Our family loves to travel and we try to do it a few times a year. It doesn’t really matter if it’s a quick trip overnight in a nearby city or hopping on a plane to Florida to visit family – we just like to get away. Over the years we have found ways to save on travel, but still stay in nice places and enjoy new experiences.
Travel in the off season
This is our biggest money saver. Boston in winter? Yes, please. New Jersey beaches in October? Sign me up! We love traveling in the off season. We save about half (or more!) on flights and lodging by avoiding the high season. For example, our beach rental for this spring costs about a 1/3 of what it costs during the summer! All because we chose to go before Memorial Day. Area attractions often have deals during this time to attract travelers and locals. Plus, the crowds are almost non existent – probably my favorite reason to travel the slow season! Who wants to take a four year old to the beach in the dead of summer with 25,000 other people? Not me.
Consider booking a condo or vacation home
This one is actually pretty new to us. I’ve known about the condo rental sites for a long time (airbnb.com, vrbo.com – just to name a few), but have always been very hesitant to try them out. No particular reason except the unknown. After getting lots of positive reviews from friends and family, we decided to go with a rental in 2016 and had a great experience with the owner. Our upcoming vacation will only run us about 85.00/night. And that’s for three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a full kitchen. That kitchen will come in very handy when it comes to saving money on food! Can’t do that in a hotel for the price!
Travel during the week
I know this is not possible for many people, but if it is, you definitely need to look into traveling during the week. Now, I will say that hotel prices can be higher in very large cities (i.e. D.C., Boston) due to the large number of people entering the city for work, but that is not always the case. But, we have saved a lot of money on flights when we travel Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. Early morning and late night flights can also be a money saver. Not necessarily a money saving tip, but attraction crowds are typically lower during the week (anyone sensing that I don’t care for large crowds…).
Make a stop at the grocery store
Regardless of whether we are staying at a hotel or in a rental property, one of our first stops is always the grocery store. Dining out for every meal during vacation is a budget buster, and it can get a little tiresome. When staying in a hotel it is nice to have a microwave and a mini fridge – think fruit, supplies for sandwiches or meat and cheese roll ups, applesauce, fruit cups, mac and cheese cups, individual cereal bowls and milk. If the hotel does not have a microwave or fridge (although at least one of those is a requirement for us), we still stock up on things like crackers, granola bars, fruit, oatmeal packets (just heat up the water in the coffee maker!). But our favorite by far is staying in a rental with a full kitchen – there the possibilities are endless!
Consider dining out for breakfast or lunch
Dining out is just part of vacation for most people. But you can save money on meals out by going for breakfast or lunch. These meals are generally less expensive and can be a nice way to change it up on vacation. Who knows, you may even end up with some leftovers to eat with dinner!
Research destination websites and social media
Whenever we go on vacation I always check out the city’s website, Facebook page, and Instagram feed. This is a great way to learn about local events during your stay – and many of them are usually free! For this upcoming vacation, I found out about a nighttime glow kite festival so we will be checking that out.
Book directly with the hotel
The best hotel rates are generally booked through the hotel directly. If you see a cheaper rate on a third party site, often the hotel will match that price simply by calling them. They may also offer better cancellation policies or an early check in time. I have heard too many stories of reservations being lost or not honored due to the fine print involved with third party bookings.
Choose hotels with free perks
Hotels that offer free breakfast are always a plus in my book! We don’t need much for breakfast so even a spread of muffins, toast, bagels, juice, fruit is appreciated. We also look for hotels that have pools since we have a preschooler. An afternoon by the pool is just perfect for him! Some hotels are extra attentive to their little guests – one of our favorite hotels absolutely spoils our child when we visit with birthday presents, cookies and milk delivered to the room and a free movie. We’ve also found hotels that have playgrounds and kid’s activities on site.
How does your family save money on vacations? I would love to hear all of your creative ideas!