My husband and I love to travel. However, we’ve found some creative ways to do so, while still sticking with our budget. How? Here are some simple ways we save:
We’ve done a lot of comparing and have found that you can almost always beat the prices you’d get over the phone or through a travel agency if you purchase airfare, hotel rooms, or car rental online. Some of our favorite sites to use are: Hotwire.com, Orbitz.com, and Travelocity.com.
If you’re willing to be adventuresome, you can purchase your hotel, flights, and rental car “blind” through Hotwire or Expedia and get a great deal. You’ll save at least $15 or $20 — often more! — if you’re willing to purchase the hotel room without knowing what hotel you are staying at. You can search by lowest price and star rating to see what prices are for the area you’ll be traveling to. We are typically able to find a three-star hotel for around $50-$60 per night this way.
Each site is a bit different and will offer you different rates and options. When we are making travel arrangements, we always check multiple sites to compare prices and options.
Note that some travel sites add the tax already into the final price shown and others don’t add this in until you checkout. Make sure that you know if there are any extra fees which will be added in when you’re comparing prices.
Unless you don’t mind staying in rather questionable hotels, I wouldn’t suggest getting anything less than a three-star hotel as we’ve learned the hard way that two-star hotels can be hit and miss and one-star hotels should be avoided altogether. (Ask me to tell you the story of the roaches and the guy trying to break into our room in San Antonio at the one-star hotel we stayed at there if you need further proof. Yikes!)
If you want to get to pick your hotel before you purchase or be able to get a refund if your travel plans change, I’d recommend going through Orbitz. They have great deals, they show you the price including fees, and they do not charge you if you cancel your reservation. Usually, their prices are a little higher, but it might be worth it to pay a little to know what hotel you’re reserving ahead of time, and to not be charged if you cancel your reservation.
Four Tips to Save on Online Travel Deals
1. Choose a Package Deal
You will usually save a substantial amount of money by purchasing airfare, hotel rooms, and car rental as a package deal. In fact, it’s usually a savings of 50% or more off the retail price to go this route. And sometimes, it’s even greater savings than that!
Even if you don’t really need to rent a car, but it would be nice to have, it’s worth checking into. Many times, you’ll actually save money by renting a car—as opposed to just getting a hotel and flight package.
2. Be Flexible with Dates and Times
The more flexible you are, the more possibilities there are for you to score a great discount. When you’re searching online for deals, I recommend inputting different dates and times to see if there is a significant price difference. Oftentimes, just being willing to go 12-24 hours sooner or later, you’ll be able to save $300 or more per person on a package deal.
3. Use a Coupon Code
When you’ve chosen which package deal you’re interested in, do a quick search for a coupon code. You can find these codes listed on sites like RetailMeNot.com. You can’t always find a coupon code for the travel site you’re booking through, but it’s worth checking on if it will save you $50—as the coupon codes often do!
4. Shop Through a Cashback Site
After you’ve compared prices, found the best package deal, and applied a coupon code, the final way to save is to shop through a cashback site. Do not overlook this important savings tip! Considering that most travel packages are around $300 or more per person and Ebates offers at least 1-3% cashback on orders through Orbitz.com, Travelocity.com, and Hotwire.com, your cashback earnings on travel purchases can quickly add up to a nice little bonus savings!
Call and Haggle for Your Hotel Price
Jesse loves to do this when we’re booking hotels. He’ll pick out a few hotels he’s interested in having us stay at and then he’ll call them and ask them for the best rate they can give us. We usually can’t get as great of rates as we can reserving the hotel online, but we almost always are able to get at least a 15-20% discount off the price they initially quote us.
Be sure to ask for any applicable discount that might apply to you (AAA membership, AARP, Military, etc.) and call knowing exactly what you’re willing to pay. If they aren’t willing to do it, call the next hotel on your list.
As always, though, be polite and courteous. There’s no need to get irritated at them if they aren’t willing to go down on the price. Many hotels have specific pricing policies and can’t go lower than a certain price point.
