May 16, 2011

Tip of the day—Vacation Planning Tips, Part 3

So far we’ve talked about setting a budget and considering a “staycation”, now we’ll start talking about other ways to save money on vacation.  One of my money saving mottos is to always get a discount if at all possible.  I try not to pay full price for anything if I can help it.  Below are some of the ways that I try to save our family money when vacationing:

  • Look at group buying sites like Groupon and see what deals are available for the time frame you will be traveling. 
  • Sign up for hotel rewards programs and earn points towards free hotel stays.  We will have 2 free hotel nights this vacation because of work trips that we’ve made where we earned points. 
  • If you have AAA, use it!  Get trip ticks, book attractions through them for the discount, and use your card for discounts on shopping, restaurants, and attractions. 
  • If you have a membership to somewhere, see if reciprocity is offered. For example, a membership to the Knoxville zoo will give you a discount to the Memphis Zoo and free entry to zoos in other town.  Gym membership is often the same.  It never hurts to ask!
  • Earn gift cards through Mypoints or Swag Bucks to use while on your trip.  I have earned gift cards to Cracker Barrel that we’ll use on this year’s vacation.
  • Don’t leave home without it…your coupons that is!  You never know when you’ll need them.  If you forgot to pack shampoo or sunscreen, those coupons might save you a few dollars!
  • Print coupons for restaurants.  Search national restaurant chain websites and Facebook pages for coupons, print them and bring them with you. 
  • Negotiate the price of hotels and airfare through Internet buying sites.  We’ve all seen the commercials for sites where you can name your own price.  Since I’ve only used these once or twice in the past, I don’t have a good recommendation for you.  See what deals you can find and compare that to the prices you would pay with a rewards discount or AAA rate. 
  • Stay with friends or family.  If you can plan your trip so that you travel through a town where a good friend or family member lives, consider if it is doable to stay with them for the night.  Always bring a host/hostess gift with you as a little thank you.
  • Go through a travel agent.  If planning a big trip or a trip abroad, it sometimes pays to go through a travel agent.  When I went to Paris years ago, I was so pleased with the museum card that the travel agent suggested we get.  With it we had entry to all of the major museums and walked to the front of the line instead of waiting behind tons of people.  I would have never known it was an option if we hadn’t gone through an agent.
  • Likewise, pay for an interpreter if traveling abroad.  Sometimes the best place to find an interpreter is through a university.  You want to find someone you can trust rather than just anyone off of the street.  I distinctly remember our interpreter leaving us in Kiev to go on a train to Khmelnitsky and being very concerned and worried about us not having an interpreter for the train ride.  Hours later when guards armed with AK47s were speaking Russian loudly and quickly to us, I knew why.  Luckily there was a teenager on the train with us who spoke English, and she interpreted for us so that they knew we weren’t trying to smuggle anything in or out.  We avoided unnecessary detainment and long hours trying to explain that we had done nothing wrong.
  • Along those same lines, learn the language or some of the language if you can.  Again I’ll use an example from Kiev.  Friends and I were traveling from our hotel to a restaurant on the subway system.  We got off at the wrong stop and then had no idea what do do.  Because I had learned the alphabet and some of the language, I was able to read the signs and figure out where we needed to go.  Instead of being vulnerable to those who might try to take advantage of  young travelers, we only had a short detour from our trip of about 5 minutes. 

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