Traveling on a budget starts with a few basic things.
- Make Reservations: Spontaneity may work well in many other areas, but when it comes to travel, ‘last minute’ will always cost more money. (Have you ever shopped for airfare 48 hrs before you want to fly?) Check sites like TripAdvisor, or consolidators like Kayak, Trivago, etc… to compare rates and read reviews. When it comes to hotels, my experience is that if you’re looking for a room for the night (TONIGHT) with a tired/hungry family, you will be tempted to spend more than you would if you had the time to ‘shop’ for that night’s accommodations. I think most travelers know that airfare is ALWAYS more expensive last minute. Shopping in advance not only gives you the opportunity to check prices over several weeks and ‘catch’ them when they’re ‘lower’ but saves you the plight of ‘last minute’ price hikes.
2. A Good Tourist Trap can be fun…as long as you can avoid the “Trap” part: We love a good tourist trap like anyone else, 🙂 but have learned to walk in; look around a bit; take in the flavor of the place, then leave. Don’t fall for the sales pitches or trinkets for sale….They’re typically over-priced and low quality. Save that money for something of real value…
3. Have a budget plan. You’ve heard the adage: Fail to plan; Plan to fail. Plans keep us “on target”. For more information on planning your travel budget, check out:
Planning really helps to keep the budget under control. When traveling, write down what you spend, and keep the “extra” purchases within your planned budget.
4. It’s all about choices. Saving on one thing means you can spend on something else. Better to splurge on that “once in a lifetime” whale-watch tour rather than whittle away the money on snacks and sodas purchased on a whim. Make your expenditures “memory makers” rather than impulse buys or money black holes.
5. Call directly when making HOTEL or RENTAL CAR reservations – and ask some questions
- What is the best rate you can offer me? Never just assume that published prices are ‘firm’. They may be…but they also may be flexible. The hotel manager is the one who can lower the published price…never the operator at the 1-800 call center.
- Can you beat the price I found on (Kayak, Trivago, etc…)? Listing their rooms on these sites is necessary for these hotels to fill rooms as most people do their shopping there.. However, they LOSE money when patrons book through them. (commissions) They have interest in getting you to book directly through them. Give them the opportunity to offer you a better rate to ‘win back’ your business from these sites.
- Has the price changed? Rates in the travel industry fluctuate drastically. Check for rate decreases and don’t be afraid to ask for the lower price if there’s been a reduction. This is most likely to work with hotels as rental car rates typically go UP when booked at the last minute.
6. Go ahead and ask for that upgrade Hotels and rental cars are about the only area in the travel industry where free upgrades are still given but you just might get that corner room or upgraded rental car.
7. Sign up for loyalty programs. I have found that loyalty programs (hotels, rental cars, airlines) sometimes secures a better rate – and usually comes with some extra perks: expedited check in/checkout, free 2nd driver, free nights after ‘x’ number of stays, early boarding or free baggage fees. ALWAYS join these programs as they’re typically free!
8. Check out sites like Groupon and Living Social: We’ve used Groupons for vacation expenses – hotels, admission tickets and a couple of meals. This can be a savings…but can also be a little risky as Groupons are non-refundable and have expirations dates. If you’re careful, you CAN save some money…but always read the fine print. Check out: Vacation By Groupon
9. “Like’ the FB pages of hotels, restaurants, museums, etc.. you’re interested in. Check back on these several times before you travel to find things that pop up at the last minute.
- Finding Bargains on Rental Cars
- How to Get the Best Deal on Airfare
- Dollar Store ‘Finds’ for the Frugal Traveler