20 Best Ways to Save on Travel
A family vacation is fun and enriching but it can be expensive. Here are 20 of this traveling Dad’s favorite ways to save on travel and still have a ball.
Where to Go
1. Choose lower cost destinations.
Be adventurous. Internationally, Western Europe is expensive but Eastern Europe, Latin America and Asia each have lower costs of living and better exchange rates. Domestically, New York, Miami and Los Angeles are wonderful but costly. One of the best ways to save is to try smaller, more affordable cities like Tampa, Atlanta, Nashville, Memphis, San Antonio, Savannah, Kansas City, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City.
When to Go
2. Travel in the Off Peak.
Costs drop in the shoulder and low seasons. While school often dictates when you can take vacations, be creative. Consider Europe on spring break rather than the summer or the Caribbean in the summer rather than the winter.
3. Stay in Business Hotels on the Weekend.
Visit business cities on the weekend when business hotels drop rates to fill rooms.
Ways to Save on Transportation
4. Compare the costs of Driving versus Flying
With my family, driving to a destination six hours away is nearly as fast as flying with the early check-in, flight times and recurring delays, and it is always cheaper. You also have a car at your destination.
5. Use E-Z Pass.
If you drive in an E-Z Pass state, you save substantially on tolls and you speed your travel with E-Z Pass.
6. Book flights early.
Book at least 21 days before your domestic departure and 34 days before an international departure for the best rates. Booking 6 months in advance is usually more costly, and last minute rates peak the day before departure. You can monitor prices with an air fare alert on AirfareWatchdog.com and you can rely on the price predictor function on Bing.com Travel to tell you whether to buy now.
7. Fly on lower cost days.
Kayak studies show that flights on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday are consistently cheaper so consider the days that you fly. A Texas A&M University study just showed that the conventional wisdom about booking on Tuesday or Wednesday is not true. Booking on weekends offer slightly better fares (5%) for trips of a week.
8. Consider Regional Airports.
Be sure to consider all local airports when choosing where to start and end your flight as some regional airports may offer less costly flights than does the busiest airport.
9. Calculate all fees and bag charges.
The best value flight may not be the cheapest quoted rate if extra fees apply. Domestic bag charges for a family of 4 with one checked bag each add $200 to a round trip. Consider whether an elite airline membership or a credit card waives your bag charges on one airline versus another. Remember that Southwest Airlines offers two free checked bags and JetBlue offers one free checked bag, but Spirit even charges for a carry-on bag. Do the math and choose the best value before you buy.
10. Compare Hotel Offers with Your Corporate or AAA Rates.
Book your hotel at the best rate applicable. Hilton.com will show you a variety of rates, including corporate and auto club rates, and the latest special offers. The hotel web site also offers a best rate guarantee. Consider whether you are eligible for a free breakfast with Hilton Honors Gold status or whether a breakfast included rate is attractive.
11. Avoid Hotel Phone Charges.
Avoid telephone charges by using your cell phone instead of the hotel phone if you are in the U.S.
Ways to Save At Your Destination
12. Shut off Cell Phone Data Roaming Outside the U.S. or Buy a Data Plan.
Domestic smart phone rate plans normally cover the U.S. but costs can rise outside the U.S., including in Canada, in Mexico or on a cruise. Shut off data roaming when you leave the country and use WiFi only. Alternately, buy a data plan that covers data roaming at your destination.
13. Visit a Grocery Store.
Pick up healthy snacks and water, juice or soda to eat or drink in your room. You keep Dad and the kids happy. You avoid the mini-bar charges, and you can even make sandwiches for lunch or snacks.
14. Eat Breakfast.
The most important meal of the day is the cheapest but it gives you energy for exploring and will ward off hunger pangs and snack costs through the morning. If you can find a hotel or package that includes breakfast, so much the better! When you compare hotel rates, consider how much you would be saving by not having to buy breakfast.
15. Splurge at Lunch.
If you are a foodie, splurge at lunch when entrees are often 30% cheaper than at night. In New York, sample celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s fare at Nougatine where a three course Prix Fixe lunch at $32.00 is the best deal in town.
16. Ask the Concierge.
After booking your hotel but before leaving home, call or email the hotel concierge to ask about things to do with your family and about local discounts available through the concierge. At Hilton Mystic they offer discounted Mystic Aquarium tickets. In other cities you may be directed to restaurants with half price children’s meals. In all cases the concierge’s advice can ensure fun. For more on this topic, see my other article, Make the Hotel Concierge Your BFF.
17. Bring your AAA Card.
The AAA card provides emergency highway service but it also offers much more. Membership includes preferred hotel rates. Show the card and you save on many attractions including tickets to New York Yankee and Mets games, entrance to Six Flags and Universal theme parks, and discounts on shopping, museums and attractions across the country and internationally. Ask the attraction or check online.
18. Don’t Pay Full Price for Show Tickets.
Find the best Broadway shows, spectacles and concerts in advance at discounts of up to 45% by using Broadwaybox.com or Theatermania.com. Check from your home for secret discount codes. While the selection is best for New York, the sites also cover a dozen other major cities including Las Vegas, London, Orlando, Los Angeles, Chicago, etc. On the day of the show, look for local last minute ticket sellers like the Times Square TKTS Booth in New York or the Tix4Tonight Booths in Las Vegas. Both offer half price tickets on the day of the show.
19. Sign up for your destination’s Daily Deal Sites.
About two weeks before you arrive in a destination, sign up for the Groupon and LivingSocial websites for the destination. This gives you time to evaluate the deals available.
20. Search the destination’s official Visitors’ and Convention Bureau website.
The website of your destination’s Tourism Office or Visitors’ and Convention Bureau will describe many things to do in a city and will frequently offer online discounts to events and attractions. Their suggestions are sure ways to save in the city.
For more ways to save on travel, read our other articles on Travel Discounts and Deals.
Our Hilton Mom Voyage team members live throughout the U.S. and have traveled by air and car all over the world with their families!