Does this weather have you yearning for a break? Wouldn’t it be nice to escape that mountain of laundry for a few days, and soak in some relaxing scenery? Of course you would, but there’s the bank account to consider. Well, don’t give up the dream just yet. Whether you are looking to travel near or far, there are some tips and tricks that may put your travel dreams within reach. Spoiler alert, the most important tool you have is research!
Tip #1 “Best Available Rate—yah, right”
Don’t believe that the best available rate is the best you can do. Did you know that if you are a AAA member, or a senior there’s another 10% knocked off in most cases, leaving the Best Available Rate in the dust.
Tip #2 Tricks with Priceline.com
Most of you are familiar with Priceline, right? Well, I have a trick that has saved me TONS of money (up to 80%!). So, there’s the “Name Your Own Price” feature which offers crazy deals. I once got a room in Chicago at a 3 star hotel for $24/night. The caveat with that feature is that you don’t know which hotel you will be staying at in the area you choose. Or, do you?!
Here’s what I do. I open Priceline in two browser windows. In one window, I go to the “Name Your Own Price” page, and on the other, I have the list of hotels in that area by name. I compare the features of the un-named hotel to the named hotels (things like if there is a pool, or a business center, or free wifi, etc.), and can almost always identify which un-named hotel I would be bidding on.
You can start the bidding crazy low, but the problem with that is that if your offer is rejected, you are locked out from bidding again, unless you change your criteria. Or are you?! Here’s my other useful hack—if you clear your browsing history, you can keep resubmitting bids under the same criteria again and again, inching up your bid bit by bit, so that you pay the least possible amount. Brilliant right?!
Tip #3 Skip the Hotel
If you have more than two kids, staying in a hotel can be tricky, due to bed space and hotel restrictions on occupancy, and having to rent two rooms is out of the picture for most of us, financially.
For my family, the hardest, and one the most expensive parts of traveling is not being able to prepare your own food, and having to eat out. The best way to get around both problems is rather than choosing a hotel, you can rent a house, condo, or cabin that has all the comforts of home, and the kicker is that it’s usually about the same amount as renting a single room at a hotel! To do this, just check out the many property rental sites like Vacation Rentals by Owner or www.HomeAway.com. This tip also makes travel with Fido a possibility. Don’t assume the rate’s set in stone. Quite often, specifically at the last minute, there’s some wiggle room if you contact the owner directly. Often, there’s also a feature where you can split up your total bill into payments, making it more manageable. Plus, you’ll have more authentic experience than in a hotel!
Tip #4 Use a Fare Calendar
But what if you have to fly to get where you are going? How do you save on that? Fly.com can help you make the best decisions about when to fly with the fare calendar feature that will show you just how much you can save by picking the best possible days to fly. The price difference from one flight to the next can be enormous, sometimes more than double. You can then take that information and negotiate the price down even more through the Priceline name your own price feature in many cases.
Tip #5 Negotiate Car Rental
Are you traveling somewhere and need to get around somehow? Or maybe your car is reliable enough to make the trip?! Don’t fret; renting a car is much more reasonable than you may think. You can also negotiate your rental amount on Priceline, and pay less than ½ of the going rate for any given vehicle. On a recent family trip to Puerto Rico, I paid less than $12/day for our rental car, all costs included.
Tip #6 House Sitting
Did you know that there are websites that you can sign up to house-sit for someone in locations near or far, long or short term, domestic or foreign, for FREE?!!! Yup. I’m currently eying a house sitting opportunity in Puerto Rico and dreaming about returning to island life. Check out those opportunities at www.housesittersinternational.com, or many other similar sites.
Incidentally, that 5 day family trip to PR all told, cost about $1600 including airfare, food, condo, car, and entertainment. It just goes to show that with RESEARCH, and determination, travel is within reach, no matter how little cash is in your bank account. Stay tuned for more tips, and tricks to traveling on a budget with your family.