Labor Day marks the end of summer and a chance to slip away for a relaxing retreat. With a little research, you can plan the perfect weekend getaway without breaking the bank.
Here are five tips to help you stay within budget when planning your Labor Day getaway:
Look for special deals. Keep an eye out for exclusive offers on social media websites like Facebook and Twitter, and use mobile apps for immediate, on-the-go access to last-minute deals. The big online travel sites, such as Orbitz, Travelocity and Travelzoo, are featuring last-minute Labor Day packages that are worth considering. They include airfare and hotel but also often fall into themes such as white water rafting, sailing the Caribbean or visiting Lake Tahoe. The dog days of summer are a great time to find your adventurous spirit before the cold winter months roll in!
Be flexible with flights and accommodation. You might have to fly out on a Saturday and return on a Tuesday, but there are some affordable fares on most airlines. If you don't have your heart set on a certain destination, check out the sales first and let that dictate where you roam. The same is true for hotel rooms. Unless you absolutely must stay in certain chains, be open to the options. You could end up finding a new go-to location! Traveling with kids? Check to see what hotels are offering special deals for families that include meals and late checkout. If you've got a specific hotel in mind, but don't see any discounts or availability on its website, pick up the phone and call the hotel directly. You may find that it had cancellations or an unadvertised special.
Be a tourist in your own backyard. Fuel the local economy and explore your hometown or the city next door. The trick is to think like a visitor: What highlights should you hit? Where are the can't-miss hot spots? Stay in a local boutique hotel to round out the tourist feel. You can find some great deals on hotels and restaurants within an hour or two of home through daily deal sites such as Groupon or LivingSocial. Ask your hotel whether it offers discounts to area attractions, and check the local newspaper for free events. The Pocket Ranger app is also a great tool that is free to download, and it can help you find a park, a place to camp or just lots of fun activities right around the corner from you.
Skip the airport, and take a road trip. A road trip is probably one of the easiest and most affordable last-minute summer vacations you can plan. AAA's free trip cost calculator (fuelcostcalculator.com) makes it easy to calculate the cost of a road trip, as it takes into account the make and model of your car to add up gas costs. The most important thing to remember is to book your hotel in advance and make sure, in addition to your GPS system, that you carry paper maps with you. They can really help if you come across unexpected construction and need to take unexpected detours. Also do a maintenance check to make sure your car is in good condition before you hit the open road: Get your tires checked, and schedule a tuneup to make sure your brake pads, fluids, battery, wipers and lights are all in good shape. This will help you avoid breakdowns that could result in costly repairs with unfamiliar mechanics. There's nothing worse than cutting a road trip short due to a car problem that was easily preventable.
Don't leave your house and car alone. Instead of leaving your home sitting idle while you're away, use a service like VRBO or Airbnb to rent it to other travelers. Not only will you earn some money on the side, but you'll avoid the potential risk of your home sitting unoccupied. You can also install devices like Dropcam which make it easy to stay connected with your home no matter where you are. While your car is at home, put it to work with services such as Getaround and RelayRides that allow you to rent your car for the duration of your visit. Then travel to a city that is pedestrian-friendly with a decent public transportation system. It will save you on gas money, insurance and parking, and will allow you to really see and experience your surroundings.
This Labor Day weekend, forget about work and the daily grind. Keep these tips in mind to help you easily find deals, avoid crowds and maximize your time and your dollar for a relaxing, long weekend.
Holly Perez is a consumer money expert at Intuit and mint.com spokeswoman, a leading Web and mobile money management tool that helps people understand and do more with their money.
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