In December, we’ll be celebrating our 3 year anniversary. Our little tradition so far has been taking a vacation. Since we’re getting a townhouse a month before our vacation, however, we’re scaling back a bit this year. After talking with some friends about saving money on travel, I have some more tips to share.
Planning ahead and looking at the total costs of going on vacation can help you control your spending. Some people spend frivolously on vacation and then wonder where their money went. Like everything, prioritize your spending.
My husband and I like to have memorable trips, and love taking pictures as our main mementos. Some people like grabbing gifts and other like to spend money on food. Pick one or two areas where you want to splurge and cut back on the rest. It is possible to have a good time on vacation and not spend a lot of money.
While I share some things that have worked well for us and our friends, see if you can add some more tips in the comments. I’d love for everyone’s next vacation to be both fun and frugal.
Getting a car rental for the trip
We usually have a rental car for the trip. We’d like to avoid wear and tear on our cars since we usually drive some distance. We also like the option of turning in the rental car if there is a problem and exchanging it for another. It’s less hassle than finding a shop while out of town and getting a repair made.
Last year we tried renting a car through Priceline, and it worked well for us. We started low with a bid of$11/day. We then slowly raised that number until we got an offer. We ended up getting a mid-size car for $14/day plus tax.
Before going to pick up the rental I checked with my car insurance company to see if they provide rental car coverage. Our policy, like many others, will transfer all our liability and collision coverage to a rental driven in place of our own car.
If you’ve ever priced insurance at the rental counter, you know free insurance coverage is a huge savings. If you’re planning on renting with a credit card, you should also check to see if the card issuer offers any sort of insurance coverage.
Eating on road trips
If you’re driving to destination, I suggest packing plenty of snacks and drinks for the trip. This will save you from impulsively buying expensive snacks at gas stations and also cut down on stopping for breaks on the road. We also estimate our trip time and plan for a longer lunch stop to eat and relax. Using Google Maps, we can usually find a nice local spot that’s affordable.
Saving money on airfare
Friends of mine recommend using Kayak to compare airfares. It saves them time aggregating the best fares from several top sites at once. One friend is currently out in Oregon visiting family and friends — she got two cross-country tickets for $149 total! Her tip is to plan ahead and check repeatedly as prices change constantly.
If you’re also considering smaller, budget airlines, Nora Dunn (a world traveler) suggests using Which Budget to see if you can find better rates.
Packing for a vacation
If you’re flying, pack light to avoid luggage fees from the airlines. Call your airline ahead of time to find out about their baggage policy and fees. Travel expert Anne McAlpin’s “Pack it Up” has some wonderful tips on packing your carry on bag and for airport security.
- Keep your clothes basic and choose outfits that work interchangeably with your shoes and accessories. If you’re traveling during the winter season, bring items to layer. If you’re traveling during warmer weather, McAlpin suggests getting some clothes made of natural fabrics.
- Take inexpensive jewelry with you when you travel. Leave your nice pieces at home. The exception, of course, is your wedding ring.
- Go easy on shoes. Make sure you have comfortable walking shoes, dress shoes for nice dinner, and possibly sandals.
- Bring dryer sheets to de-static your knit items and help keep your luggage smelling fresh.
- Take a photo of what you’ve packed in case the airline loses your luggage. It can be hard to remember who’s bag had what.
- If you like to pack lots of clothes, consider getting compression bags. They can save you space and reduce your luggage count (but not weight).
- Don’t stress out over getting luggage insurance. You may already be covered by the airline, your credit card (if you bought the tickets with it), or your homeowner’s insurance.
Making the most of your hotel
We again used Priceline to bid on a comfortable hotel near Disney World and ended up paying 1/3 of their regular prices. When we placed our bid, we requested a three star or higher property, and low-balled our price. We got accepted on our first bid (maybe we should’ve bid lower!) and wound up near both Universal Studios and a friend who lives just outside of Orlando — knowing a local person can be an invaluable resource.
When you get to the hotel, be pleasant with the staff and ask them for some local recommendations for places to eat. I use to work as a front desk clerk while in college, and I loved to help tourists discover local spots. Doing this can both save money and help you find a memorable place to eat. I would also ask the concierge (if they have one) for some smaller events that are happening around town.
Cutting your expenses home
If nobody will be in your house when you’re away, go ahead and unplug some appliances such as your microwave, toaster oven, computer, and stereo. Our electric company, Progress Energy, notes that “up to 75 percent of the energy used in home offices is consumed when the electronics are plugged in, but not in use.” You might also want to change your thermostat you’re out of town.
Do you have any further suggestions for planning a fun and fugal vacation?