'Tis the Season for latkes, egg-nog, and travel of course!
Whether you are a student with a month long winter-break or an overworked employee with a few days off, you are probably aware that this is prime travel time. It seems everyone is going somewhere and if you are too, it can get expensive. In the face of skyrocketing prices, it helps to be equipped with strategies for bringing your travel costs back down to earth.
Bon Vivant + a Budget's 20 Money-Saving Travel Tips for any Time of Year:
- Research the weather at your destination before you leave for your trip. This will allow you to pack smart and you won't find yourself buying last minute boots, sweaters, scarves, bathing suits, shorts or umbrellas. Above all, you want to be prepared!
- If you are taking a road-trip, prepare meals and snacks ahead of time and pack them in a cooler. This will be a lot cheaper (and healthier) than rest stop fare. If you are headed to the airport, pack snacks that don't require refrigeration.
- Pack a carry-on bag only, whenever possible. The average cost each way is $25 per piece of checked luggage. Here is a chart of the different fees by airline for domestic flights within the US. Checking your bags saves you about $50 round-trip (enough money for dinner for two) and affords you the freedom to walk straight off the plane and out of the airport.
- Purchase tickets on Tuesday afternoon around 3 pm eastern time. Research has shown that this is the cheapest time to buy tickets. In addition to the usual airfare comparison websites (orbitz , CheapOair, etc) Websites you want to check are twitter.com/jetbluecheeps and airfarewatchdog.com.
- If your schedule allows, do your actual travel on a Tuesday or Wednesday. With the exception of major holidays, the middle of the week is always cheapest to fly because most people are usually working.
- Figure out if it is cheaper to drive or to fly. Use website calculators like Travelmath.com
- Try megabus.com and boltbus.com. If you buy your tickets a month or so in advance, these companies often have tickets available for as cheap as $1.
- Utilize Craigslist.org. Many people list travel vouchers that are about to expire on this website. You can find them by going to the For Sale section and typing in "travel voucher." The search results will yield a range of vouchers for different prices and airlines. I would suggest you find one that interests you and make an offer for 50% or less of the price they are asking. If no one else responds, they will often take a fraction of the price (your offer) as opposed to losing all the value of their voucher.
- Priceline.com is useful for bidding on hotels for steep discounts. I once paid $50 a night for a 4 star hotel through this site.
- If you can't find a decent price for a hotel, do a vacation rental. My boyfriend and I took a trip this past summer where we sublet an apartment for a week that saved us hundreds of dollars. We were able to cook many of our meals, utilized free wifi, and stayed in a great area. You can use Craigslist or look on sites such as airbnb.com
- Utilize Yelp.com to find restaurants within your price range and then immediately check restaurant.com to see if they offer discounted gift certificates. Often you will find $25 gift certificates for $10 and under.
- Find a hotel with a kitchen if possible and whip out that apron. Cooking tends to be cheaper than eating out, so try to eat at least one meal per day inside your hotel.
- Expand your palate- restaurants in areas with a lot of immigrants (Chinatown, Koreatown, Little Italy, Little India, etc) tend to be most affordable
- Since beverage costs can add up quickly, carry a reusable water bottle with a filter like the one featured in my holiday gift guide post.
While in Rome (or Wherever You Go)
- Utilize FREE guest-passes to workout at local gyms
- A few weeks before you embark on your trip, subscribe to flash sale sites like Groupon and Living Social for the cities you are visiting. You will get great deals for dining, entertainment and more.
- Wear comfortable shoes so you can walk around and check out all the spots!
- Google maps will direct you how to walk and/or take public transportation. This can save you hundreds of dollars. I was in the traffic nightmare that is LA in February and remember one cab ride costing $60 for two and a half miles; if I had taken the bus it would have been $1. I wanted to slap myself for wasting that money... I could have bought a new pair of shoes!
- If you research ahead of time, you will find that there are tons of free and cheap activities in many cities. If you search the tourist bureau website of your destination before leaving home, you can make an itinerary that will allow you to do a lot without breaking the bank. If you are visiting NYC, definitely check Bon Vivant + a Budget and nycgo.com/free
- If your hotel charges $10 a day for wifi (many do) and you want to use the internet, figure out where in the area you can get it for FREE. Some common sources are: McDonalds, Starbucks, Apple Stores, Staples, Barnes & Noble, public libraries and even local parks. Here is a listing of a few FREE wifi areas in NYC (it's not an exhaustive list by any means)