The important thing about making the most of your holiday dollar is knowing how to make the savings without skimping where it really counts. It’s about stretching every dollar to ensure it gives the maximum value. Here are some of the secrets of the top budget travelers:
1. Travel off-Season
While that is very common advice for getting the most from your vacation budget, there’s a reason why there’s a “season” in the first place. Usually it’s the time everyone has off work or school, and people are free to vacation. Or, it could be that the weather is especially nice a certain time of year, or there are festivals or events that occur at certain times. If weather is the issue, try traveling just before or just after the season. It won’t save you as much as traveling during the off season, but you can still enjoy agreeable weather.
2. Fly on Weekdays Instead of Weekends
Usually it’s a lot cheaper to travel on either Tuesday or Wednesday – the only exception is when these days fall on or near a major travel holiday, like Memorial Day or Thanksgiving. It might be a little inconvenient, because most people who work a job with set hours tend to get Saturdays and Sundays off and you’ll be tempted to take off right away. However, waiting a couple of days could potentially save you hundreds of dollars.
3. Use Alternate Airports
Often the main airport or international airport is the only one anyone thinks to go to. In almost every city, however, there is usually a smaller, much cheaper airport that will drop you at or near the city you want to visit. True, you may not get an entire shopping mall to enjoy, or every kind of food you can think of, but there are usually one or two restaurants as well as several stores. But is that why you went to the airport? Probably not. So why not skip all that and just get on the plane?
4. Pack/Cook Your Own Food
Be sure you bring snacks or buy food from a grocery store that you can make yourself, like soups or sandwiches. Even frozen meals from a grocery are cheaper than eating out. Most hotels come equipped with a microwave and a small fridge. Utilize them to save hundreds of dollars. Eating out all the time is a definite budget-buster. However, there’s no need to brown-bag it all the time. But if you want to splurge, it’s less costly to splurge on a nice lunch than a dinner. Making your own food becomes so much easier if you’re staying at a hotel or rental property with a stove.
5. Rent a Vacation Home or Apartment Instead of a Hotel
Sometimes you can save up to 30-40% by staying at someone’s home or apartment, particularly if you go online to a website such as Airbnb, Flipkey or HomeAway. If you want to get really cheap, try CouchSurfing. Most of these rentals have some sort of cooking appliance, so you’ll save money on meals. They may even have laundry facilities. Plus, an added benefit is that you’ll shop at the local stores to really experience life like the locals.
6. Pack Light
There are some airlines that still allow free carry-on luggage. Evaluate very carefully what you’re bringing and if you’ll really need it – most of the time you’ll see that you don’t. People accustomed to traveling economically try to avoid all those checked-baggage fees, which can add up to big bucks by the end of your trip. It’s a big plus if the place you’ll be staying has laundry facilities so you can only bring a few changes of clothing.
7. Walk Everywhere
Be sure one of the things you do end up packing is a good pair of comfortable shoes. One of the best ways to save money and get a good feel for your surroundings is to walk as much as you can. If you can get accommodations that are more centrally located, this makes walking much easier – cab rides and train tickets to and from all the things you want to see can add up. When you do need to get a ride rather than walk, the local public transportation is usually the cheapest.
Now that you know the secrets to budget travel, you’ll be able to get more out of your vacay this year. Where are you going?