Sign Up For Groupon Deals
I love this idea that Kelli wrote about in her post on Using Groupon to Boost Your Vacation Budget:
As a reader of MoneySavingMom.com, there is a good chance you already enjoy the benefits of using Groupon. But have you considered using it to save money while on vacation?
Our family was recently planning a vacation and my cousin happened to send me a link to a mini-golf Groupon for one of the cities we’d be staying in. That triggered my mind, What if I signed up for the Groupon emails for those cities just until our vacation was over? I am so glad we did!
We love to eat out while we are on vacation and it is usually our main expense besides lodging. We like to try local places, and not stick with the chains. Groupon is great for that! For our vacation we not only bought vouchers for some local restaurants, but we also found a Groupon for a small local grocery store, where we were able to get ingredients for a few meals.
In addition, we found a Groupon for admission to a state park that saved us around $20. We also purchased a Groupon for an Imagination Movers show. With the four tickets we bought, we saved $84 from the at-the-door cost! Best of all, the kids loved it.
Walk In and Ask For a Bargain
We’ve done this before and it does have some advantages, namely that you’re able to scope out the hotels and area ahead of time, instead of just relying upon pictures or information on the internet. You usually won’t get quite as low of a price as you could have by purchasing through Hotwire, this works well if you need some flexibility in your travel plans or plan something at the last minute.
I recommend that you decide on a price you are willing to pay per night and then pick out a few hotels in the area to go into and ask for a deal. This approach works especially well if you’re traveling in the middle of the week or off-season when hotels are quite empty and are often more than willing to work with you to give you a discounted price. If you were going somewhere during a busy season, this approach likely won’t be as successful.
Planning a roadtrip? Check out my series on How to Have a Successful Roadtrip With Young Children. Also, check out Jenifer’s post on How to Save on Meals While on Vacation.
If you’re more adventuresome than our family and love to camp, read Jackie’s post on How to Plan a Frugal Camping Trip.
Three Steps to Paying Cash for a Vacation
1. Set A Goal and Break It Down Into Bite-Sized Pieces
A lot of people want to go on paid-for vacations, but few actually sit down and make a plan to make it happen without debt. Do you want to go on a three-day road trip in six months from now or a week-long cruise in three years from now?
Either way, you need to sit down and figure out how much it is approximately going to cost (I recommend rounding up the amount you think it will cost in order to give you some wiggle room in case it ends up costing more than you’ve planned on.). Once you have a set figure for how much you plan to spend on your vacation, break that down into monthly and weekly savings goals.
Let’s say you want to go on a three-day road trip as a family in December. If you calculate that it will cost you $500 ($250 for hotel, $100 for gas, $150 for food + attractions) and you have around six months to save, than you’ll need to come up with an extra $84 each month or $21 each week.
2. Make a Plan of Action
Once you’ve figured out where you want to go, how much it is going to cost and how much you need to save each week, you can devise a plan of action. What specific actions are you going to take to save the money for your vacation?
If you don’t have extra money in your budget to divert to a special vacation savings, think of things you could cut from your budget to free up the necessary money. To take our previous example, if you have a goal to save $21 each week for your three-day December road trip, that could mean giving up dinner out each week or shaving that money off your grocery budget by using coupons or playing the Drugstore Game.
3. Put On Your Thinking Cap
If you feel like there’s no way you can squeeze any extra out of your budget or lower an of your expenses, there are still ways to save money for a vacation, if it’s something that’s really important to you. You could have a garage sale, sell some items you no longer need on Craigslist or eBay, mow lawns, babysit, take on a small cleaning job, start a side freelance business, teach classes… the possibilities are endless. Think about things you are good at or love to do and consider how you could earn extra income by investing a few hours each week into them.
When you set a goal, work hard, and finally reach it, it’s very rewarding and fulfilling. And you can enjoy your vacation without having to feel guilty or worry about how you are going to afford to pay for it later!