When our family goes on a vacation, we always want to have a good time. But, with the current economy as it is, it is always good to know how to stretch out those hard earned dollars, without having to sacrifice anything on the experience. I have been called the crazy coupon lady by my friends and family because of my bargain hunting ways. We have been blessed to be able to travel as much as we do but we couldn’t do it if I didn’t utilize some of my “tricks”. I thought I would share some of them with you!
- DRIVE don’t fly. While I understand that some people cannot do this due to their location and their destination location, if you are at all able to do it then it will save you money. We have driven from Dallas to Orlando about 6 times and we would do it again. With the outrageous prices of airfare nowadays, it’s a no brainier. Even with the high gas prices we were looking at a comparison of $520 in gas money vs. over $1200 for 4 airline tickets. We do not normally stop along the way but even if you stay at a low-cost hotel for the night it is still saving you over 50%. Look for fun places around where you live that you can handle the drive to. Try places you have never been before. You never know, it could end up being your best vacation yet?
- Catch deals BEFORE your trip. Sign up on Facebook,websites and coupon blogs.. There are hundreds of great savings blogs out there that post the most up to date offers and deals. For example, last time we went to Disney one of the blogs posted an offer from Kroger in which if you bought so many $$ in gift cards you got extra points to save on gas. Because we drove, this was a win-win situation. I bought Disney gift cards to use on our trip and racked up the gas points which saved us $$ on gas for the road trip. If there are items that you are looking to purchase for your trip, look for sales and free shipping offers.
- Travel with other family members or friends. Who doesn’t love a big family vacation? Combine your trip with that of your parents, siblings, cousins etc… Share a rental car and hotel…therefore sharing the cost too and cutting your expenses at least 50%. Is someone in the group an airline or hotel employee…senior or member of AAA? Take advantage of their travel discounts (if they let you!).
- Have a garage sale! We do this before every summer vacation. Over the year so much junk accumulates in the house that by the time the next summer rolls around, we are in the position to have a nice profit off of a garage sale. Go through your kids’ rooms as part of spring cleaning. Set the items aside until you are ready for the big day.
- Share meals at amusement parks. This is particularly helpful if your kids are younger. Instead of buying 2 adult meals and 2 kids meals…buy 3 adult meals and have your kids share one of them. If you aren’t a big eater, then buy a kids meal for yourself! They are not that much smaller than an adult meal usually (not at Disney anyway!) and after a week in the parks, this can be a huge savings!
- Stay at a vacation rental, not at a hotel. If this is at all possible, research rates on vacation rentals via online vacation rental sites . We do this when visiting anywhere other than Disney. Because there are so many perks to staying at a Disney property, we always stay on site. However, other places you will find that you can rent a 2-3 bedroom apartment, loft or house (!) for much less than you can stay in a small, cramped hotel room with just 2 beds and 1 bathroom. We have rented several properties in the past through this website and they have all been in pristine condition with very friendly owners. Also, if your rental has a kitchen you can take advantage of making your own breakfast or lunch therefore saving a few bucks there.
- If you go to Las Vegas and gamble….even if it is just a little….get the players card before you play. We haven’t paid for a hotel room in Vegas for over 10 years. This is because from our first visit we have been using our players cards everywhere we go. We get free room offers, free food, free slot play, discounted show tickets etc.. It keeps us going back because we know that all we have to pay for other than fun money is the travel getting there.
- Sign up for credit cards or shoppers cards that offer airline miles or cash back. If you like to fly rather than drive, this can be a huge deal for you. See if your favorite airline is running any promotions to get extra miles. I know that AA was doing a promotion that gave you a few thousand miles just for signing up You will save a lot of money and your kids will still have all the fun things that make a vacation special.
- Don’t buy drinks, bring them! My favorite thing is to buy boxes of instant drink packets (Crystal Light, Wylers etc.) when they are on sale and stock up for a few months before the trip. Then instead of buying sodas and bottled waters that can cost anywhere from $2-$5 each…ask for ice water at any of the quick service counters (it’s free!) and make your own drink. Carbonated drinks are dehydrating in the summer heat anyway so this is also a much healthier option! I empty the boxes and put the packets into Ziploc bags. Easy to carry and they don’t take up that much space.
- Don’t book your travel on 3rd party websites such as Expedia, Travelocity, Priceline, Hotwire etc… While these sites seem to be saving you money — you will lose out int he long run. These companies are 3rd party wholesalers. This means that they are allowed to have so many hotel rooms or airline tickets at a deeply discounted rate per day. Then they inflate the cost and sell to consumers on their websites. Most of the time, you are able to find the exact same or even lower deals just by going directly to the hotel or airlines regular website or your travel agent. Once you have booked with one of these wholesalers, consider yourself locked in completely. No changes are allowed, no cancellations and most importantly …. no refunds. And, if you do run into a problem and need to speak with someone be prepared to be put on infinite death hold until someone picks up — even then be expected to proficiently speak some obsolete foreign language just to get your point across. Have I made myself perfectly clear? Don’t do it.
- Consult with a travel agent. Along those same lines, I must mention how time-saving and money-saving this option is. Of course I’m biased but I actually didn’t realize what a lifesaver a travel agent can be until I started doing it for a living. Most of us live very busy and hectic lives. You probably don’t have time to scour the Internet for hours each day looking for travel deals and discounts. You definitely don’t have time to check them every single day, as deals change more than most people change their underwear. Have a travel agent can help you with this. We don’t charge you any fees (if yours does…find another one!) and have all of the resources to always find the best available deals. If something better comes up before your travel — we will find out about it and change it no problem! Have a cancellation or change? It’s ok, don’t panic. Your TA will take care of it for you and inform you of all of your options. Most importantly, we provide personalized service and peace of mind. We get to know you and your family and are here to make your vacation the most memorable one yet.
I hope you enjoyed my tips; I have many more however I will save them for another time. If you follow these guidelines, this will save you a ton of $$ and you can save that for other vacation experiences because memories last forever!
Do you have any $$ saving tips to share that I haven’t listed? I’d love to hear them! Please Comment.