How To Save Money On The Biggest Travel Expenses

by Leon on January 18, 2013

Now that the holiday season is over have you already started scanning down the calendar for that next vacation date? The New Year brings excitement and a slew of resolutions, but resolutions take discipline and willpower, and the excitement wanes quickly in the chill of the long winter months. Planning that next vacation can help you get through the beginning of another year with a bit more grace and ease, and before you know it your travel date will be here. But most people are hurting a bit financially right now, due to the recession economy and the big holiday shopping days. Any upcoming vacation must fit within a tight budget, and any money saved can be spent elsewhere to make the trip the best it can be. Here are a few tips to help you save money on the biggest expenses for travel.

Airfare

Airfare is often the number one expense, and it doesn’t seem like the airlines are adjusting their rates during this tough economy. You’ll have to shop intelligently to save here, and that comes from one of two strategies. If you have specific travel dates based upon school vacations or certain national holidays, try to book your airfare as far out as possible. You can often find flights listed as far as six months in advance, and in the case of holiday travel you’ve got to book these dates quickly to lock in the lowest possible fares. On the flip side, if you can be flexible about your specific travel dates you might want to consider shopping for your airfare at the last minute. Inexpensive seats will often be released within the month you want to travel, as flights book up and new ones are added or as airlines scramble to fill empty seats. In either case start shopping online and make sure you’ve hunted down all options before locking in your ticket.

Hotels

Hotels are another significant travel expense, but it’s one where you should never settle for full price. You can often find discounts if you book a package that include both hotel and airfare, or a hotel stay as part of an entire vacation experience. Also consider avoiding the major holidays and traveling mid-week, when hotels lower their prices to reduce the amount of vacancies on their books. Keep an eye out for Groupon deals, and join discount sites that are city-specific. Many new hotels will offer far reduced rates through sites like these in order to compete with the major brands. Finally, look to save on lodging by staying in a bed and breakfast instead of a luxury hotel, or even going with couch-surfing, house-swapping or hostel services if you’re willing to give up some amenities.

Transportation at your Destination

Transportation once you’ve reached your destination will also be a significant line item in your travel budget, unless you think strategically. First of all, look towards public transportation whenever possible. If you’re traveling to an urban center and staying within the city proper you should find no shortage of subways, trains and buses to get you to and from where you need to go. When you do need a car, look for one of those SmartCar rental services that allow you to pick up a hybrid vehicle at various locations around a city and pay by the hour. Even if you need it for an entire day you’ll probably save money over a comparable day of a weekly car rental. And don’t be afraid to take to the streets by foot. With GPS technology you should have no problem getting around, and you’ll experience your destination as the locals see it.

Food

The final major travel expense you’ll need to consider is food, and this is where your budget can really get out of hand. Eating at restaurants for every meal will add up in a hurry, especially if you have a few drinks and multiple courses at dinner every night. Consider staying in a house or in a hotel with a small kitchen, so you can go shopping and prepare your own breakfast and lunch. Bring a cooler box with you from home, so you can take food on the go. And when you do want to go out, check out each restaurant’s website for online coupons. The culinary world is so competitive you should find ways to trim the bill practically every day.

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