Dining out for every meal can take a big bite out of your travel budget! Use the following five techniques, however, and you can cut your food costs dramatically:
1. Visit the grocery store. Stock your hotel room with snacks and beverages, to avoid raiding the mini-bar when hunger strikes.
2. Pack your own snacks. Whether you’re on a road trip, or sightseeing, bring along your own snacks. It’s much cheaper than hitting a convenience store or vending machine.
3. Picnic. Instead of eating in a restaurant, picnic in a park or other scenic spot. Pick up cheap and healthy fare at a local market.
4. Avoid tourist traps. Restaurants near popular tourist attractions often charge sky-high prices (and serve sub-par food).
5. Rent a short-stay apartment. If you’re staying longer than a week, consider renting an apartment. Having kitchen facilities can save you a fortune over dining out!
If you have to rent a car on your next trip, try the following tips for big savings:
* Shop around. Use travel websites, like Expedia.com and Travelocity.com, to find the best deal.
* Use discounts. Membership in groups like AAA or AARP may qualify you for discounted rates.
* Use coupons. Search the internet, or car rental websites, for coupons and special promotions.
* Rent from a non-airport facility. You’ll usually pay a premium to rent a car at the airport.
* Compare daily and weekly rates. It may be cheaper to rent a car for the week, even if you only need it a few days.
* Don’t buy unnecessary insurance. Understand what coverage your personal auto policy (or credit card you’re using) provides before you arrive at the rental counter.
* Fill the tank before you return the car. Rental companies often charge exorbitant prices to refill the car with gas.
Depending on the length of your trip, hotel stays can eat up the lion’s share of your travel budget.
The following seven strategies can help you cut your accommodation expenses:
1. Use membership discounts. If you’re a member of the AAA or AARP—or a government, military, or travel industry employee—you may be eligible for discounted rates.
2. Stay on the outskirts of cities. Hotels about 10-15 minutes from the downtown will be significantly cheaper. Ideally, choose one on a public transit line.
3. Stay in a hostel. Don’t be discouraged by their backpacker reputation; many have upgraded their facilities, and offer private rooms for families.
4. Camp. Sleeping under the stars is a budget-friendly way to visit some of the world’s most beautiful destinations.
5. Stay with friends and relatives. You’ll save a fortune on hotel costs with these free accommodations. Just remember to be a gracious houseguest, and thank them for their hospitality.
6. Rent a condo. For longer stays, renting a condominium can be more economical than staying in a hotel. Kitchen facilities will also help you save on meal expenses!
7. Swap your house. Get free accommodations by exchanging homes with a fellow traveler. Websites like HomeExchange.com and HomeLink.org facilitate the process.
The cost of flying to and from your vacation destination can do a number on your travel budget. The following seven strategies can help you lower your airfare expense:
1. Do some legwork. Be your own travel agent, and search the internet for the cheapest fares. Visit the individual airlines’ websites, as well as sites like Travelocity.com, Expedia.com, and FareCompare.com.
2. Purchase in advance. Buy your ticket at least three weeks before departure; the price can rise exponentially the closer you get to the flight.
3. Find a last-minute deal. Airlines often release unsold seats at rock bottom prices a few days before departure. Peruse airline and travel websites for these last-minute bargains.
4. Use an alternate airport. Check the fares from all the airports in your region. Sometimes it’s less expensive to fly out of a smaller airport, or a different city.
5. Fly when nobody else wants to. Book your flight for a less popular day (like Wednesday), and less popular time (like 11:00 pm).
6. Be flexible. Search for fares using a multi-day window, like two days before and after your ideal departure date, to find the best deals.
7. Accept some inconvenience. Be willing to stopover or change planes instead of flying direct.
Want to explore your travel destination without spending a fortune? Here are some tips for budget-friendly sightseeing:
* Use public transit. You’ll eliminate the costs of taxis, rental cars, and parking, and experience your destination like a local.
* Walk. Forget the taxis and tourist buses, and walk the streets instead. It’s a more frugal, and interesting, way to explore a new town.
* Visit free sites. You can admire the beautiful architecture and artwork, free of charge, at places like churches and government buildings.
* Visit museums on free days. Many museums are free of charge on a designated day each week.
* Download walking tours. Instead of paying for a tour guide, download all the information you need from the internet. Audio tours are available for your iPod or mp3 player.
