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It’s that time of year again. School’s out and vacation season is upon us. Like many families you may be looking for ways to save money on vacation. Here’s a few tips to help you (and your wallet):
1. Travel during the off season.
I know this is not always possible, especially when you have school age children, but if you are able to travel during non peak seasons you can save money. My husband and I are looking to take a mini-vacation this summer. We don’t have children so we can be pretty flexible with travel dates. We are planning to visit Gatlinburg, TN, which is only a couple hours away. I have been checking hotel prices and comparing different weekends through the summer. What I found is that if we wait until the last weekend of August hotel prices drop by about $20-$30. However, they go back up the next couple of weeks due to Labor day.
2. Pack your own snacks.
Growing up my parents always did this when we went on trips. This prevents stopping for snacks at gas stations and also prevents you from hitting up the vending machines in the hotel you’re staying at. I remember my mom always packed Pringles and Capri Sun among other things. But those were snacks we didn’t usually have at home so it was a real treat to pop the top on a can of Pringles! Investing in an insulated cooler bag is also a great idea before taking a trip. This way you can have cold drinks handy without having to stop to buy them at gas stations. I recently purchased this Insulated Cooler Bag with a Zip Out Liner from Amazon. It’s perfect for road trips.
3. Shop around for the best hotel prices.
Check out all of the major travel booking sites like Expedia, Booking Buddy, Orbitz, Travelocity, Priceline, and Hotels.com. I have booked with a couple of these sites before but for our trip this summer I’m going to try bidding for a room thru Priceline.
4. Request travel information from the tourism department where you will be traveling to.
They will usually send you a packet in the mail and often will include coupons that you can use during your visit for lodging, food, and entertainment.
5. Save money on breakfast.
Many hotels now offer free continental breakfasts. If you prefer to avoid the high sugar pastries that are usually found there you can pack your own breakfast. Cereal, oatmeal, and breakfast bars are all easy to take with you. You will just need milk for the cereal, which you can buy once you arrive at your destination and then keep in your mini fridge if your room has one. Be sure to find out ahead of time if your room has a fridge and microwave. If your room does not have a refrigerator you can always ask at the desk. Sometimes they have ones that you can rent for the week for a small fee. Just remember to pack some bowls and spoons if you plan on eating cereal.
6. If your room has a fridge and microwave be sure to take your leftovers in a doggie bag and reheat for another meal.
Its often cheaper to eat out for lunch rather than dinner. Have your server box up half of your meal and eat it for dinner that night.
7. Check out other lodging options besides hotels.
If you plan on vacationing for several days you may save money by booking a condo, especially if it has a kitchenette. This allows you to prepare some meals in your room. Of course no one wants to go on vacation and cook but you can prepare easy meals like sandwiches, pizza, hot dogs, and spaghetti.
8. Take advantage of what your hotel has to offer.
You don’t have to book up every minute of your trip. If your hotel has a pool, take a day or two to relax by your pool with a good book. Its free!
9. Ask at your hotel about local discounts.
Many local attractions offer discounts if you buy your tickets through the hotel. My parents owned a time-share condo for several years in Pigeon Forge, TN. If we wanted show tickets, Dollywood tickets or other local attractions we could purchase those through the condo and receive a discount. You can also check sites such as Groupon for local restaurant and attraction deals.
10. Earn money back by starting the hotel booking process thru sites like Ebates.com.
If you’ve never used Ebates I recommend checkjng it out. I try to do all my online shopping thru the site so I earn money back.