Everyone deserves a vacation now and then, and it doesn't have to break the bank! The trick is to know how to make the most of your vacation dollars. Cheap flights to exotic destinations don’t have to cost an arm and a leg, and there are options out there for families with young children.
Here are some solutions to the most common money problems you might face while planning a trip.
- Check prices regularly. Everyone knows about Travelocity and Priceline, but there are some lesser-known sites that compare prices and send email alerts if a selected fare has changed. FareCompare sends email alerts when prices change for your favorite trips, and signing up is easy and free! Also, they have traveling tips, deals and even a mobile app to alert you to changes in flights. Yapta helps you get a refund for the difference if the price of your flight drops below what you paid. Yapta, like FareCompare, also sends alerts when prices change.
- If traveling outside of the U.S., try using an airline company that isn’t based in the U.S. Which Budget has flights for every budget and, even better, there are no fees or commission! If you are traveling within Europe, you can save a lot of money by flying on a discount airline instead of on a major carrier. They use the euro as currency, making one-way flights equivalent to approximately $40!
- Compare costs at various discount European airways by visiting easyJet, My Air and Jet4you.
- Get gas tank savvy. Trip Advisor's “Tank of Gas” tool shows users exactly how far they can go for a tank of gas. Type in the starting city and indicate how much gas you want to use (full, half, or quarter tank). The tool lists destinations within reach, including how many miles and estimated cost on gas. This is a great tool to use to gauge the cost of a day trip with the kids on a weekend!
- Visit a national park. It is completely free to walk around in the national parks, and most other activities like kayaking, hiking tours and sightseeing tours in the national parks are very cheap. To find a nearby national park, check out U.S. National Park Service or Discover America.
- Make an itinerary. Affordable trip guide books can be found on Amazon. If you have children traveling with you, I recommend “National Geographic Kids Ultimate U.S. Road Trip Atlas” for as low as $2 used or $3 new! I also recommend using Trip Advisor (tripadvisor.com) to create a custom itinerary while searching for good deals.
On a big family vacation
- Rent a house or a condo. When vacationing with the aunts, uncles and cousins, too, renting a house or condo can be a lot cheaper.
- HomeAway lets users search for homes by destination and travel date and refine searches based on preferences.View photos, availability, location and reviews for potential vacation homes. If you find one you like, contact multiple owners to confirm availability. Sometimes, if it is in the off-season, they can negotiate pricing, which makes it even more affordable and convenient.
- Wyndham Vacation Rentals is a good resource for special deals and/or last minute vacations.
- Keep the hotel choice simple and avoid frills. Visit Choice Hotels and Cheap Tickets for affordable lodging options.
Other money-saving tips:
- Go online to buy any tickets you will need (ferry rides, museums, etc) in advance. Most places offer deals when you buy ahead of time.
- Carry a calculator to track spending. By planning everything in advance it is possible to know how much to set aside for meals and souvenirs. Always bring a little extra for miscellaneous purchases.
This is a guest post by Candi from Pittsburgh, PA
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