Taking a vacation, whether alone or with family and friends, is something we look forward to all year. It’s also something we typically save for all year, too. Knowing how to get the most bang for your buck – and avoid the later regret of overspending – requires both planning and learning tricks to trim expenses on travel, lodging, food, and activities so you’ll not only have a fabulous vacation but also an album full of photos to fondly look at in years to come. Enjoy vacations with friends and also save money on vacations.
Planning a Fun, Cost-Conscious Vacation
Determine your budget. Figuring out how much money you realistically have to work with is critical, or you’ll feel the pinch right before Christmas. Your budget will help determine where and how far you go, by what mode of transportation, where you’ll stay, how you’ll eat and what you’ll do once there. Knowing tricks-to-the-vacation trade will make creating and sticking to a budget easier, and your vacation more enjoyable.
Figure out what type of experience you want. Is your vacation meant to be a solitary retreat, but to where you’re still not sure? Will it be a family beach adventure? Do you want to be active and always on the run, or do you want to relax a lot? Are you fine around large crowds? Thinking about what you want and do not want will make your vacation much more enjoyable.
Choose a destination with price and flexibility in mind. Traveling during what is called the “shoulder seasons,” just before and after the peak seasons, is often the best time to take a vacation. For one, the prices are lower. Yet because these times are just off a peak season, the weather is still nice, there are fewer tourists and crowds and locals are happy for your business.
- Also be flexible about the precise location of, say, the family beach adventure. You want to go to the Bahamas, but there’s an amazing package deal to Key West. Would going to Key West give another area of your budget that was a little lean the boost it needed?
Pick your approximate dates. Being flexible on dates is greatly to your pocketbook’s advantage, so pick a 2-week time frame (say, in next September) for your vacation. You’ll search for and compare prices on travel, lodging, food and entertainment rates during this time frame. You’ll also be looking at the specials and deals. If you aren’t able to give yourself this window, you can still save money in comparison shopping and snatching up specials.
Finding the Best Airfares
Identify any perks and rewards you have. First, if you fly frequently on one airline, look at how many frequent flyer miles you’ve accumulated. Next, call your credit card companies and see what travel perks your specific cards have or if any are available to you. You may already have free points toward travel.
- All U.S. airlines, for example, offer a travel-related credit card that gives you 30,000-50,000 bonus miles upon signing and making one purchase, which is one ticket right there.
Know the cheapest times to fly. Knowing when to fly can you save you hundreds of dollars on one ticket, thousands for a family. If you can avoid it, don’t travel during the holidays or Spring Break because ticket prices will be very high even when booked in advance.
- Saturday are less expensive because businessmen, who account for a lot of air travel, want to be home before Saturday to spend time with their families on the weekends.
Start by looking on travel search sites. Buying tickets directly from airlines is almost always more expensive than using airline search sites like Priceline.com, Kayak.com and Expedia.com. These sites scour hundreds of sources and airlines to find good rates. Because you’ve chosen a 2-week window, start plugging in dates. Most sites will allow you to select an option for them to check flights a few days prior to and after the date you enter. Whichbudget.com is a great site to get affordable, international flights because it accesses local, budget airlines you had no clue existed. Here are some additional points.
- If your international vacation includes at least two countries, and you have to change planes in one of these countries, check with the airline to see if you can stay a few days before changing planes. Sometimes they’ll let you do it, and you’ll save a heap of money.
Look at package deals. While on these sites, also check out the flight and hotel package deals. Sometimes you can even haggle and bid on prices. There are a few downsides, though: a) you may not always know which hotel you might get, b) renting rooms separately by using discounts and special deals found elsewhere might be cheaper and c) a hotel might not be the best option in the first place. Buying the package might be easier, but it might not be cheaper nor the most suitable option for your needs.
Avoid certain nonstop flights and most round-trip tickets. Nonstop flights are much more expensive in almost every case. While connecting flights can be a hassle, they can save you a lot of money. Also, round-trip tickets are almost always more expensive than buying two low-priced, one-way tickets – one to get you there and one to get you back. However, Kayak.com has a feature called “Hacker Fares” that pieces together a round-trip ticket from one-way flights on multiple airlines. They aren’t available for all trips, but you should definitely look.
Look at neighboring cities. Many sites also have an option that allows you to select neighboring airports to fly from or into, which can drastically reduce the cost of your flight. For instance, if you’re going to NYC but the fare is awfully high, check out the Newark, N.J., airport next door. In many cases, it won’t increase your cost of getting to your lodging by much, if anything, especially if you’re already planning to rent a car. Many airports will also have shuttles.
- You can check the neighboring airports yourself, too. Do an online search similar to “airports in southern California” or “airports near Orlando, Florida/central Florida.”
- Consider starting your flight at a regional airport. Many cheaper airlines (some you’ve never heard of) service these airports. While getting to them may not be as convenient, you can save a lot of money.
Try these tips to save money on your next family trip:
- See if there are any discounts for children, students, and seniors.
- Check whether you can purchase family passes for attractions.
- Book hotels and cruises that offer promos that allow kids to stay free and eat free
- There are few simple tips that how to save money.