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Vacation or Staycation?—Are You Getting the Most for Your Money?

 


vacation-funUpdated May 2013

Summer is here and for many people that means it's vacation time. Even if your family economy is still as sluggish as the general economy, you don't have to forego summer fun. And even if you haven't made plans, it's not too late to get the most for your money. Here are more than 25 tips on how!

Saving when planning your trip

Whether you are flying or driving to your vacation destination, these tips can help you save money.

Airfares

  • Fares are typically cheaper on Tuesday and Wednesdays since they are not as popular for business travel. You can often find cheaper fares on Saturdays too.
  • Get sales alerts, coupon codes, and special offers from an airline by following them on Twitter and Facebook or by signing up for their e-newsletters. Or sign up for fare alerts at airfarewatchdog.com.
  • Check out fares on hundreds of travel sites at aggregators such as Kayak.com, BookingBuddy.com, Fly.com, and TripAdvisor.com. You may need to check Southwest Airlines separately.
  • Almost all airlines charge baggage fees. The exceptions are JetBlue and Southwest. One way to save on baggage fees is by sharing large bags. You'll want to keep the bag's weight under 50 pounds. Otherwise, you'll pay an overweight bag fee that's more than you saved. Check the travel benefits that your credit cards provide. With some credit cards, if you use the card to buy your airfare, the bag fee is waived for the first bag.
  • Check out Airline Fees: The Ultimate Guide from SmarterTravel.com which lists every major airline fee from every domestic carrier.
  • For updates on new fees in 2013 see this story from the LA Times and Absurd airline fees from CNN Money.
  • Airlines have also voted to explore using a new fee pricing system that might put privacy at risk to get the best fees, as reported by Time magazine.

Lodging

  • Book online. Many places offer a discount if you book directly through their website.
  • Get special promotions and discounts by signing up for a hotel's e-newsletter. Some may also offer deals through Facebook or Twitter.
  • Check for discounts offered to members of AAA, AARP, and many other groups.
  • Check out thousands of last-minute deals and rates on Hotels.com. Use EveryLodge.com to search for deals on 7 flash sales sites. Getaroom.com has an unpublished-rates program that may offer additional discounts. You can check at the aggregator sites, too.
  • Think outside the box. Many hostels accept adults; some are planned just for adults—check hostels.com.
  • For vacation rentals check sites such as tripadvisor.com or homeaway.com. Some people like to use Craigslist. Entering “vacation rentals” and your target locale in your search engine often identifies local listings not available on other sites.

Car Rentals

  • Before booking a car, see if your hotel offers shuttle service to and from the airport and nearby attractions.
  • Check for deals on travel sites or aggregator sites. You may get an even better deal, if you call the specific location.
  • Check for discounts offered to members of AAA, AARP, and many other groups.
  • Before you book, check out your insurance coverage for rental cars in your automobile insurance policy and your credit card benefits. If you are covered, decline the rental agency's insurance.
  • Ask plenty of questions before you book. What is the fee for an additional driver or an underage driver? Is there a fee if you turn the car in early? Is there a fee if you turn the car in late? Does it come with unlimited miles? If not, what is the mileage limitation?
  • Fill up the gas tank before you return the car. Not only may the cost of the gas be much higher than a local gas station, there may be an additional fee too.
  • Read the fine print. There may be other fees described in the fine print.

What about using online travel agencies such as Expedia, Orbitz, or Travelocity? These and other online travel agencies tend to be the first stop for many people when planning a trip. But they may not have the best deals nor do they have airfares for all airlines. While you can still get good deals on these sites, there are other sites that are worth your time to look at. Aggregator sites such as Kayak.com, BookingBuddy.com, Fly.com, and TripAdvisor.com, display fares and rates from online travel agencies and airline, hotel, rental car sites. You'll need to use more than one site, whether an online travel agency or aggregator, because there are a few airlines and other service providers which aren't on any of these sites.

What about discount travel sites such as Hotwire and Priceline.com? With these sites and similar you can typically get the cheapest airline tickets, hotel rooms, and car rentals, but you usually won't know sho the supplier is until you pay. Most sites post lists of participating suppliers but may not be complete. If there is a possibility that your plans might change, buy somewhere else because all sales are final. To make sure you are getting a good deal, check rates on travel sites and aggregator sites before buying on a discount site.

The "free" vacation that's not free

Have you ever been tempted to sign up to win a free trip or vacation? Have you ever received a phone call, a postcard, a letter, or e-mail that announced you won a free trip? Even if the trip is real and not a scam, there are usually some fees or costs associated with it. Protect yourself by thoroughly checking it out. TThe FTC articles, Telemarketing Scams and Travel Tips, provide tips to help you check out an offer.

Taking a road trip?

While on the road, use these tips to help you get better gas mileage.

  • Before you leave, have your car serviced. Making sure that your car is properly tuned, the air filters are clean, the tires are properly inflated, and using the recommended grade of motor oil can increase your gas mileage by 10 percent or even more.
  • Pack light. Every extra 100 pounds could reduce your vehicle's fuel economy by 1 to 2 percent.
  • Observe the speed limit. Gas mileage tends to decrease rapidly at speeds over 60 mph. The greater your speed the more often you'll have to fill the tank.
  • Use cruise control. It helps you maintain a constant speed which typically saves gas.

Find the cheapest gas by visiting the Gasoline Price Data page on the fueleconomy.gov site, gas price sites such as gasbuddy.com, or gas price smartphone apps.

Thinking it's time for a new car before vacationing? Or maybe a boat for the lake? Don't go shopping before you check out the very competitive loans your credit union offers.

Planning a Staycation?

If you are planning to stay home or near to home, there are many ways to enjoy your vacation and stay within your budget. All it takes is some planning and following these tips.

Think like a tourist. Check out your local convention and visitor's bureau for places to see, upcoming events, and other activities. Include other cities or towns in the region in your search too.

Look for deals. Many area museums and attractions may have specials or deals for Facebook fans or Twitter followers. They may also have discounts for local residents. Consider using a daily deal site, such as Groupon, DealSwarm, LivingSocial or Scoutmob, for last minute discounts on attractions, restaurants, and lodging but first read "10 Things Daily Deal Sites Won't Say" from SmartMoney.com.

Stay put. There are many free (or almost free) things that you can do that are not part of your normal routine. How about an at-home movie marathon, playing board games, working on crafts, or experimenting in the kitchen.

For more information

21 Secrets to Save on Travel

Travel Tips

Telemarketing Scams

Airline travel buying guide

Cut Travel Costs With Free Gas

How to Save on 'Free' Airline Tickets

Avoid fees and fly for less this summer

10 Things Daily Deal Sites Won't Say

10 Things Hotels Won't Tell You

Airline Fees: The Ultimate Guide


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