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Planning a Trip? Save Money on Travel with These Tips
The big vacation you’ve been dreaming of taking is finally in the works. Chances are you’ve diligently saved money for your trip and have set a budget for how much you want to spend. Though you might be worried that the words “budget” and “fun” don’t necessarily go hand in hand, limiting your spending doesn’t need to ruin your vacation. In fact, there are a range of ways to save money on everything from transportation to dining and entertainment. Here are some ideas to consider before your next trip to minimize your spending while maximizing your fun.
How to Make Your Money Go Further
From airfares, to hotels, to entertainment – buying and booking in advance is a guaranteed money-saver
Airfare: Travel experts suggest booking your airline tickets three to six weeks before you plan to fly. Booking too late (or even too early) can force you to pay far higher prices for your flights, so timing is key. Another way to save money on airfare is to give yourself some leeway on departure and return dates. You might be surprised how much you can save by waiting a day or two – ticket prices could rise or fall as much as $50 or more in some cases.
Hotels: With hotels, you can start to comparison shop up to six weeks before your stay, but you should generally wait until 21 days before your check-in date to book. It pays to be diligent about checking rates on your favorite websites for deals, as the best rooms might sell out. If you find a price that’s too good to pass up, or if you just love to plan in advance, go ahead and pull the trigger when you find that perfect deal.
Tickets: It’s almost always more expensive to buy at the box office or travel desk, so when your dates are set, start checking for discounts immediately to save up to 20% off list price. The time of year can affect the price you pay for a ticket – visiting attractions during off-peak times will typically get you reduced prices at venues like amusement parks. The time of day you visit an attraction can impact your ticket price, as well. Some amusement parks, for example, offer discounted rates for late entrances.
But it doesn’t stop there – you can find a myriad of other discounts, like Groupon deals, offers on attractions’ websites, or miscellaneous discount codes. You may want to consider travel apps such as Skyscanner and Hopper, which are great for finding good discounts on airline tickets, or Gas Buddy, which can show you the cheapest gas stations in your area. When it comes to theme parks, if you plan on going to a park over multiple days, look for an annual pass, which lets you return to the park for the rest of the year at a price that is about the same as a one-day ticket.
Although dealing with checked bag fees of $20-25 per bag has become the airline industry norm, many major airlines still allow you to take carry-on bags at no additional charge (discount airlines may charge a fee). To save money, try to pack light and put everything into a small bag that you can carry on the plane. By eliminating the stuff you don’t actually need to take along, like the shampoo and toothpaste that your hotel will provide, you can reduce the volume and weight of your baggage. Keep in mind that overweight luggage can rack up additional charges beyond the checked bag fee.
Stay with Friends and Family
Staying with family or friends at your destination can reduce travel costs considerably. Depending on where you’re traveling, the price of a standard hotel room could be as high as $300 per night. Instead of spending that money on a place to sleep, redirect those funds towards other experiences.
Choose Meals and Snacks Wisely
Everyone knows that buying food at the movie theater, the amusement park, or any other major tourist attraction is going to cost at least 30% more than food elsewhere. So instead of eating at the attraction, grab a bite to eat before you get there. The best option is to hit the supermarket and stock up on some groceries, especially if your accommodations have a refrigerator, stove, or microwave oven. A nice restaurant may offer you a decent value over the prices at attractions, or try packing a lunch and bringing it with you to the amusement park.
Use Public Transportation:
Depending on your destination, renting a car may not be necessary. Do a little homework before you book your travel reservations and look into what public transportation options are available. You may save money by trading vehicle rentals cost, parking fees, and gas for a bus fare, train ticket, or taxi ride instead.
This can be tough if you are bringing your kids with you, but setting a souvenir budget is key for keeping travel costs down. Giving yourself or your children a set allowance or limiting the number of souvenirs at each site can prevent you from going broke halfway through the trip. If you are able to get by with just photographs as souvenirs, try take your own pictures and skip the professionally shot prints that will cost you an arm and a leg.
Hunt out Discounts
If you’re traveling to a particularly tourist-friendly area, many of the local businesses will likely offer discounts to get people in the door. A student ID or a military ID can lead to a myriad of discounts on just about everything, and an AAA membership can get you deep discounts on food, lodging, and tickets to all of the hottest attractions.
How to Save on International Travel
While the tips above can help you save money anywhere you go, international trips may require a bit more planning. While traveling internationally creates the potential for extra kinds of expenses, you can still save money if you’re prepared ahead of time. Check out these tips for travels that take you across the border or overseas.
Avoid Cell Phone Charges
Before you fly, consider switching your current plan to an international plan to save money on high roaming charges. You may also find some apps for your phone that can help you find free internet access, like WiFi Map and WiFi Finder.
Avoid Foreign Transaction Fees
Credit card issuers apply foreign transaction fees to all transactions conducted in a foreign country. However, some issuers with a worldwide presence do issue cards without foreign transaction fees – consider applying for these if you plan to charge expenses abroad.
Avoid ATM Fees
Credit cards might not always be a common method of payment in the places you are traveling abroad. Using your ATM card to get cash can end up costing you in both foreign transaction and ATM fees. Set up a checking account before you leave home with a bank that offers no foreign transaction fees and rebates on ATM fees if you anticipate needing access to frequent ATM withdrawals.
Don’t Forget Insurance!
If you’re planning an expensive or lengthy vacation, you should consider protecting your trip with travel insurance. It’s not cheap – it can factor in as much as 9% of your total trip cost – but it can be worth your while if you’re concerned about your own or a loved one’s health or unexpected travel hiccups.
The most common travel insurance offerings include:
- Trip cancellation: This coverage protects you if your tour or cruise provider goes out of business; it will also cover your trip if you have to cancel due to personal illness, a family emergency, or bad weather.
- Trip interruption: This type of coverage protects reimburses some of your expenses if your trip is interrupted due to illness, bad weather, or natural disasters.
- Trip delay: Trip delay coverage can help reimburse additional expenses for your hotel and meals if your departure is delayed.
- Baggage and personal belongings: This policy covers lost, stolen, or damaged personal belongings; some variations offer coverage if your baggage is delayed for over 12 hours, as well. Before you invest in this policy, double check that your home or renter’s insurance does not offer the same coverage.
- Rental car coverage: This coverage subsidizes the cost of repairing your rental car, should you get in an accident. Check with your auto insurance before purchasing this policy, as some auto insurance will cover rental cars automatically.
- Emergency medical assistance, evacuation, and repatriation: These types of coverage reimburse certain medical expenses if you fall ill during your trip. Again, before you purchase this coverage, make sure that your health insurance wouldn’t provide the same services.
- Accidental death and dismemberment: These policies pay a lump sum to your beneficiary in the event of your death, or to you in the event of your dismemberment. Before you buy these policies, check with your life insurance.
Before you purchase any type of travel insurance, read the policy closely for its exclusions and limits. For example, many medical policies will not cover preexisting conditions. Likewise, personal belongings travel insurance often maxes out at $1,000, and emergency medical assistance often maxes out at $50,000. As with any significant purchase, a close read of the terms and conditions can save you from a significant headache.
Traveling doesn’t always have to break the bank. Being smart when it comes to planning your trip and budgeting your money can go a long way towards saving some cash. Making small changes to the way you think about how to get around, where to stay, and what to eat while traveling can give you the extra help you need when your budget is tight. Following these tips to find the best deals, avoid unnecessary fees, and budget wisely can help you and your family make the most of your next vacation.