This post is from staff writer Suba Iyer.
Memorial Day weekend has officially kicked off the summer travel season. The wet weather is Portland, Ore. is making me dream of all the sunny vacations I could possibly take. I almost planned a last-minute vacation for the Memorial Day weekend and had to take a pause to rethink whether we can afford to actually spend what I was planning to spend.
The answer is no, we have a lot of expenses coming up this summer; we cannot afford to take an expensive vacation without any planning. But that doesn’t mean I am going to put my life on hold. I am planning to take at least two weekend or long weekend trips every month this summer. Most of it will be road trips with a couple of long distance trips thrown in. We plan to make it affordable by using every single resource available to us to get us the best value for our money.
Ways to save money on vacations has evolved a lot with the ever-changing technology and new media. The tried and true tips still work, if you want to brush up on them, here are a few posts from Nickel - How to save money on vacations, Saving money on travel, Eight ways to stretch your vacation dollar and More tips for saving money on vacation travel.
What I will be covering in this post is how to take advantage of new technology advances and social media to get better value for the money.
Image credit : Jason Howie
How to save money on vacation using social media
Tweet and follow the savings
I have a love and hate relationship with Twitter. I hate it when people tweet every single thing they do, but I can’t say I don’t love the savings and the customer service I get via Twitter.
- Coupons and deals: These days the best way to get notification for great deals or coupons is to follow the airline, hotel and rental companies. All the online deal sites (like Airfarewatchdog) have a Twitter presence too. Create a separate list for travel related tweets, this will keep your inbox clean and still give you a summary of deals available for the day.
- Better customer service: I have gotten better rooms by tweeting about my stay at hotels. I have also expedited my refund request for a cancelled flight by contacting customer service via Twitter. Companies are trying to keep their social image clean, so instead of emailing, filling out a contact form or waiting forever on the phone to get hold of a human, tweeting has been a great way to connect with customer service.
Treasure hunt on Foursquare or Facebook Places
- Unlock destination deals: When you get to a restaurant, new city or any store, if you are willing to let everyone know that you are there and check-in, Foursquare and Facebook Places will offer you customized savings deals for that specific place that you can use right away.
- Receive bonus points or rewards: Some companies will offer you bonus points (for their loyalty program) if you check-in via Foursquare or other social media outlets. For example, Starwood Hotels offers bonus Starpoints if you check-in via Foursquare or Facebook.
Plan your vacation via Pinterest, Yelp & Facebook
- Figure out where to vacation: Pinterest has been my latest time sink. I like browsing boards where people have pinned places they would like to visit. With so many photos from very different sources, I can get a great overview of any place. I do not have to rely on professional photos and later be disappointed. After virtual touring, I then create alerts for my favorite places via various online tools to see if I can grab a great deal on them.
- Make sure to avoid tourist traps: Yelp and Facebook are great places to ask questions. By combining suggestions from your friends and strangers, you can plan your trip, avoiding tourist traps and hit hidden treasures.
Smart savings at your finger tips
If you have a smartphone but are not taking advantage of the savings via apps, you are missing out. Here are some apps that I love.
- Gas Buddy: A popular app to find the best gas prices. It uses the GPS in your phone to find all the gas stations and the prices in your location in real time. (Available on iPhone and Android)
- Skype, WhatsApp and Viber: I personally use Skype to make calls via WiFi instead of using roaming minutes. There are other apps like WhatsApp that allows you message anyone without any fees (They do charge $0.99 either one time or yearly as a subscription fee depending on the type of phone). Viber that lets you talk to or message other Viber users for free.
- GetAround or Lyft: Instead of renting a car for the whole day or taking the cab, you can give your business to a local by renting from them or getting a lift from them. You can locate your ride by using these apps. If you frequently rent a car hourly, Zipcar and Hertz 24/7 might be a great fit for you.
- Yelp: You can check out reviews of any restaurant and get recommendations on what to order.
- Blackboard eats or Scoutmob: If you are visiting a major city, chances are you can find great deals on restaurants (10-50 percent off) through these apps. There are always social deal sites like Groupon or Living Social to get restaurant vouchers to try new restaurants.
- Eat out with Kids: If you have kids this is a great app to have. You can find kids-eat-free places or restaurants with discounted kids’ meals.
- Expensify: Keep track of your spending to make sure you are on track with your budget. If you have to expense any part of your trip, this app makes that task very easy as well.
Get online and save money
- Yapta: Have you ever seen the prices go down just after you book the trip? A lot of companies price match their own prices but you have to do the due diligence and keep checking the prices to see if they have gone down so that you can ask for a price match. Yapta does this for you. You enter you trip details – flight, hotel, rental car and the software will keep checking the prices for you. You will be notified if the prices go down and you can submit the price match request to your airline. This way you can be sure you are not overpaying for the trip just because you booked it a day early.
- TripIt: Keep the entire itinerary and the confirmation numbers in one place so you don’t miss anything.
- Tripadvisor and FindMeetGo: Tripadvisor is an excellent place to start your research, ask for advice on places to visit and refine trip plans. FindMeetGo is a new tool I am planning to use this summer to find other travelers visiting the same location at the same time you are visiting. You can team up, share tips and make your trip more fun.
- Blogs: There are plenty of blogs that focus on individual cities with a treasure trove of information on great places to visit or free things to do in a city.
While this isn’t a comprehensive list, I wanted to highlight the potential for saving a lot on travel by using all the online and mobile resources that are available to us. These are some of the tools that I use to make my travel more affordable.
How do you use the latest technology and social media to save money on your vacations? What are your favorite apps to save money?