“A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you’ve been taking.” -Earl Wilson
With the ever-increasing costs related to travel, you can become more stressed when you start trying to plan a trip and realize you need to cut your time in half if you’re going to be able to afford to go at all.
In order to combat rising costs, the travel industry has significantly changed their pricing model in recent years. Here are 12 tips to help you trim the budget when planning your next trip and to get the most out of your vacation dollars.
Most airlines have migrated to à la carte pricing. There are a few things you can do to limit the cost of your airline tickets.
1. Travel Light
Airlines now charge for checked baggage. The price and size restrictions vary with each airline. The amount of luggage you plan to take can significantly increase the base price of your ticket. If you don’t need a ton of overhead space for your carry-on, don’t pay for early boarding. Be sure and check the airlines size limit for your carry-on. Exceeding that limit could significantly your ticket cost as well. For more detailed information on baggage tips, check out Caroline Costello’s article on Family Vacation Critic.
2. Book Early
If seat selection is important to you, booking early will ensure you have more options. With the new à la carte pricing model, you will now pay extra for “premium” seating; that’s most window and aisle seats and anything in the front two-thirds of the aircraft.
3. Pack your own food and snacks
Airline and airport food are considerably more expensive. This make take a bit of planning, but it can save you a ton of money. If you need an adult beverage to travel, have one in the airport prior to boarding (but limit it to one). Purchasing alcohol onboard the aircraft can add up quickly.
4. When is the best time to buy airline tickets?
Most international fares are available usually 335 days prior to departure. They tend to stay flat for a while after they’re released and start to rise the closer it gets to your travel date. Domestic flights are very expensive when they first come out and tend to drop until 30 days before departure. Inside the 30-day window they will increase significantly as the travel date approaches. We suggest you set up alerts on AirFareWatchdog.com to monitor fares and sales for your preferred destination(s). Secret Flying and The Flight Deal are also good sites to monitor for airline sales.
5. Try flexible travel dates
If you have the option of when you travel, check different departure dates to get the best price. Some airlines will show you the price for each day of the month. Sometimes, leaving a week later can result in a significant savings. Don’t travel on days everyone else is trying to get home. Sunday’s are one of the most expensive days to travel. If you stay over an extra night, the savings of the airline ticket(s) alone could be huge compared to the cost of an extra night in the hotel depending on how many you are traveling with.
6. Use vacation rentals
If you are traveling with a family or larger group, there can be significant savings if you use a vacation rental or condominium instead of a resort. The only drawback to a vacation rental is the required upfront deposit. However, if you purchase travel insurance, this is a minor issue compared to all the other advantages of having multiple bedrooms, a kitchen and being able to experience your destination as a local. I know we typically like resorts because of the pools. Some vacation rentals offer access to resort pools as part of their rental program if they don’t already have their own pool(s).
7. Make lunch a big deal
Food can be one of the costliest expenditures of your trip. Consider making lunch your big meal of the day. Lunch prices are often considerably less than what restaurants charge at dinner. This may be a bit of a mindset change for you, but the savings could be up to thirty percent.
8. Breakfast at home
My family is big on breakfast. Eating breakfast out can add up quickly. A quick trip to McDonald’s for breakfast burritos and coffee can hit $30 easily here at home. If your vacation is more than a couple of days, go to the grocery store and pick up the items you need to prepare breakfast in your room. (Another good reason to stay in a vacation rental).
9. Don’t buy the pre-paid plan
In most cases, the pre-paid gas plan will cost you money. Even though the price per gallon may appear low, they will charge you for a full tank when you return the car no matter how much or how little you have used. With that being said, you must allow enough time when returning the rental car to fill up with gas off-site. Note: Some rental agencies require a receipt to show that you have filled up the gas tank less than 10 miles off airport property.
10. Car Rental Insurance
Many credit card companies and/or your personal car insurance policy have a rental car insurance benefit included with their membership. Insurance at the rental car counter can be upwards of $25.00 a day and then some. Do some research before you travel and find out what benefits your credit card company offers. You could save hundreds of dollars depending on how long you need the car rental.
Note: If you use more than one credit card, be sure to pay with the card that has the rental car insurance protection and decline the coverage from the rental company when they ask. Keep in mind that up-selling is how the rental companies make money. You do not need duplicate coverage if you have confirmed your credit card provider offers rental car protection.
11. NEVER use debit cards
According to the Federal Trade Commission, you could lose everything in your account and more if your debit card is stolen.
12. Trip cancellation insurance can save you money
Trip protection insurances reimburses you the cost of non-refundable flights if an emergency or illness interrupts your travel plans or causes you to have to cancel altogether. A handful of credit cards offer protection against travel delays; they may offer reimbursement for what you spent on meals and lodging while you were stranded during a snowstorm. Always check before you book.
On some credit cards, you can get back up to $2,500 if illness forces you to cancel your trip, and $125 per day if your trip is delayed. READ what’s in the fine print: Only a few reasons are considered just cause to cancel: the death of an immediate family member, a serious illness or an injury etc. Like most insurance plans, it’s worth the investment should you need to use it.
Safe and happy travels!