Travel doesn’t have to be impossibly expensive. Here are a few of my personal travel tips to make your trips a whole lot more affordable.
1. Use Point Programs. We only use credit cards that earn points towards hotel stays and
flights. We use them for EVERYTHING including groceries, car payments, utility bills – things you wouldn’t normally pay with a credit card. And we pay the bill completely, every month, so there is no interest charged. You would be surprised how fast you can earn free flights when everything goes on the card. It helps your credit score too. Remember, you have to pay off the card(s) every month or the interest will kill you.
2. Bring your own food. We eat at least 1 meal a day from our day pack. It saves us money, calories and time. Throw in some apples, dried fruit, string cheese, granola or trail mix, protein bars and dark chocolate for a meal or snack in the car, on the plane, on a city tour or in your hotel room. We also like to gather yummy morsels at Farmers Markets for a picnic on the train or in the park. These are great places to pick up good bread, fruit, cheese, organic tomatoes, & wine. We also almost always split meals and appetizers, at home and away.
3. Travel light. Learn to pack well so you don’t have to pay extra for checked luggage. If you’re anything like my mother you may need some practice. Pack everything you think you need first and then remove half of it. I got by with just a carry-on for several weeks in Europe by doing laundry here and there. The trick is to mix & match, wear one color scheme, alternate between 2 pairs of shoes. Get ‘travel clothes’ that don’t wrinkle and resist dirt & sweat. If you can’t pack light, invest in some compressor sacs that squish things down so you can pack more in a smaller bag.
4. Pool Resources. Sometimes we travel with other couples or families and rent a big house
in the woods or on the beach. Then, we cook meals instead of going out and we do low
cost activities like play games, hike, etc. Let your social network (myspace, facebook) know where you’ll be and see if any of your friends want to join you to split the costs.
5. Swap houses. Wish you could take the family to London for Christmas? You can afford it if you swap houses. Google ‘House Swapping’ to see how it’s done.
6. Get a free hotel room upgrade. At the very least, when checking in ask for a better room, a bigger room or a better view. I just got a lakeview room upgrade at the Bellagio in Las Vegas last weekend, just for asking nicely. Sometimes, if I see a bad review of a hotel that we will be staying at, I email a link to the review to the manager and I let them know that we’re on our way and we’re hoping that
we don’t have problems “like this”. It’s amazing how the service level goes up. We were once upgraded from a standard room to a $1000/night suite in Hawaii, simply because I alerted the manager to some unflattering reviews of their hotel. Following our stay we sent a beautiful basket of Arizona goodies
to the staff and made friends for life.
7. Camp Out. Have an adventure! It saves you money plus you get closer to nature . . . and each other. Consider camping on the beach.
8. Head South of the Border. We’re taking our vacations at the beach in Mexico – a 3 1/2 hour
drive from Phoenix to Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point). For a fraction of the price of a hotel room in the States you can rent a 1500 sq. ft. 2
bd/2ba condo on Sandy Beach, right on the water, complete with a full kitchen, washer/dryer, restaurants, swim-up bar, tennis courts, water
9. Travel in the off season. We’ve even gone on a cruise during hurricane season. Besides, high season (usually the summer months) is the worst time to be just about anywhere because of the crowds, heat and high prices.
10. Stay Close to Home. Arizona summers are “off season” and the local resorts deeply discount their rates or give credits toward food and entertainment. Many families take their kids to the resorts that have water parks and water slides and they just hang out at the pool all weekend. You can also explore your home state by car and save on airfare. Take day trips or camp to save on hotels.
11. Get up to 1/2 off Hotel Rooms. We use www.priceline.com when the hotel chain doesn’t matter to us. You don’t get to pick your exact hotel before committing to the room, but you can narrow your choice to a certain area and designate a minimum star rating. We recently used Priceline to find a hotel in San Diego, in the Gaslamp area, and we saved $110 per night.
12. Shop the Web and book early. Bargains are
everywhere if you take the time to look. I check www.tripadvisor.com to
read unbiased reviews before booking. Tripadvisor also has a tool that checks a handful of major booking
sites like Orbitz & Expedia, allowing you to compare prices without going to each site individually. Also check the lesser known travel booking sites, like
www.bookit.com. If you’re using travel points you might have to book several months in advance to get the room or a seat on the plane.
13. Consider a Cruise. You can almost always find cruises at discounted prices if you don’t book through the cruise line themselves. We got much lower prices on an upcoming Disney cruise by going through a cruise broker online. We use www.cruise.com and www.cruises.com but there are a lot of them. Also, if you can go last minute, there are always great deals. When cruising, try to wait until you get to your destination to do your off-shore excursions. They are much less expensive. Airport transfers to and from the ship are cheaper if you book it yourself. Bring your own bottled water. Bring your own booze if they let you. Ask for a cabin upgrade. Ask your travel agent for shipboard credits. Sign up for the “club”.
14. Take advantage of time share promotions. Just don’t be roped into buying one unless that is your intention. Sit through the presentation, be strong enough to walk away from the hard sell, and be rewarded with a nearly free vacation or lots of spa/meal/drink credits.
15. Be spontaneous and book late. Sign up with your favorite travel sites to receive notification of last minute travel bargains.
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