For the first time in 3 years, over 60% of Americans are reporting that they will be taking acutal vacations this year instead of opting for the “staycation.” Along with vacation planning, is planning to lose lots of your savings trying to make a memorable trip. This doesn’t have to be the case. There are many ways to enjoy a high-class, fun vacation on a dime. The idea that a great vacation equals a great amount of money is a thing of the past. Here are a few tips I’ve learned over the years on how to keep traveling budget friendly but make the most out of your time away.
Traveling by Plane
- If you can, wait until 2 to 3 weeks from your departure date to purchase your ticket. Travel sites love to play with your mind by placing ticket prices up and down 2 to 3 months out from a departure date. If you can wait it out, all trickery stops around 3 weeks. By that time they are just set on selling the ticket and making some type of profit.
-Use the right sites to get those discounts. Everyone knows about Expedia, Orbitz, etc. But have you tried, what I like to call, an ultimate travel aggregator site? These are sites that look at all of the discount travel sites at one time and put up the best deals for you from those sites. So, it’s a site that posts the best deals out of the best deals. Try Bookingbuddy.com; it’s a easy site to use and produces some great finds for the budget savvy traveler.
-Prep your body. Travel, especially on a plane, can wreck havoc on your immune system. You can try to avoid a full body meltdown by preparing your body for travel a few days before. Grab some store brand Airborne and take it up until you day of travel. Also, keep up your fluid intake the days before, and the actual day of travel. This may seem trivial, but it really does make a difference.
- Research your airport rules and set yourself up for success. Nowadays, airports won’t allow outside food or liquids, which means that carefully packed lunch from home may be confiscated at security. One way to get around this is to think far ahead; once your are in the terminal there will be places to eat with high prices. There will also be a Starbucks. Lately, that seems to be a constant at all airports. Grab yourself a Starbucks gift card a week or so before you leave. While you are waiting, or if you get stuck waiting for a flight, you’ll have a 10 or 20 dollar standby right in your pocket. Starbucks always has sandwiches, waters, and even fruit at their airport stores, so you can nosh on those and stay within the budget of your gift card. BONUS: register your card and you can get some cool discounts in the future! Just keep reloading the card before any trip.
Road Trip Travel
- PACK FOOD. I think this is one of the most known, and simple, steps to a success frugal road trip, but somehow it gets lost when doing all the packing and car maintenance. Food on the road, whether it’s from a fast food place or rest stop, is unnecessarily expensive. By packing at least some snacks, you are cutting your expenses probably in half. Grab these items when they are on sale at the grocery store, along with bottled waters or box juices, and store them until it’s time to travel. At every gas stop, pass out a snack. Depending on how far you are traveling, you may be able to keep hunger at bay until you reach your destination, or at least until 3/4th of the trip is behind you.
-Keep car maintenance on the cheap. Getting the car ready for a big trip can also create a big expense, if you don’t know where to go to get discounts. Keep a lookout for your Valpak mailings; most coupons for car maintenance businesses are located in there. Once spring and summer rolls around, it seems like all auto places are fighting to add freon to your car, or give you a great deal on tires. Take advantage of these offers and even mix and match jobs; if one place is offering a great deal on tires and the other will do a tune up for half the price of any other business, use them both. If you don’t get a Valpak to your house, call around to the auto businesses in your area and ask about their specials. They’ll be eager to tell you and even book you right over the phone. If prices are too high, ask for a lower one. The worst they can say is no.
- Have a gas buddy. The website gasbuddy.com has been a savior for us when we travel to Ohio a few times a year. I can look up where the cheapest gas is in the area we are traveling, and we can get off at whatever exit and save some instant coin. Gas buddy was even turned into an app, so now I can use it right on my Iphone.
Tomorrow, I’ll talk about how to get the best deals on hotels, times shares, and even houses. We’ll also discuss how to eat cheaply once you reach your destination.
Do you all have some tips you’d like to share about traveling cheaply? I’d love to hear them!