Hey everyone! I am currently in St. Thomas (WOOHOO!) and have some wonderful posts lined up for while I’m gone. I always love finding new blogs, so I hope you enjoy these great writers who were actually willing to guest post for me Don’t forget to read Sunday’s post on Why She Loves Her Budget and yesterday’s guest post on New York City travel tips.
One of my favorite things in the world is going on vacation. Having a trip planned makes the cold winter months seem less dreary. I love to see new places and visit favorite destinations again.
Perhaps the best part of travel is that you get to leave work and worries behind for a time, and you can have someone else cook and clean for you. Trips can be a real zinger to the budget, but with a little forethought, you don’t have to break the bank. These are my favorite tips for saving money on vacation.
Plan, Plan and Plan Some More
If you are a free spirit, this might go against your nature, but to get the best prices, you really need to start trip preparations 3-6 months beforehand. This gives you plenty of time to compare airfare costs vs road tripping, hotel accommodations, and when the best days to travel will be. Also if you need to request time off from work, the sooner you ask, the more likely you will be to get the days off that you want. Ideally, if you need to fly, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays are the cheapest days.
Planning and searching online can turn up sweet hotel offers as well. For our last trip to San Diego, our favorite hotel was offering a discount for booking in January for travel within the next 6 months. We saved an extra 10% for planning ahead.
Use Reward Points, Coupons, and Gift Cards
Obviously, using credit card reward points is a great way to travel. Many credit cards offer bonus points for booking travel through their websites. You can book your trip, gather the points, and cash them in to pay for the bill.
If you do a search of coupons for the place you are visiting, you usually can score some good discounts. Often many attractions, like museums, offer free admission at certain times of the month. Most restaurants and vacation places are on Facebook and offer coupons for liking their page. We got extra tickets to an amusement park in Denver for signing up for their email list. This goes hand in hand with planning, but always look before you go. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Another way to save is to pay attention to when the grocery stores with gas stations are selling gift cards with 4x gas points. Normally, when you shop in the store, you get one point for every dollar spent. Every one hundred points saves $.10 per gallon of gas for a fill up. A few times a year, they offer 4x points, so this is a great time to stock up if you know what restaurants and attractions you want to visit. When we took a trip to Disneyland, we bought $500 worth of Disney gift cards, booked online for a discounted rate on hotel and admission tickets, and got 2000 gas points. This saved us $1 per gallon on two separate fill ups, about $34.
There are great rewards credit cards out there. One of my favorites is the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard. This credit card will give you $440 for FREE for your next vacation just by using a credit card like you normally would.
Don’t Eat Out Every Meal
One of my favorite things about traveling is eating out. That being said, I don’t need three restaurant meals per day. For one, I wouldn’t be able to fit into my pants by the end of the trip, and I’d be broke. We try to find a hotel that offers breakfast and has some sort of a kitchen. Homewood Suites is one that comes to mind. That way we can have breakfast on the hotel, buy and store food to pack for picnic lunches, and have a decadent dinner. We also stock up on bottled water and soft drinks from the grocery so we aren’t tempted to buy from a convenience store or at somewhere like Disneyland, where drinks are $3 a pop.
Everyone deserves the joy of a vacation, whether it’s a trip across town or overseas. With a little planning, you can save tons of money without sacrificing any of the fun. You might even have more fun knowing that you aren’t spending too much.
What are your favorite money saving travel tips? Do you have any trips on the horizon?
Kim is an optometrist who believes travel is essential to life. She blogs about her journey to achieving 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.