I for one LOVE to travel! But over the years I’ve notice that you can really spend an arm and a leg if you’re not careful! Some trips for a family of 4 can retail as much as $10,000.
Here are 7 great tricks for saving a bunch of money on your next vacation package.
1- Book the travel yourself online instead of through an agent.
Travel agents were once an undisputed part of booking a great vacation. They knew all the best places to go, where to get the best deals, and had all the right connections.
But then there came the Internet.
Now anyone with a WiFi connection can hop on any number of travel based-websites and find some the cheapest prices around. No middle-man needed.
To be fair, one time when we were booking our vacation to Jamaica, I tried both online and the travel agent. I went on multiple sites and found a ton of great deals for a combination of different resorts and flight options.
At the same time, I called two different travel agents in my area. One of them never called me back. After waiting a day, the other one offered me one (yes one) package that was approximately $2,000 higher than the ones I had found online.
The bottom-line: If you really want a great deal on a vacation, just go online and look for one yourself. Chances are you’re going to find a better deal than if you relied on the agent.
2- Try to bundle your hotel, flight, and auto rental all into one.
What kind of a business doesn’t give you a great discount if you don’t buy in bulk?
Over the years, I’ve come across some packages where the entire flight was free if you booked the hotel at the same time. It just depends on what kind of sales are going on and what the sites are offering at the time.
3- If you earn travel points online, use them!
You’ve most certainly heard of airline miles and hotel points. But did you know that a lot of travel company websites now offer the same thing?
That’s a great bonus because it means that you can effectively double or even triple-dip:
- Get points from the airline or hotel when you book the trip.
- Get points on your credit card when you use it to make the purchase.
- Get points on the travel booking site.
(Click here for a quick run-down of which travel sites offer points.)
Though the value of those points is not usually as good as what you’re getting from your credit card, they can add up.
Recently after we had booked a family vacation on Expedia, we had acquired quite a few points on our account. About 6 months later when we needed to book a local hotel stay, we got it for nearly free: A savings of almost $200!
4- Plan your travel well in advance.
When’s the best time to start thinking about travel?
Personally I like to do it far in advance – as in almost 12 months in advance!
Why plan so far ahead?
For one thing, this gives you plenty of time to find the best deals. The longer you wait, the more hotel rooms will fill and airline seats will be taken. Can you feel your options becoming fewer and fewer?
Another thing is that this gives you the most amount of time to find the best travel rewards that you can use to apply to your trip.
For example, when we decided to go on a trip to Florida, we did a little bit of research ahead of time to see what types of flights were available and which hotels were in the area. After opening just two credit cards, we gained enough rewards points that we were able to get the flights and hotel for nearly-free!
5- If you’re going to Mexico or the Caribbean, go all-inclusive.
Have you ever been to an all-inclusive resort before?
If you haven’t, I HIGHLY recommend you give one a try! All you can eat buffets, free drinks, crystal-clear infinity pools, beautiful courtyards for long walks, and tons of entertainment! At least once in your life, go check it out. (Here’s a list of the best all-inclusive resorts from the Travel Channel.)
I guarantee you’ll wonder why you ever paid for meals when you’re on vacation.
Our first couple of vacations as family were spent going to places where meals were not included. On a daily basis, we would spend roughly $100 to $200 on just food. After a week of vacationing, that added up very quickly.
Then on a whim, we decided to give an all-inclusive trip to Mexico a try. It was something we had never done but were very curious about. And WOW – what a difference!
First off, the food was amazing. Like, OUTSTANDINGLY great! There was steak, fish, lobster, alcoholic drinks, desserts, … whatever we wanted.
But then came the better part – the price of the entire trip was approximately what we spent on just the hotel and travel for our other vacations.
All of that AND no spending extra on food? We were sold!
Funny story: A few years later, we went to a hotel in Tennessee where the meals weren’t included, and we were like: What’s this, a bill? What happened to all-inclusive?
… guess where we went the next year?
6- Always check the reviews before you book.
Reviews are the social proof of anything on the Internet. If something is terrible, we’re going to find out because anyone can be as honest as they want to .
When it comes to your wallet, this is gold for vacations. Reviews can help you side-step a disaster of a vacation. Sure, the price might be half of what everyone else is charging. But after reading the reviews, you might find out why.
- Rude staff?
- Dirty rooms?
- Terrible food?
- Unsafe conditions?
You’ll find out whatever it is that you want to know.
Just remember: Things can go both ways.
On one extreme, remember that reviews can sometimes be manipulated. Some shady companies will pay people to write positive reviews (in some cases people who have never even been to the place before). Why do that? Because then it makes them look better and more attractive to unsuspecting potential customers like ourselves.
On the other extreme, know that sometimes people can be – I’ll say – “whinny” when it comes to vacations. For example: I’ve checked out the reviews of resorts where 10 people will go on and on about what a great time they had. But then I’ll come across a 1-star review where the poster will be upset with something that happened at the airport. The airport? Really? That has nothing to do with the resort!
My advice: Once you find a place that you’re pretty serious about checking out, read through about 10 – 20 reviews. Make sure to hit both positive and negative ones and really try to see if there are any trends (like those we identified a few paragraphs ago). If most of the 1-star complaints just seem to be one-time, isolated incidents, then you can ignore them. You’ve probably found a winner!
7- Stay longer and pay a lot less per day.
One of the interesting things about vacations is that the price isn’t necessarily linear. If you do your research and play around with the numbers, sometimes you might find that one, two, or even three extra nights is just a few bucks more. So why not make the most of your stay!
I usually find this to be true with all-inclusive resorts. One year when I did this I noticed that an extra day was only about $200 more overall. Since we had the extra vacation days, we said: Why not?
In another vacation, we were going to get tickets to Universal Studios theme parks in Orlando, Florida. The first day was expensive! But how much was it to add days two and three? Just a little bit extra! Day 3 was literally $40 more. That’s unbelievable!
Again, it pays to do your research ahead of time.
Featured image courtesy of Flickr