Do these rainy days have you dreaming up your next vacation? If you’re like me, after a long winter and (hopefully) a nice tax refund, you may be planning your next getaway.
I have a thirst for traveling. I spent several years living abroad and traveling around the United States and Europe. As a 20-something millennial, this has been something that my wallet has felt. However, over the years I have developed some money saving habits that have really paid off.
While dreams of flip flops, Piña Coladas and palm trees may be filling our minds, check out my list of 7 travel tips to help you save money and get the most out of your vacation.
Off-season and shoulder-season
Traveling during peak-season is bad for your wallet and your overall experience. Resorts, museums, tourist attractions are crowded, lines are long and prices are higher. I took a magnificent vacation in Italy in September which would be considered the “shoulder-season” – not quite the peak season but not quite the low season. This resulted in better hotel and flight rates and less crowds. As a bonus – It was still warm enough in Sicily to take a dip in the Mediterranean!
Credit card rewards
Credit card companies love to incentivize potential customers to use their card. Whether it’s a great sign-up bonus, reward miles/points or cash back on travel purchases, you can use credit cards all year to save for your vacations. Check out The Points Guy – a website all about travel and reward miles. The founder of the site quit his job on Wall Street after traveling the world, flying first class, and staying in luxury hotels for less than the price of coach and a hostel …all thanks to reward points! Just make sure that you are paying off your credit card every month – otherwise the interest you will be paying will off-set your savings.
Pick your favorites
The last time I flew to London – my flight was free solely using airmiles. It always surprises me how many people fly on random airlines just for the sake of getting the best deal available at the time. Saving $50 today on your flight may not be worth it if you can get a $800 flight for free down the road. If you know you like Delta, American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, etc., try to fly with them as often as you can and make sure you collect airmiles. Some airlines are part of a group of airlines that share airmiles, meaning you have more options and better prices. Once you know which airline is your favorite, make sure you get on their mailing list – they often have deals on flights that can save you hundreds of dollars. This logic also applies to hotels, car rental companies and even travel sites (like Expedia).
If you can live without a concierge and an on-site restaurant, you can get amazing deals and a more local experience with rentals. With websites such as Airbnb, booking a rental is simple. You can read reviews, see pictures, talk to the host of the property well in advance of your trip to know exactly what to expect. We’ve stayed in some amazing Airbnb properties in Europe which were just as nice as 4 star hotels for the fraction of the cost! As a bonus – property hosts are typically locals and very knowledgeable of the area, they can give you the best tips on where to eat (like a local), what parts of the city to avoid, where the best live music is, etc.
Location, location, location
When visiting a new city, it may be tempting to stay in the city center. It’s convenient and seemingly close to everything. However, several problems could arise. Staying in a tourist area usually means that the nearby restaurants are overpriced and the food isn’t authentic. Yes, you can get bad Duck Confit in Paris if you eat at one of the many touristy restaurants by the Eiffel Tour. Not to say you can’t get a great meal in that area, it’s just less likely to be authentic and reasonably priced. With a little research, you can stay a short ride away from the city center at an amazing hotel (or rental) for a better value and a more authentic and local experience. Tourist areas in the city center can also be noisy and crowded in the evening, impacting your sleep and jet lag recovery time. Just note that some cities offer better public transportation/ car rental options than others – so make sure wherever you stay, you can easily get to attractions in a reasonable amount of time.
Rebates & cash back
When booking your trip, look out for websites and rebate companies offering deals. Sites such as Ebates often offer cash back on top of deals offered by other travel sites – potentially saving you hundreds of dollars.
Book on time
Research suggests that the best time to book a domestic flight is 54 days before your departure date[i]. For international flights, the date varies. Check out the map[ii] below to see when the best time to book is for your destination.
Bonus Tip – Browse in incognito mode
A practical example:
Let’s say you are planning a tropical getaway this upcoming winter. You go over to your favorite travel website, Expedia. At the same time, Expedia is offering cruise deals[iii] (shoulder-season and off-season). A Norwegian 7-day Caribbean Cruise can be booked for $949 (base price) for December 2017. The same cruise can be booked for $549 for January 2018. This is a one month difference and a $400 price difference per person. For a family of 4, you book the cruise in January for $2,196 and save $1,600.
The savings don’t have to stop there. You head over to Ebates and save an additional 10%[iv] on your cruise booked through Expedia – saving you an additional $219.60.
In the end, the same family of 4 could go on the exact same cruise 1 month apart from each other and one family would pay $3,746, while the second family would pay $1,996.
If you’ve really done your job, you will also be using a travel rewards credit card and you will get reward points for Norwegian and Expedia (Expedia is offering double expedia reward points when booking through their App) and save even more money on your future trips.
If you have any questions on any of the websites I mentioned or if you want to share your own tips and experiences, feel free to reach out to me!
[iii] On the day of writing this – December 30th, 2016
[iv] The rebate offered on the day of writing this – December 30th, 2016
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