I consider myself an avid traveler (or at least, I love to travel, so that must count for something!). As such, it’s important for me to get a bit creative when it comes to cutting back on the travel spending. Especially during the peak travel season of summer, rising prices can sometimes threaten to hold me back from the awesome destinations I hope to visit.
This season, I’m taking a stand. I’ve consulted with some of the most seasoned travel experts in the business and asked them for their failsafe ways to save a bit of cash when it comes to summer travel.
I plan on putting many of these into effect immediately … see ya on the beaches!
Sure Facebook and Twitter are great for after your vacation, when you can make friends incredibly jealous of your amazing getaway by posting all your awesome photos — but you can get a lot of use out of them beforehand, as well. “Often airlines and hotels post social media specials on their social media channels,” said Mark Murphy of Mark Murphy Travels. “Followers get first dibs on these specials before they get pushed out, if they get pushed out, to all other customers.”
Don’t Be Shy
Just because you booked the smaller room for the lesser fee doesn’t mean an upgrade won’t be available for you. “Don’t be afraid to ask for a free upgrade — they are granted all the time,” says Kendra Thornton, a travel expert with Thornton PR. “When checking into the hotel, very politely ask the front desk clerk if an upgraded room is available. Do so quietly so other guests in line don’t hear, as that may shy the clerk away from granting your request.”
Do a Little Research
The benefits of doing a little research ahead of arriving at a destination are many, says Marybeth Bond, National Geographic author and founder of GutsyTraveler.com. “You could find links to the latest hotel discounts, special family deals, free days at the museums, farmer’s markets and free concerts,” she said.
Fly Discount Airlines
Look, there’s a tradeoff when it comes to flying with budget airlines, of course. But if you can stand the sometimes lesser legroom, or paying for things that other airlines might give you for free (like carry on luggage, or snacks), then flying a discount airline could save you tons of money, especially when flying internationally. “Look for overseas discount carriers and lesser known airlines,” suggests Murphy. “Take advantage of their rock bottom prices, such as Easy Jet in the UK, where you can fly from London to Spain for less than $20 one way.” It also helps to seek out cheaper hubs in Europe when it comes to flying. “Right now Dublin is the cheapest city to fly to on average this year,” said Murphy. “And flights to Milan are $200 less than flights to Rome.”
When it comes to flying domestic, Murphy suggests flying out of smaller airports whenever possible. “You can get significant cost savings if you’re willing to drive a little farther, bypass the major airports and fly out of a smaller regional airport,” he said.
If you’re anything like me, sometimes the worst part of coming home after a vacation is adding up all the money you spent. (As in, “I can’t believe I spent that much on guacamole in Cabo!”) There’s a solution for that: go all-inclusive. “So you can avoid sticker shock at the end of your vacation — and stick to your budget — book an all-inclusive package where airfare, lodging, meals, drinks, transportation to and from the hotel and airport are all included in one price, including taxes and fees,” suggests Thornton. “Apple Vacations, for example, is a great company that offers all-inclusive packages to destinations all over the world and works with every level of hotel, from budget-friendly to luxury.”
Never Leave Money Behind
Stuff comes up all the time that forces people to cancel or reschedule their travel plans — there’s nothing wrong with that. There is, however, something wrong with leaving money behind when you need to cancel. “If you see a good flight deal online, go ahead and book it, because [under certain circumstances] it can be cancelled for a full refund,” says Thornton. “Since January of 2012, the U.S. Department of Transportation has mandated that airlines must refund your money if you book online at least one week prior to departure and cancel within 24 hours of booking.”
Know Where to Stay
Spending on restaurants is one of the easiest ways to rack up expenses on a vacation, especially if you’re traveling with a family. “When everyone is under one roof with a kitchen and common area for dining and relaxing together, it’s a more intimate way to spend a holiday with family or friends,” says Bond. “Booking a vacation rental property for family or group trips can offer significant cost savings, relaxed meals without making reservations, and you have control over the health and freshness of your food.”
Speaking of where to stay — why not consider swapping your own home to save even more cash when traveling? “Home swaps are increasingly popular,” says Bond. In the best house swaps, meet the owners by Skype and ask lots of questions and ask for lots of photos. I’ve had people leave their member cards to museums and detailed lists of their favorite restaurants, as well as great places in the neighborhood to shop for meat, fresh veggies and cheese.” Most of the time house swaps come with no accommodation costs, and it’s a nice way to vacation while feeling like a local at the same time. Check out Love Home Swap, Knok or HomeExchange to see what’s available.
Take Public Transportation
It might not be glamorous, but taking public transportation in a city will certainly help you feel like a local, and could save you some big cash. “It’s not only ‘greener’, but an adventure!” says Bond. “Check out HopStop, one site that can help you get from A to C in several major cities.”
Use a Travel Agent
Using a travel agent could go either way when it comes to saving some cash (some charge up front for their services, others don’t), but it usually doesn’t hurt to put your feelers out. “[Travel agents] may or may not be able to get you a better price, but often they’re able to hook you up with some great free upgrades,” said Murphy. “They’re also a great source of information to ensure your summer vacation is one that’s memorable.”
Cheryl Lock is a personal finance writer at and former editor at LearnVest and Parents magazine. When she’s not writing, she enjoys travel, which she blogs about at wearywanderer.wordpress.com.