Now that you have your budget estimate, it’s time to see how to bring it in line. There are lots of ways to do this. Here are my top five tips to saving money when planning a trip.
Keep your travel dates as flexible as possible.
Hotels and flights eat up most of your travel dollars. By keeping dates flexible, you can arrange travel on the least expensive dates for your trip. In general, traveling in the middle of the week is cheaper than the weekends. Traveling mid-winter is often cheaper than traveling mid-summer, and with fewer crowds. Sometimes, seasons make the difference. For example, we had planned a trip to Puerto Vallarta with another couple in October when the flights were in the $600 per person range. Unfortunately, something came up and we needed to re-book the trip. We ended up re-booking for the week before Christmas, and the flight costs dropped by half. We ended up having a marvelous time in the Mexican town, joining the Saturday night street fair and parade celebrating Advent. There were fewer people on the beach, and the weather was great.
Use rewards points or mileage accounts
I’m not a big fan of spending money just to accumulate rewards points. If it’s convenient to use that credit card or that rewards account, by all means carry on. I know that many folks are corporate travelers, and this is how they build up those points accounts. If those accounts are yours, use them. The airlines have a habit of reducing the value of the points over time, so accumulating points is not always the best move. I’m planning a trip to Panama in October, and we used my husband’s points to get him there and I paid for my ticket. Once there, we’ll use my hotel points for at least one night stay in the city. These two accounts save us nearly $1000 between the airfare and the hotel stay.
For accommodations, look beyond hotels
Hotels have gotten into the business of “fees”, the most noxious being the “resort fee.” Las Vegas hotels love their resort fees, charging as much as $50 extra per day over and above your room rate for amenities such as pools and fitness centers. The most noxious part about this is that guests have no choice whether to pay this fee – but that’s another post. Check out other available accommodations such as VRBO.com or Airbnb.com. These options can be very cost-effective, particularly for larger groups or multiple night stays. In Spain, my friend and I stayed in two bedroom apartments, complete with kitchens, living rooms, and washing machines for less than it would have cost us to stay in a hotel. We were very comfortable and the hosts made a little extra money. Everyone wins! Pay attention to locations. It doesn’t save you any money of if you spend lots of time and money getting to and seeing the attractions you want to experience.
Do you really need a rental car?
In many parts of the world, renting a car is more of a hassle than it’s worth. Here in the United States, it’s almost a given that you will need a car. I’ve traveled in Europe and in Latin America, having never rented a car. In Europe taxis and trains are usually much more cost effective, particularly if you’re staying in one place for awhile. For our trip to Panama in October, we will be renting a car for the first time outside the U.S. We’ll be driving from Panama City to Coronado, using the car for day trips. Since neither my husband nor I speak good Spanish, we didn’t want to brave the bus system quite yet. Rental cars pose their own set of issues, and there are plenty of complaints about overcharging for extra insurance and phantom damage to cars. If possible, take time and date-stamped pictures of your rental before you leave the parking log, including the windshield. Return the car to the agency during the day, when you can talk with the staff and get a signed statement that the car was returned in good condition.
Avoid overpacking. Most people take too much on their travels. There are many different sites, including www.onebag.com, that explain how to get the most from the room you have in a roll-aboard or carryon. In the United States, most folks are spending about $25 one way to check a bag, depending on the airline. At the end of the flight, folks are milling around a luggage carousel instead of hopping in a cab or on a train and starting their adventures. I spent 10 days in France in May taking just a carryon. Most places have laundry facilities close by or in your hotel. In Spain, I rented apartments that included a washer and dryer. You don’t need any many things as you think you do. Or take your older clothes, wear them overseas, and then throw them away or donate them. Get rid of clothes you no longer want and lighted up your suitcase as well.
How do you save money when travelling? Let us know in the comments below.