Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tipster Tuesday: Save on Summer Travel!

Summer is approaching! Worried you can't afford a vacation? With these tips, you can get away without spending a fortune.

1. Plan early. The minute you get back from vacation, start thinking about next year's vacation. Many hotels offer 20% discounts for booking in advance. When it comes to booking flights for a family, a good rule of thumb is the sooner, the better. Start stockpiling for things you know you will need on your trip; drinks, snacks, etc. Set a limit for spending before you go.

2. Avoid busy travel days. You can save money if you book your accomodations during the off season. Flying Monday through Thursday is almost always cheaper than flying on the weekends. If you can, book your trip with a weekday departure and return to get the absolute lowest fares.

3. Rent what you need. If you're only planning to drive a short distance or if you have a small family, don't waste your money upgrading from a compact car. If you plan on spending a lot of your time on the road, go for the minivan. There isn't a significant jump rate and you'll have more space. Plus you should still get decent gas mileage. Join a free membership program like Hertz #1 Club to earn free rentals and other discounts. Don't forget to bring your child's car seat or you'll have to pay up to $65 to rent one.

4. FREE for kids! Lots of airlines and hotels offer freebies for kids, so look into these promotions when you start planning your trip. Some hotels, like the Hilton, even provide complimentary meals for kids 12 and under. Taking advantage of this offer can save a family of five more than $250 on a week vacation. If you are traveling by car, pack your lunches. You'll save money and the food is more nutritious than what you will find at fast food restaurants. Be sure to look for destinations that have free activities.

5. Consider accomodations wisely. Renting a condo for a week is a smart choice for a family. The rates are usually less than those found at a hotel. You will have more space as well as a kitchen. Preparing meals rather than eating out will save your family tons of money. Plus a washer and dryer in the condo means you won't have to pack as much or come home to mounds of dirty laundry. However, if you plan on spending most of your vacation outside your hotel room, don't waste your money on a resort with lots of amenities.

6. Use discount cards. Most hotels participate in the AAA Show Your Card and Save program where you receive discounted rooms. Many vendors offer similar AAA deals on tickets and souvenirs. Check with local tourist bureaus or at the hotel counter for free coupon books to area attractions and restaurants.

7. Look for packages. You can often find big savings on discount travel websites (Travelocity, Orbitz, etc.) if you book your hotel, airfare, and car rentals together. All-inclusive resorts are great for families on a budget because you pay for the trip up front. The price includes accomodations, food, and activities. Be sure you ask about extra fees. Some packages charge for special outings.

8. Ask for a better deal. Don't be afraid to call hotels directly. Sometimes they have unadvertised specials or will lower rates when business is slow. They may say no, but it's definitely worth a try.

9. Split the cost. Go on vacation with another family or your relatives. This way you can split the cost of accomodations, food, and activities. Many airlines and hotels also offer deals for group travel.

10. Have fun! With some early planning and a little extra work, you and your family can enjoy a stress free, funfilled vacation while staying within your budget.

Happy Traveling!

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