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 when the family is tired and/or hungry, you will be tempted to spend more than you would if you had the time to ‘shop’ for that night’s accommodations. Airfare is ALWAYS a better bargain when booked in advance. It’s not at all unusual for flight prices to fluctuate 10-20% over a month’s time. Shopping in advance also gives you the opportunity to check prices over several weeks and ‘catch’ them when they’re ‘lower’.
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 plan. You’ve heard the adage: Fail to plan; Plan to fail. Plans keep us “on target”. For more information on this check out these posts:
It really does help to keep the budget under control if you make a plan, 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 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, Expedia, etc…)? Listing their rooms on these sites is necessary for these hotels as so many do their shopping there.. However, they LOSE money when you book through them. 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. Sometimes there’s a discounted rate (cars or hotels), but there’s ALWAYS some type of perks: expedited check in/checkout, free 2nd driver, free nights after ‘x’ number of stays, early boarding or free baggage fees.
8. Check out sites like Groupon and Living Social and ‘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. Reminder: Groupons are non-refundable and have expiration dates. Always read the fine print. Also, check out Vacation By Groupon
- Finding Bargains on Rental Cars
- How to Get the Best Deal on Airfare
- Dollar Store ‘Finds’ for the Frugal Traveler