June 12, 2013 · Budget, Education

Summer Travel on a Budget

With summer in full swing, you might be preparing to pack up and head to a relaxing and tropical destination for some much needed R&R. As a Quarterlifer, vacation may be part of summer break from school or maybe you’ve saved up those vacation days for your first “grown up” vacation, even if it’s only for a weekend. Regardless of whether you’re planning a trip with your family or heading to your best friend’s beach wedding, it can be expensive. But, if you stay money conscious during your planning, you can make smart decisions and stay on budget. Before you start making reservations, consider these money-saving tips that will help keep you and your wallet happy.
  1. Do Your Research. Before laying down concrete plans for your vacation, it’s essential to research your destination, hotels and flights. Checking websites for airline rates and booking months in advance will not only save you tons of money, but will also get one of the most expensive and worrisome tasks out of the way.  With the vast amount of hotel booking sites out there, it’s imperative to check them regularly to guarantee the most bang for your buck. One of the most useful resources on the Web is Kayak’s price alert tool. Kayak tracks prices for flights and hotels and will send you an email notification when rates go up or down. Talk about saving money with the click of a button!  When you're researching, don’t forget to read reviews and look into special deals. A lesser-known tip is to actually call the hotel and ask about special deals not advertised on their website.
    Who says research can’t be fun? After you’ve booked your flight and hotel, start researching all of the activities, restaurants and adventurous excursions your destination has to offer. Planning your activities in advance will allow you to look at all of your expenses and better allocate how much you can spend on what. Research everything from how far away certain restaurants are from your hotel to any special shows you may want to check out while you’re in town. When you’re on a tight budget, it’s important to research specific details like mileage and destinations near you to decide whether you need to drive to the local attractions, book a rental car or look into public transportation. 
  2. Don’t be Fooled by Additional Expenses. After you’ve booked your flight, it’s important to reach out to the airline with any questions you may have about additional fees. One big question you should ask about is checked bags. Today, many airlines charge for everything, and we mean everything, including additional bags and weight. Make sure you look into all baggage fees and plan accordingly. If you’re going to be charged for your baggage, make sure to pack light and avoid using over-sized bags.
    Also, depending on how tight of a budget you’re on, look into parking at the airport versus taking a cab. Sometimes the daily rates can cost an arm and a leg, so depending on how many days you are going to be gone, it may be more cost effective to splurge on a cab or better yet, ask a friend to drive you. 
  3. Take Advantage of the Off-Season. Although an elusive Caribbean vacation may be calling your name, it may be smarter to travel somewhere a little more off the beaten path. Make the off-season the new on-season by being aware of the “not-so-hot” destinations and taking advantage of it. We know it can be easy to get caught up in the sunny destinations, but depending on your budget, it may be more cost effective to look into destinations based on the time of year. In the summer looking into places such as Aspen and Deer Valley can be less expensive and can be a great alternative to your usual vacation. 
  4. Benefit from Insider Deals on Twitter. Prove your parents wrong with a thrifty and helpful way to utilize Twitter. Following major airlines and ticketing sites on Twitter can be a huge money saver because sites will often share deals, discounts and promotional codes with their followers. It’s a quick and easy way to save time and money and it’s right on a website we know you use often. 
  5. Remember that Time is Money. When booking your flight, be aware that picking the “right” time, day and month can be a huge money saver. There are certain blocks of time where people are traveling less and traveling costs, including airfare and hotel rates, go down. Use this to your advantage by booking at least one of your travel days mid-week, or Tuesday through Thursday, to cut costs with your flight and hotel. Seasonally speaking, the most cost effective days to keep in mind are the last two weeks in January, a week after Labor Day and before Thanksgiving. 
  6. Be Specific with Car Rentals. You’ve been waiting forever to rent a car and you finally can. Now what? If you’re a first time renter or a seasoned traveler, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask the company about one way car rentals and any additional fees, including insurance. Did you know that one way car rentals are sometimes more than twice the price of standard car rentals? If you are traveling to a different city or state during your vacation, breaking the rental period in two could save you hundreds. For example, ask your rental car service about one way pick-ups and scheduling two rentals during your trip. Although it may waste an hour or so of your vacation time, it could be a great money-saving tool.
So, if you thought saving money on your vacation was impossible, think again! Researching your travel expenses and staying up-to-date with the latest deals and promotions will have you ready to take on your newest adventure. While you’re planning your next vacation, keep these helpful tips in mind to ensure a budget-friendly trip. Happy traveling!