March 10, 2011

Money Saving Tips: Top Ten Travel Tips

Can-You-Afford-to-Go-On-Vacation_full_article_verticalOur crew likes to go . . . Mommy and Daddy prefer to travel alone, but as the kids get older we really do look forward to taking some fun family adventures together. But with three kids, how do you find the money to do that?

Here are some of the ways we save when we travel:

1. Plan ahead.

Sometimes the best deals are when the item first becomes available to the public because they are trying to make it worth their while. Then once the basic costs are covered, they raise prices to make as much money as possible. We’ve gotten rock bottom prices on cruises by literally being one of the first people to book the cruise. Later, when other family members decided to join us they paid more for the same size room on the same cruise!

2. Wait until the last minute.

Ha! I know that sounds contradictory, but this is the other time that you may find outstanding deals. If you have the flexibility to wait or change plans at the last minute, you can find absolute steals on travel. Think about it, if they leave with a half empty plane or cruise ship, they won’t make any money on those empty rooms. But if they can get you to pay any amount, they make more than would have.

3. Travel in large groups.

Traveling in large groups also has other benefits when you have small children – extra hands, more people to take children potty or entertain them when you are burned out. But it can also get you significant discounts. Frequently when we have traveled with eight or more people, we have contacted a travel agent and asked them what kind of deal we could get if we booked everything through them. Since they are going to make money times eight (or more – once we had 19!)they are usually very willing to work with you and get extremely good deals on your trip.

4. Do your research.

I take a certain amount of grief because I plan and plan and plan – sometimes maybe overplan, a bit. But doing your research really does pay off. We surf the Internet, buy books about the location, and use Frommers online to help figure out what the best deals are.

5. Look for places where kids eat or stay FREE.

Obviously this may sound like a no brainer, but you would be surprised what a difference it makes. Eating at a restaurant that offers kids eat FREE usually saves us about half of our total food bill!

6. Carry food with you.

Don’t look at me like I just grew two horns. I’m not saying you have to cook every meal for the entire trip, but frequently there are small things you can do that will add up to quite a savings in the end. On our family trip last summer, we packed a cooler and took drinks, sandwich makings, and snacks. We were able to cover our lunch on both days as well as not having to buy drinks at the amusement park we were at during one of the days. That gave us the freedom to spend that money on something else much more fun.

7. Consider travel insurance.

If you’re like me, the last thing you want to do is sink more money into something that you pray and hope you never have to use. But after I have put hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars into a trip, the last thing I want to happen is to lose all of that money because of an unavoidable accident, injury or illness. In addition, many types of travel insurance also cover sicknesses and medical care that occur during the trip – where often your insurance does not cover – and allow you the option to get a refund if you or your husband lose your job prior to the trip. While insurance may cost a little more up front, it could save you BIG in the long run.

8. Bring along your own entertainment.

Not only can this save you money, but it’s a great way to really enjoy being with your family. Life today is so hectic and crazy, finding quality time with the people you love is hard. When we drive, we always bring a DVD player for the kids to watch. That allows the adults to talk in relative peace and quiet. When we travel with a large group that includes other adults we often take travel games such as card and dice games. We have spent hours playing these together and laughing . . . which meant we weren’t in the casino gambling or the stores shopping instead.

9. Use the resources at your disposal.

Sometimes we don’t even realize what we have access to. Do you have a credit card with rewards that you can use for travel? Do you have a friend who works for a hotel who can get you a discounted rate? Do you have airline miles or credit with a hotel or car rental that would save you money? I surf the Internet looking for the best deals before I ever book. Sometimes there’s a coupon just sitting out there waiting for you to find it.

10. Ask for an upgrade.

Please don’t be obnoxious. I’m not saying demand the best thing they have for the cheapest price you can get. But when you check in at a place, it takes just a second to ask if there is any possibility of an upgrade (or an oceanview or an aisle seat) and many times you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the response you get. It’s great to pay for coach and fly first class!

I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Alamo blogging program, for a gift card worth $25. For more information on how you can participate, click here