Believe or not, the travel season is almost upon us. (Though after the marathon that was Christmas, it feels like it never ended.) First there is spring break. Then you have summer vacation. While we don’t always travel during these peak travel times, occasionally we do. When we are going to be hitting the road, we like to follow some basic rules in booking travel that keeps vacations within our budget.
Sign up for newsletters and tailor them to your needs. Just about every company has a newsletter that you can sign up for that will alert you to deals, bargains and promotional codes. I highly recommend that you sign up for them. When you do, be sure to be specific. You can often specify which airport you like to fly out of or which areas you like to visit. Getting a notification of a great rate on a flight from Boston to Las Vegas won’t do you any good if you live in Chicago.
Travel at off-peak times when possible. Before the girls were in school, we were free to travel whenever we wanted. If you have young children, take advantage of this. The prices are better and you have more bargaining power when trying to get a deal. If a hotel knows that they will have empty rooms, they are much more likely to give it to you at a better price than if they know it will be full.
Pack snacks. For some reason, when I travel I am always hungry. Several stops at fast food restaurants, sit-down restaurants, or heaven forbid the overpriced restaurants in the airport will break your budget in a hurry. Pack snacks that will not only be better on your budget, but also on your waistline.
Book packages. Just like combining your insurances, combined booking can sometimes save you money. Some companies work together with others to get you a better package deal than you could get if you booked everything separately. (This isn’t always the case, so do your homework, but you should at least consider it.)
Take your discount cards with you. Are you a member of AAA, AARP, etc? If you are, be sure you take your ID cards with you. You never know when you will run across a hotel, restaurant, or even gift shop that will give you a discount for your membership. It never hurts to ask. The worst that can happen is that they’ll say “no”.
Don’t overpack. Now that airlines are charging for every bag you check, you have to be smarter about what you pack. While you want to make sure you have everything you need (buying extra items on vacation will really add up), you also don’t want to pack items that you don’t end up using. You don’t need your running shoes, cross training shoes, and walking shoes. Pick one and allow it to multitask for a few days.
Talk to a local. If you know anyone (or even have a friend of a friend) that lives in an area you’re visiting, ask them for recommendations. They might know some amazing restaurants, hotels and places to visit that aren’t as popular and won’t cost as much.
Search for discounts before booking. If you know that you want to go on a particular tour or participate in a particular activity, look online to see if there are any discounts available. With so many great coupon sites out there, you rarely have to pay full retail. The deals are available if you know where to look. Local radio stations are a great place to look for half-price deals or links to coupons.
Don’t go souvenir crazy. In the moment, you might really think you need that coffee mug in the shape of a roller coaster. The reality is that you’ll never use it since you can’t drink out of it without it spilling all over you. Set a budget for souvenirs and don’t allow yourself to go over it. That will really make you think before making an impulse purchase. Instead, you can take pictures of some of those souvenirs and make a fun scrapbook out of it.
Don’t overbook. It is your vacation. While it may be true that you’re only going to visit once, that doesn’t mean you have to do every tourist activity available. Overbooking will lead to overspending. It will also make you feel like you need another vacation just to recover from the first one.
Do you have any tips you'd add?
*Disclaimer: I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Alamo blogging program, for a gift card worth $25. For more information on how you can participate, click here.