9 Easy Ways to Save Money on Your Next Vacation
In travel, cheap doesn't have to mean bad. No matter where you're going, there are many simple ways to cut expenses and still enjoy the quality vacation you want and desire.
By Jen Campbell of Escape Destinations Travel
So often I hear “I’d love to travel, but it’s just too expensive,” people say to me. “It costs a lot of money.” Not true, here’s some simple ways to afford it!
No matter where you’re going, there are so many easy ways to cut expenses and still enjoy the quality vacation you and your family desire. Sure, there are some tradeoffs. But cheap doesn’t have to mean bad. Here are some of my favorite tips for turning any trip into an affordable activity:
1. Sign up for a travel-related credit card. By utilizing the signup bonuses offered with airline credit cards, you can accumulate hundreds of thousands of miles each year without ever flying or spending more than you normally would.
2. Be flexible with flights. A minor tweak in your travel plans can save a bundle, especially if you’re buying tickets for a whole family. Fly midweek instead of on the weekend; fly with stops instead of direct. Small changes can save you hundreds of dollars—multiplied by the number of people traveling. I recommend using airfarewatchdog.com, Kayak’s Explore tool and Google’s flight search, these last 2 allow you to browse the cheapest fares anywhere in the world from your home airport. Even travel agents can’t save you more than this, as airfare is so incredibly competitive now.
3. Travel off-season. Summer may be the best time to visit Europe, and winter’s great in the Caribbean, but I try to travel in the shoulder seasons – just before or after peak season. Prices are really low then, the weather is really nice, shops and restaurants are open and happy to see you, and there are few other people around. Shoulder seasons might not be the warmest or sunniest, but the prices are far better.
4. Think outside the box. Why are the most popular destinations so expensive? Because everyone goes there!! Looking for a beach but Costa Rica’s a little pricey? Try some out of the way places. Okay, there may be no substitute for Paris, but there are plenty of less expensive European cities with charm and excitement.
5. Skip the chain hotels. They offer very little value, and there are many better alternatives available. Why spend $150 a night when $50 will get you the same thing? A few of my favorite lodging alternatives:
• Budget mom-and-pop hotels.
• House-sit: Another good method to save money, especially when you’re part of a large group, is to house-sit. In exchange for taking care of someone’s home while they are away, you’ll get free lodging. The length of your stay will depend on the homeowners, but you’ll get access to the house or apartment, and usually even a car to boot. Good house-sitting resources include Mind My House, House Carers, and Luxury House Sitting.
• Apartment Rentals: If you’re traveling with friends or family and don’t need a concierge, maid service, and other hotel amenities, this is really the ideal accommodation option. Furnished apartment rentals have become enormously popular in recent years because they’re easy to book via the Internet and they often cost half the price of a hotel on a per-person basis. Plus, you get a kitchen, allowing you to cook and reduce food costs. Great resources for this are Airbnb.com, vrbo.com, and Wimdu.com.
6. Bid for hotel deals. OK, so sometimes you just want a standard hotel. There’s still no need to pay top dollar. You can head over to BetterBidding.com to find out what other travelers paid for rooms in major cities using opaque, name-your-price services from Priceline or Hotwire. Then, bid a similar price, cross your fingers, and hope and pray that your bid is accepted.
7. Take the free tours. Sure, you could pay a sightseeing service for the standard tour. But in major cities around the world, free walking tours show you the city’s highlights and teach you about the culture. You also meet cool, smart, genuinely nice people.
8. Consider Booking last-minute. Airfare costs tend to skyrocket when reserving at the last minute. Not all aspects of travel work this way, though. Book cruises and tours late in the game and it’ll knock an easy 25% off your bill. No one wants to send out an empty ship or run an empty tour, so companies always scramble to fill spaces if they haven’t sold. The ideal time to get the best deal is a couple of weeks before your departure date. Conversely, booking ridiculously far in advance (such as a year or more) can also score a great deal.
9. Pay for train travel strategically. Train tickets in Europe are up to 50% cheaper when you book in advance (usually several weeks out). If you’re embarking on a tour rather than traveling point to point, consider a rail pass. When used properly, a rail pass can help you save hundreds of dollars, especially if you are taking overnight, high-speed, or long distance trains. A pass lets you pre-book your train travel with a certain number of rides or a pre-set amount of time; if used to the maximum, you’ll save significantly compared to buying individual tickets. Rail passes are typically associated with Europe, but they’re available on several continents. In Australia, a pass can cut costs by up to 70%.
Sure, you could skip all of these suggestions and simply go online and book the first vacation that sounds nice. But that’s the surest way to spend more than you need to! Just a little more leg work will pay off in a really big way.
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