Travelers often drive to their vacation destination, whether it's a land-based holiday or an embarkation point for a cruise. Driving eliminates the significant costs associated with expensive air flights, particularly for families where multiple ticket purchases are involved. It can be easy for costs to mount up on driving trips and overnight stays, however, so it's important to plan ahead.
Here are seven money-saving tips that will help you cut costs on your next trip.
1. Watch Your Food Costs. Food purchases can add considerably to overall vacation charges. This is one of the main areas where travelers exceed their budgets. If you're traveling with children, look for three words: "kids eat free." If you have to stay overnight, consider booking an all-suites hotel with kitchen facilities and eat in whenever possible. Many of these properties also include free breakfasts, snacks and other perks. Hotels such as Homewood Suites and Embassy Suites can be excellent choices. If you’re planning to stay for several nights in your final destination, consider renting a condo or vacation home through sites like HomeAway. While driving to your destination, pack food with you and have a picnic or eat your big meal at lunch instead of dinner. Large entrees are considerably cheaper at lunchtime than during the dinner hours.
2. Go Local for Deals. Research your city or destination online and scout for savings on restaurants and attractions. Check out local versions of Groupon and LivingSocial as well as regional papers and their online sites. Entertainment books, Go City Cards and CityPASS booklets can be other good options. Once you arrive at your destination, pick up copies of the coupon books that are typically available in hotels and grocery stores.
3. Follow Brands for Travel Savings. Many top travel brands post their deals on social media as soon as they are available. Some even provide their followers advance notice of upcoming special offers. Make sure to follow your favorite hotel and other travel brands and destinations on social media and watch for deals. Sign up for their e-newsletter lists as well. Club and group memberships can be another good source of travel savings.
4. Cut Down on Rental Car Costs. Shop online for rental car discounts in advance and continue to do comparison shopping as your departure date gets closer. Couponing sites can be good sources for special rate codes. In addition, check out your membership rates if you belong to Costco or AAA. These big buying organizations are often a source of low rates for their members. Also look into the possibility of renting your car at an off-airport location. Doing so will eliminate high airport concession fees and can save money on your trip.
5. Join the Club. Join your hotel chain's frequent guest program. In addition to earning points that can be used at a later date, membership in these programs often includes valuable guest perks such as free Wi-Fi, a welcome snack, late checkouts, and other goodies.
6. BYO Entertainment. Instead of purchasing high cost movies at your hotel, bring along some DVDs and audio books. You can rent them for free at your local library. If you're driving with kids, this is another great way to keep them happy in the car.
7. Check Out Parking Options. If you’re heading out on a cruise, watch your parking costs. Parking can be found near all of the cruise terminals, but the charges can be quite high. To save money, check out off-site parking options. If you’re planning to stay overnight at a hotel, look for cruise-oriented hotel packages that include free parking and complimentary shuttles to your cruise pier.
When it's all said and done, one of the best ways to save money on your trip can often be consulting with a knowledgeable travel agent. Travel agents can often help you evaluate packages and find the best deals. They can also be aware of unique money-saving strategies, like staying across the river in cities like New York and Washington. More importantly, a good travel agent can match the right options with your needs and help you plan the best travel experience for your family. After all, while saving money is important, snagging a great vacation deal isn't worth much if you're miserable. Your vacation time is precious, so make those memories count.