Ways To Save Money On Vacation – how to fly, stay, and eat for less…
If the weather’s still bad and the news is gloomy, it’s time to escape with the family for a week and decompress on a beach – right? Unfortunately, the economy is just as nasty as the weather and the news, and many are opting for “staycations” or canceling their travel plans altogether. For me, neither are appealing options… If I stayed close to home I’d never relax or let go of the chores that need tending to. If I cancelled our trip, I’d be even more miserable.
Back pre-baby, I was the cheapest traveler around. I flew on rickety airlines at awful times, I stayed at hostels and tiny b&bs, and I’d live for days on end on nothing but bread, cheese, and wine. But now that travel involves more than a backpack on my back and time on my hands, I’ve found it a challenge to travel on the cheap while still maintaining a certain level of comfort and safety for my children. However, I’ve now got a number of trips with them under my belt, and I’ve leaned ways to save money on vacation.
The economic crisis has affected the travel industry as well, so if you’ve already socked away your travel money, you may find it goes further than you were expecting it to with reduced prices on different types of packages. However, if you’re building a trip from scratch, here are some ways to fly, stay, and eat for less…
Save Money On Vacation – Flying for less:
If you’re close (even close-ish) to an American gateway, it’s often worth the extra travel time to fly out of The States. For example, flying direct to Tampa from Buffalo added about 2 hours to our journey (we got lucky at the border) but the total cost for all 3 of us to fly was less than the cost of one fare on a Canadian carrier. Long-term parking from Buffalo airport worked out to less than $10 a day. Some hotels nearby even offer free parking for up to 2 weeks (plus shuttle to and from the airport) if you stay with them the night before your flight. Just a quick peek at some fares on US carriers: Buffalo to Tampa return: $215 USD, Burlington, VT to Cancun: $404 USD, Bellingham, WA to San Diego: $178.50. All prices quoted are taxes-in!
If a US gateway is not a possibility for you, keep your eyes peeled for seat sales and charter sell-offs. Also note that a mid-week departure is often significantly less than Saturdays or Sundays.
Save Money On Vacation – Staying for less:
They say that that travel is one industry that has been completely revolutionized by the Internet, and the Internet is your friend when looking for deals on accommodation. If you’re looking for a small, family-friendly motel or b&b, chances are they have a website and chances are there are reviews to be found online as well. One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that the hotels that are part of a package also book separately and the rate is often reduced. This works out well for you if you’ve done your research and found a great flight online! The types of deals usually to be had are 7 nights for the price of 5 and amazing mid-week deals as well. As with any brochure, the web site of any hotel is meant to sell the property and may very well glamorize the rooms and amenities. This is where online reviews come in. Once you’ve sorted out your flight and hotel, you can then prepare to save money elsewhere.
Save Money On Vacation – Eating for less:
In a word: self-cater (ok, technically that’s two!) This was never an appealing option for me as I thought cooking on holiday was not my idea of a good time. However, the more we’ve done it, the more I prefer it. Not only do we eat healthier and save lots of money, I’ve also come home at least the same weight as I left (I’ll admit to a bit of a self-control issue when it comes to buffets at All-Inclusive Resorts).
In order to make your self-catering experience as stress-free as possible, locate the nearest grocery store online before you go and have a few snacks and essentials on-hand so you’re not scrambling as soon as you check in. We also keep our breakfasts and lunches very simple, and go out for nice dinners. A loaf of bread, a few spreads, a box of cereal, milk, juice, cold cuts, fruit and pre-sliced veggies (and often prepared salads) have kept us full and satisfied with a minimum amount of fuss or dishes. We’ll indulge in a couple of great brunches to fulfill the requisite vacation bacon & eggs, but otherwise our mornings are less rushed and if our early riser decides to rise extra-early, we’re not constantly checking the clock until the restaurant opens!
Beer and wine are usually available at grocery stores in most other countries, and usually at incredibly low prices. If you’re not renting a car, have one stay back with the kids while the other shops and grabs a cab back to your hotel.
The bottom line:
Travel is a luxury, and tough times often means giving up luxuries. But for me, travel has become a necessity, so I have to find ways to make our money go further. While this has sometimes meant staying in minimalist accommodation and/or curtailing fancy activities, my kids only know they’re on a fun adventure with mommy and daddy and have our full attention. As a toddler, my daughter was just as happy on the beach with a bucket & shovel as she was at Disney World, and so were we!
Do you have any tips on how to save money on vacation? Share them in the comments below!