Taking a frugal vacation doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice fun. Regardless of your destination, there are still steps that you can take to save some of your hard-earned money. This list of ten items will help you to have a great time with your family, without breaking the bank:
Flexible travel schedule—So, when is the best time to plan your vacation and book a flight? Research has shown that the best time to book a flight is on a Tuesday at 3pm EST, 50-100 days out. Apparently, airlines release their new fares for the week on Tuesdays, so that is the time that there is the most competition for your dollars. Take a look at the different pricing options for leaving a few days earlier or later because you may also notice that you can save a few bucks by traveling on certain days of the week. Of course, as you get closer to the time that you want to vacation, and flights and hotels begin to fill up, you will start to see price increases. On the other hand, if you are totally flexible, you may be able to book last minute to get cheaper flights and deals on hotel rooms that haven’t yet filled. Unless your plans can be easily altered though, you may want to stick with the 50-100-days-out option.
Take advantage of the free continental breakfast at the hotel—this can save you a minimum of $20-40 per day, depending on where you may choose to eat breakfast with the family. Even though breakfast is typically the cheapest meal of the day, it is still worthwhile to eat for free, if possible. Saving that $20 to $40 every day can go toward souvenirs, or just make your vacation a little less costly.
Ask about discounts—so many hotels and tourist attractions offer discounts for AAA members, military, teachers, and of course, senior citizens. Even if you don’t fit into any of these categories, you can still ask the customer service representative about specific hotel specials or any other discounts that they offer. Even if you have looked up prices online, if you have the time to call, you may very well uncover additional discounts or savings that do not show up online.
Rewards programs—many hotel or resort chains offer a rewards program. They are free to join and you can earn points for staying at that same chain each time you vacation. If you are taking a week-long vacation, you may even earn enough points to get a free night or two away during the year, or just save the points until you vacation again. Most programs are not timely to set up and, typically, the points don’t expire, so if you don’t need them right away, they can benefit you down the road.
Go with a group—most major attractions offer discount pricing to groups. Even if you have as few as ten people in your group, you may be able to qualify for group pricing. If the entire family meets up for vacation every year anyways, you may as well save a little extra. Group pricing often requires you to plan ahead though, so make sure to call ahead of time to see how the amusement park or attraction handles group ticketing and pricing.
Join the ASTC travel Passport Program (Association of Science – Technology Centers)—this may not be something that you are aware of, but there are over 250 science centers and museums that are a part of this program. Once you pay for a membership at one, you are eligible to visit ANY other and gain free admission (the only exception is that you DO NOT get free admission to any other science center within 90 miles of where you originally purchased your membership). With science centers and museums that are part of this program all over the world, you may very well be able to take advantage of this program on your next vacation.
Rent a condo or house—while hotels can be really convenient, and maybe even have amenities that a condo or house does not, such as a pool, room service, housekeeping, or exercise facility, they can also end up being really costly. Often times, you can rent a home for an entire week for the same price that you may pay for just a few nights at a resort. Another perk of a condo or house is that there is a full kitchen. Taking the time to make your own food, at least for some of the meals, can save you a lot of money overall. One such website that offers great pricing is Vacation Rentals By Owner (VRBO).
Stock your room with snacks and bottled water—whether you are driving or flying, make sure that you have enough snacks and bottled water. If you can stop by a store like Walmart and get a few snack items, this will prevent you from having to buy expensive items from a vending machine or nearby snack bar. I don’t know about you, but I have three kids, and they are always in need of water or a snack.
Utilize complementary transportation or public transportation—depending on where you are going, you may be able to take complementary transportation from the airport to the hotel, or from the hotel to an amusement park. Or larger urban areas, it may even be possible to take a bus, train, or subway at a much cheaper rate than actually renting a car.
Limit the amount of souvenirs—while it can be tempting to want to buy an expensive souvenir at the hotel gift shop or from a major attraction, you will spend double, or even triple, what a similar souvenir would cost from a discount shop that is located offsite. Don’t forget, taking pictures or videos can be just as much of a memento of the vacation as a trinket can—and those don’t cost a thing.
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