Whether you’re off on a weekend getaway or a longer trip, you want to keep your money for the things that really matter, not spend it on avoidable expenses. Here are some tips on making your vacation more cost-effective so you have more to spend on the fun stuff.
1. Do a home swap. If you can work out a good fit, a home exchange can be a real win for you and your counterpart in your destination city–you’ll save big, and you’ll truly have the experience of living like a local. Check out these websites: www.homeexchange.com; www.HomeForExchange.com/USA.
2. Skip the hotel, rent a vacation home. Especially for longer stays, renting a home rather than staying at a hotel has many advantages–including a kitchen, which can really cut down on meal costs. The current economic climate is bringing hot deals, too: a recent report by HomeAway finds 66 percent of vacation rental property owners offering special deals or incentives lately. Where to find the best values, based on an analysis of average daily rates and the price per square foot for a vacation rental compared with a hotel? Phoenix; Denver; Miami; Seattle; Oahu, Hawaii. HomeAway sites include HomeAway.com, VRBO.com, VacationRentals.com, Holiday-Rentals.co.uk, OwnersDirect.co.uk, FeWo-direkt.de, Abritel.fr and Homelidays.com.
3. Go all-inclusive. All-inclusive resorts are often a real bargain. My daughter and I have spent spring break at the upscale Riu Palaces in Cabo San Lucas and Playa del Carmen. Both have first-class accommodations with stunning beach-front locations, spas, pools with swim-up bars, and a good selection of casual and fine-dining restaurants offering 24-hour food. Rates also include access to the gym, the children’s club (with babysitting), tennis courts, evening entertainment, and disco—as well as unlimited alcoholic beverages, from cosmopolitans and mojitos at the bar to cold beer and margaritas served on the beach. Vacation specials with deep savings are available on their website. www.riu.com or call 888-RIU-4990.
4. Haggle for hotel deals. Empty rooms don’t generate income, so hotels will deal to get them filled. Some offer one free night if you stay for two or three, but you might save more by getting a flat percentage off your stay. Use AAA, AARP or any other discount cards you have to secure the best possible rate. Before you book, also check discounted rates offered by sites as hotels.com and quikbook.com.
5. Don’t rent cars at the airport. I’ve found that the cheapest car rentals are found at non-airport locations. Although airport auto rental locations are convenient, the taxes and fees are higher than at non-airport locations. As with hotels, negotiate the best rental rate you can when making your reservation; ask about special deals and mention all your discount cards. Waive the prepaid gas option, but return the car with a full tank.
6. Fly on Tuesday. If you travel by air, be flexible about dates and times. Midweek fares can be dramatically cheaper. Shop around. Consider budget lines such as Southwest, Virgin Air or AirTran. Check and compare prices at cheapflights.com, Yahoo Travel (formerly farechase.com), kayak.com, expedia.com, orbitz.com, priceline.com, travelocity.com, momondo.com and mobissimo.com (for international flights). Also, once you check an airfare there, also look at the specific airline’s website to see if you can score an even better Web special.