It is so necessary to plan ahead and when you are considering a trip. If you wait until within two or three weeks of your planned vacation time to choose a destination, begin to make reservations, and plot local excursions at your destination, you run the risk of overpaying for almost every service you embark upon. In this post, we are going to discuss ten tips for maximizing your travel budget and snagging the best deals.
1. Avoid peak summer travel. The period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is always seen as peak travel season. Prices for hotel accommodations, theme park visits and tickets to local events will be at their peak price here. It would be advisable to instead plan on traveling on a family vacation during a school spring break or wait until the fall.
2. Buy gas early. If your family has an extra vehicle for driving that is rarely used or a few five-gallon gas containers (approved containers only!), buy gas early for your vacation if prices have taken a sudden dip. Fill up the tank in your extra car or your cans while the prices are lower. Look at it this way: if prices rise even .50 per gallon during the month between your fill-up and actual vacation day, the difference in cost could be approximately $9. While this doesn’t seem like a lot, given the total amount of gas you may consume on a trip, any savings is welcome.
3. Use travel awards. If you accumulate award points on any shop and earn site or through a survey program, save them in your account and do not cash them until 4-6 weeks before vacation time. Use these awards for gas, mass merchandising stores, airline miles and hotel stays. The fuel and destination cards are obvious choices, but the mass merchandiser gift cards allow you to buy food on vacation without resorting to all fast food all the time….which brings us to point four.
4. Visit mass merchandising stores and grocery stores on vacation. If you visit these stores to buy small amounts of provisions for part or all of your vacation eating, you will save a great deal of money on food. Even at a fast food joint, a family of four could expect to spend between $15 and 20 on dinner and at a family restaurant between $30 and 40 (at least!). At a mass merchandiser, a rotisserie chicken, a pasta side from the deli and fresh fruits and vegetables you can eat raw will cost between $10 and 15 and provide a far healthier meal that also generates snacking food for the afternoon or evening. (Think baby carrots and kiwis!)
5. Borrow or rent a camper. Depending on how long the trip is going to be, a camper can be a good rental investment or an ideal item to borrow from a friend. The money spent on gas will be far less than hotel accommodations for a week and will provide a more comfy “getting there” experience. If you do borrow a camper from a friend, clean it thoroughly and fill it with gas prior to returning.
6. Hotel rewards. I am enrolled in all the hotel awards programs offered by the major chains. If you are going to be staying multiple nights in the same hotel, you will likely end up receiving a free night.
7. Frequent flier miles. I am also signed up with all of the major frequent flier programs. When it comes time to schedule a flight, a connector flight may direct you into an airline you are not connected with. By preemptively joining these programs you will be able to earn awards on all flights your family takes. While you will not save money on your first flight, your miles can be applied to your next one in most instances. Only a few airlines prevent you from cashing in partial miles.
8. Earn miles and hotel stays through untraditional methods. You can earn frequent flier miles through many online survey companies and award sites and end up with part of your flight paid for in advance.
9. Shop and earn through your preferred airlines partner programs. Delta Skymiles offers miles for every dollar you spend at many online retailers. You can fly to your destination at a reduced rate and then rent a car (you can earn bonus miles on car rentals) to travel around town or the countryside in.
10. Find off the beat places to visit. Use your social media moxy to query other bloggers in an area you plan to visit for the best, affordable places to take your family to get a real idea of the local environment. I know that my fellow bloggers have introduced me to a lot of fine places I never would have experienced otherwise.
These are just ten ways that you can save money and plan vacations or trips with an eye to bargains. These ten tips can translate well to your life no matter your financial circumstances.