye Paris and hello Peru?
Now that we’ve advised on how to save, allow us to conclude with one final thought: splurge where it matters.
You’ve worked hard to save for this vacation and let’s face it it, street vendor food, nosebleed theater seats and twin beds are not for everyone. Decide ahead of time what splurges are worth it to you – food, lodging, the arts – and then save your money on the rest. Balance is key when you’re budgeting for a trip. You don’t want to step out of a Vienna youth hostel gussied up for the Opera Ball.