9 Smart Ways To Save Money on Vacations

Do you shop around when you plan your travel?  This seems like “old hat” information to save money on vacations, but surprisingly many people still do not bargain shop for tickets, hotels or car rentals.

Often, it’s because you rely on your favorite travel comparison website, such as Travelocity, to do the work for you.  But… before you accept that your travel website offers the best fare, it pays to check the actual airline, hotel, or car rental websites for comparative fares. Many times the source (ie: Delta Airlines, Avis Car Rental, etc.) will have a better rate or a “hidden” special available.

There are also airlines and hotels that will not pull up in most travel comparison websites, such as Southwest Airlines.  Don’t rely on one source when planning your vacation.  A few extra minutes can often reveal additional savings and maybe even, new ideas you hadn’t considered.

Extending your search options is one of the ways to ensure you save the most money on your next vacation.  Check out our additional suggestions to save even more!

9 Smart Ways To Save Money on Vacations

Travel Off-Season

Many attractions, especially in warmer climates, operate year round. To avoid the high peak season rates and long lines, try to plan your vacation so that it doesn’t fall around peak travel times, such as spring and summer breaks.

Late fall is an ideal time for travel as the start of school and the upcoming holidays keep many families home. Cruise fares are reduced in the fall, too. It’s a great time to take the ocean voyage you’ve been dreaming of.

Use Your Frequent Flyer Miles

It is estimated that over sixty percent of frequent flyer miles go unused.  Don’t miss this opportunity to save money on vacations!

Make sure you keep your frequent flyer cards in your wallet and your address updated with your frequent flyer programs, so that you’ll be sure to stay on top of using up rewards. Also, consider using credit cards that reward you with frequent flyer miles to the airline of your choice.

Many hotels and cruise lines also offer customer reward programs that work in a similar way to using frequent flyer miles.  Be sure to sign up for these reward programs and take advantage of the savings on your next vacation.

Rent a Car at Your Hotel

If your hotel is close to the airport, consider taking a shuttle to the hotel and renting a car after you arrive. Many major hotels have car rental agencies on site or close by. Renting from a hotel agent may save you up to 50% or more on taxes as airport taxes are notoriously higher. Check with the hotel ahead of time to find out your options.

Stock Up on Snacks

Hotel mini-bars are wildly tempting, but the inflated prices will leave you less than satisfied. To save money on vacations, on your way back to the hotel, stop at a nearby convenience store. Purchase chips, candy bars, soft drinks, bottled water, and other snacks you wish to keep handy. Most hotel has a gas station within walking distance and its well worth the short trip to save the $3 to $7 dollar mark-up per snack.

If a trip to the store is not on your agenda, before you reach for the mini-bar selection, check out the hotel vending machines. While you’ll still pay higher prices, the items will be at least half the price of the mini-bar snacks.

Take Advantage of Reduced Lunch Prices

Rather than skimping through the day and splurging on a big dinner at a fancier restaurant, stop there to eat a big lunch instead. You’ll wind up paying far less at most restaurants when ordering from the lunch menu. Plus, you’ll typically avoid the dinner rush, so your wait time will be minimal.

Check out Grace’s 3 Tips for Reducing Travel Eating Costs, too for additional ideas on how to save money on vacations.

Avoid Ordering Room Service

The fifteen to eighteen percent surcharge and over-inflated prices will really take a bite out of your budget. If you are intent on dining in, or too tired to got out for a meal, ask the hotel staff or check the Yellow Pages to find out what restaurants in the area deliver take-out. The prices will be much more reasonable and you’ll avoid the expensive surcharge.

Purchase Annual Memberships

If you will be spending a considerable amount of time in one area, or returning regularly throughout the year, consider purchasing annual memberships to attractions you would like to frequent, such as zoos, theme parks, and campgrounds. Annual Memberships are typically close to the price of admission for a one day entrance fee. So, if you visit more than once, you’ll save a bundle on your return visit.

Many annual memberships are transferable. For example, purchase a membership pass for your local science center or zoo. Other states will offer reciprocal free or discounted visits to their science center or zoo attractions. You’ll be able to take several mini-trips near home plus use the passes for your travel plans throughout the year.

Grab Your Tent and Go Camping

Need a truly inexpensive vacation idea? Camping is a very frugal and fun alternative to pricey hotels. Air beds can be used for a comfortable sleeping experience. Many campgrounds have swimming pools and free family activities throughout the day to enhance your trip.

Even though you have to purchase tents, sleeping bags, and other gear for your trip; the cost is minimal as compared to utilizing an RV.  However, if you like the RV experience, many campgrounds now rent RV’s onsite. It’s a low price in comparison to a hotel room.  You can also check into renting a cabin at a campground.  If you have a larger party, cabins often offer lower rates per night than hotel suites.

Camping affords you the opportunity to enjoy each other’s company. You’ll have conversations around the campfire, live off the land, and become one with your natural surroundings. Camping combines adventure, excitement, and fun. It’s a rare opportunity to discover just how rich an experience this type of vacation can be.

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Barb Webb. Founder and Editor of Rural Mom, is an the author of "Getting Laid" and "Getting Baked". A sustainable living expert nesting in Appalachian Kentucky, when she’s not chasing chickens around the farm or engaging in mock Jedi battles, she’s making tea and writing about country living and artisan culture.
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