* Attend free events. Activities like festivals, farmers’ markets, and outdoor concerts provide a unique, local experience at absolutely no cost!
* Purchase a tourist card or pass. Such passes usually entitle you to reduced (or free) admission to museums and attractions, and special fares on public transit.
One of the best strategies to save money on travel is to avoid the crowds (as a bonus, it can also make the experience much more pleasant!).
Here’s a few examples of how you can slash your expenses:
* Travel in the off-season. You’ll pay peak rates during holidays and summer breaks. Instead, travel during the less expensive “shoulder” seasons (September-October, and March-April).
* Visit cities on the weekends. Hotels in major cities usually cater to business travelers, and are most expensive during the week.
* Visit resorts during the week. Popular weekend destinations are often much cheaper mid-week.
* Book unpopular flight times. You’ll find cheaper fares when nobody else wants to fly—like late weekday nights, or early Saturday morning.
* Visit tourist attractions early or late. Many museums and tourist sites offer discounts for early morning or late afternoon admission.
One of the best (and cheapest) ways to explore your travel destination is by walking its streets. You’ll gain a much greater appreciation for the sights, sounds, and culture of a foreign city when you’re on foot; plus, it’s much cheaper than a taxi or bus tour!
Better yet, there’s no need to pay a tour guide to point out sites of interest. You’ll find plenty of walking routes—complete with maps, and information on famous sites—available free of charge on the internet. Simply type the name of the city, and “walking tour,” into your favorite search engine.
For major tourist destinations, you’ll be able to choose from a plethora of itineraries—based on allotted time, walking distance, and specific interests (like history or architecture). Select the one that suits you best, and print out a copy to take on your trip.
Many tours are also available as audio files or podcasts. Download them before you leave, and listen to them on your iPod or mp3 player when you reach your destination. It’s like having your own personal tour guide!
Still prefer to be shown around by a local? No problem—many cities offer walking tours, led by volunteers, at no cost to visitors. The people who participate in such programs are usually entertaining, enthusiastic, and passionate about sharing the charms of their hometown with others.
Here’s a selection of free, volunteer-guided walking tours to whet your appetite:
San Francisco City Guides
Big Apple Greeter – New York City
DC By Foot
Sandemans New Europe Tours – London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Madrid and more
Thinking of taking a last summer fling? Save money by acting as your own travel agent. You can dramatically cut costs by cutting out the middleman!
An internet connection, and a little legwork, can save you a bundle on fees and commissions.
The following travel websites can help you find the lowest prices on flights, accommodations and car rentals:
Simply type in your dates and destination, and see what deals they have to offer. (If you’re flexible, let the deals determine your destination!)
Just remember to read the fine print, and understand the cancellation policies of special rates and packages.
For best results, seek out the advice of other travelers before you book. You’ll find plenty of reviews of hotels, cruises and tours on sites like TripAdvisor.com and VirtualTourist.com. If you have questions, post them to the public forums–you’ll receive assistance from both seasoned travelers and in-the-know locals.
Beat the high price of hotels by swapping your house with another family; it’s a great way to live like a local while you’re on vacation!
Simply sign up with a house-swapping website like HomeExchange.com or HomeLink.org. Upload photos and post the details of your abode, then browse regions of interest for potential swap partners.
Once you’ve found an intriguing candidate, email them to propose a swap. If your request meets with success, iron out the details (dates, rules, etc), and sign a home exchange agreement (find samples online).
Since you’ll have access to a kitchen, you’ll save money on dining expenses as well as accommodations; and you’ll also be able to do laundry!
Before you book that summer vacation, surf over to Bookit.com and FareCompare.com for big savings!
If you have a certain destination in mind, Bookit.com lets you searches for the best deals on flights, hotels, rental cars and packages. Just input your desired location and travel dates, and the site returns the cheapest airfares and accommodations. Alternatively, browse through their Top 20 Vacation Deals from your airport of choice. Today, for example, you can book a three-night Las Vegas vacation with air (from JFK in New York) for $219 per person.
FareCompare.com receives data from over 500 airlines each day, making it one of the quickest and easiest ways to find the cheapest flight. After you choose your destination, a calendar shows you how much it costs to fly on different days—so you can see exactly how much you’ll save by flying out on a Wednesday instead of a Monday. It also lets you search nearby airports for better deals. It takes a lot less time than searching individual airline and travel discounter websites, and virtually guarantees you’ll find the lowest price available.