I love to travel and I love a great deal. This spring, my girlfriends and I got awesome deals on two amazing long, spa weekends. In both cases, we took the time to research the locations so we knew that the prices were a good value. Both times we met people who paid more than twice what we paid for the same stays — and we had extra spa credits and additional perks, too!
Because I write a blog on finding deals, many people ask me about finding the best ways to save money on travel and vacations. Here are the top tips I have found:
1. Sign up for a travel-related credit card . Most of these cards offer sign-up bonuses in points or miles. With airline credit cards, you can accumulate thousands of miles each year without flying or spending extra money. The United Visa card and the Marriott Premier Rewards Visa card also waive foreign transaction fees, which can be 3 percent or more! Hotel cards can get you free stays and perks, too. You can also use points from companies like American Express for travel-related vouchers and credits. You should also sign up for airlines’ and hotels’ rewards programs so you can earn points and use them toward your next trip. You can track them all in one place on Manilla.com so that you don’t miss them before they expire.
2. Be flexible — with dates, times and even locations. Consider being open with your travel dates, airports and even your vacation location. With flights, small changes in dates, times or airports can lead to big savings. Kayak enables you to look at prices +/- 3 days and with flexible airports. Some additional tips: Fly midweek or with stops. Also, if round-trip ticket prices seem too high, check one-way tickets and try different airports for each leg. This “hack” could take a few minutes, but you can save hundreds of dollars, especially if you are traveling with a family.
3. Travel in the off-season. Consider booking trips to seasonal locations in “shoulder seasons” — just before or after peak season. Why? The prices are lower, the weather is usually fine, everything is open and there are smaller crowds. As one blogger I like put it perfectly, “Shoulder seasons might not be the warmest or sunniest, but the prices are far better.” My husband and I have enjoyed the Caribbean at the tail end of “hurricane” season in November several times with great success!
4. Break new ground. Check out trusted sources on travel for “up and coming destinations.” I like Travel and Leisure, Conde Nast and Independent Traveler. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook, too, for more news and views. For instance, you can swap crowded Costa Rica for newbie Nicaragua (we are doing this in November) or swap the south of France for the coast in Croatia.
5. Follow hotels and resorts you like online. Sign up for newsletters or like properties on Facebook. When they have sales and offers, you will be the first to know! You can also follow properties on sites like Rue La La or Jetsetter, so you will be notified of a sale.
6. Search for deals online. You can save a bundle on sites like Luxury Link, Family Getaway, Jetsetter and more for vacation packages and hotels. Check aggregators like Kayak and Trivago – especially for airfares. Also, many of these sites offer referral bonuses, so if you are booking for a group, you can score credits like we did going to Red Mountain Resort with Luxury Link. Don’t forget to compare prices and check the fine print and blackout dates for each deal.
7. Consider inviting friends or family to split lodging, rental car and other costs. For example, you can rent an apartment, condo or even a house and split the costs.
8. Try alternative lodging options. Consider home swaps, or rentals, instead of traditional hotels. Try smaller hotels. Go to Trip Advisor for the best selection. Furnished apartment rentals have become popular because they’re easy to book online and they often cost half the price of a hotel. Plus, you get a kitchen. Great resources for this are AirBnB, VRBO and Wimdu.
9. Make lunch your main meal. In a new city, you want to check out top restaurants. Lunch prices can be 30 to 50 percent cheaper than the same entrees on a dinner menu. Plan to eat your biggest meal at lunch and opt for a budget dinner. As an added bonus, you will be able to walk it off and will likely go to bed feeling better! (Also, check Open Table – you can earn points for your reservations, check reviews and avoid waiting for the concierge!)
10. Take free tours or hire a local guide. In major cities around the world, free walking tours show you the city’s highlights and teach you about the culture. You also meet locals. In New York, try Big Apple Greeters or in Paris, Paris Greeters. In Europe, New Europe Tours are in Edinburgh, Dublin, Berlin, and Amsterdam. You can also use the hospitality site Couchsurfing to connect with locals who are happy to show visitors around. Also, in many countries it is inexpensive to hire a local guide to drive you and ask for local restaurants and sites to see. Skip tourist traps!
Bon voyage! You can use your savings from some great souvenirs and experiences!
Erica Agran is a health IT professional by day and blogger and deal finder by night. Erica started Erica Finds after years of connecting friends to deals, new websites, new people and new ideas. Her blog helps readers to find things that they don’t have time to find on their own. This includes deals, health and fitness tips, travel information, running tips and much more. Erica is an avid runner, bargain shopper, fitness and health buff and traveler. She loves to share her passions with her readers. Visit her online at ericafinds.com, or onTwitter or Facebook.
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