Hey everybody! Since we decided to take a sweet vacation this week, we thought we would leave you with this awesome guest post about saving on travel from our friend Kendal Perez. Please give her a warm welcome and be sure to check out her site as well. If you are interested in guest posting, please see our guest posting guidelines. Enjoy!
As a bargain shopper and avid money-saver, I put a lot of effort into finding ways to cut travel costs. My pursuit of savings is getting increasingly more challenging, however, as the travel industry becomes more expensive. New airline fees are announced nearly every day, and road trips are tough to afford with gas prices soaring over $3.50 per gallon.
Despite my efforts, some things I’ve done to save money have backfired on both my budget and my travel experience. To help you avoid the same pitfalls, I’ve come up with a few do’s and don’ts for saving money on travel.
DO Shop Strategically for Flights Airfare is one of the biggest travel expenses next to hotels, so it pays to be strategic when researching flights. Be sure to factor in the cost of checked bags when comparing prices, and be prepared to book when a good deal presents itself. I’ve always had luck finding the best fares on Tuesday afternoon. I’ve also scored some good prices during moments of insomnia – apparently not many people book flights at 2:00 a.m.
DON’T Stay in Cheap Hotels I’ve stayed in some nasty places. Our room in Florida was subject to a scary, late-night teenage prank; our hotel room in Tucson featured a broken lamp, complete with upended lamp shade; and the place in Steamboat was previously occupied by a heavy smokers. Take it from someone who knows: Hotels are an important part of your vacation. While five-star accommodations aren’t necessary, it’s better to be safe and tetanus-free.
DO Scope Out B&Bs Bed and breakfasts are my new thing in vacation accommodations. In addition to being more comfortable than chain hotels (in my opinion), innkeepers are the premier resource for the best local eateries and attractions. A great way to save on B&Bs is by purchasing a discount gift card to BedandBreakfast.com through GiftCardGranny. By using the gift card to pay for your room, you’ll save up to 18-percent instantly.
DON’T Overlook Nearby Attractions When I visited San Francisco a couple years ago, I booked an incredible wine country tour for just $99. Similarly, I found time to tour Valley Forge while in Philadelphia for a fairly intense three-day wedding. Ultimately, it’s good to scope out attractions near your main destination since you might not find yourself in that area again.
DO Make a Budget for Food Like Holly, I forget my frugal food-buying habits when on vacation. A $90 bar tab? Absolutely! A $50 dinner on Fisherman’s Wharf containing imitation crab? Sure, why not? Despite these indiscretions, I’ve learned a careful balance between dining out and dining in is the key to staying on-budget. I like to try local eateries once per day, and stay satisfied during sightseeing with snacks from the supermarket. If your hotel (or B&B!) offers a complimentary breakfast, snag some fruit or dried cereal for easy munching on-the-go.
DON’T Plan Every Moment Ever need a vacation from your vacation? This happens when you over-plan your time off into a series of back-to-back activities that wreak havoc on both your budget and your mental stability. Vacations are supposed to be relaxing, so don’t let the excitement of planning overshadow your need for actual R&R. Plus, you’ll want to leave room in your schedule for spontaneous events, like taking in a local concert or milling about the community’s farmer’s market.
DO Enjoy the Journey My yoga instructor always reminds us to value the journey toward a posture as much as arriving at the posture itself. The same principle can be applied to traveling. While I don’t expect you to be all Zen when your flight gets delayed and your kids become back-talking balls of energy, you should try to find some pleasure in the interim of arriving at your destination. For example, one of my favorite moments from a particularly hectic trip to the East Coast last year was calmly taking in the scenery as it whipped by my Amtrak window.
DON’T Pack the Kitchen Sink Disclaimer: I don’t have kids, so the luxury of packing light is available to me. I get that parents need to pack anything and everything to keep their kiddos occupied, entertained and otherwise well-behaved during travel. If you’re currently enjoying single or DINK status, avoid the “but I want options!” mentality and pack sparingly; you’ll dodge baggage fees or keep room in your car for the all-important seat recline.
Kendal Perez is a frugal fashionista and bargain shopper who helps fellow shopaholics find hassle-free ways to save money. As the marketing coordinator for Kinoli Inc., site manager for a family of money-saving websites, Kendal has the resources to be an extreme couponer but prefers a less complicated approach to staying in-budget. Kendal has been quoted in such media outlets as CNN Money, FOX, ABC, NPR and Kiplinger Personal Finance. For savings tips and more information, visit HassleFreeSavings.com or follow her on Twitter.