12 frugal ways to save on vacation
Vacations can be expensive: They often involve plane fare, hotels and lots of restaurant meals. But the U.S. News Frugal Shopper bloggers have plenty of suggestions for how to make your next getaway more affordable, whether you're headed far out of town or staying close. Here are a dozen of their best ideas:
Travel during slow periods.
Lori McDaniel, U.S. News Frugal Shopper contributor and senior content manager at Offers.com, says avoiding the most popular times for your destination can drastically reduce your costs. If you're going to the beach, for example, try to go in the late summer or early fall.
Look for coupons.
Coupons aren't just for grocery stores; McDaniel points out that you can often find deals on vacation activities, like parasailing, if you search before your trip. If you're a member of a group such as AARP or AAA, you might also be eligible for discounts, as long as you remember to ask ahead of time.
Trae Bodge, U.S. News Frugal Shopper contributor and senior lifestyle editor for The Real Deal at RetailMeNot.com, suggests creating a Twitter account dedicated to following travel deal sites and airlines. They often tweet information about regular and flash sales, she says, which sometimes only last a few hours.
Ask for a better price.
Bodge also recommends contacting the front desk of your hotel before your trip to ask if they can either offer you a lower price or upgrade your room for the same price. If you're using a site like VRBO or Airbnb, you can try negotiating directly with the owner. As long as you're polite, Bodge says, there's no downside to asking.
Bring your own toiletries.
Karen Cordaway, U.S. News Frugal Shopper contributor and founder of the website MoneySavingEnthusiast.com, suggests purchasing an extra set of toiletries for your trip, especially if you can find the items on sale in the weeks before you leave. That way, you'll have the kind that you prefer and will avoid the expense of last-minute purchases in unfamiliar stores on the road.
This tip is especially important if you're traveling with young children who get cranky when their blood sugar is low, although many adults also have this problem. If you're traveling to a touristy location like Disney World, bringing your own snacks can also help avoid costly coffee shop visits between meals.
McDaniel points out that many airlines charge for checking suitcases, so consolidating clothes and other items into one bag for all family members can help reduce costs. If you have young children and are bringing their car seats, traveling with just one suitcase will also make it easier when navigating the airport.
If you're traveling with little ones, McDaniel recommends packing some frugal entertainment for the flight. Her favorite options include borrowing e-books, regular books and DVDs from the library before your trip. Older children can make their own choices about what to bring and can help keep track of items so they don't get lost along the way.
Mel Bondar, U.S. News Frugal Shopper contributor and creator of brokeGIRLrich.com, points out that campsites often cost nothing or around $30 a night, which is much less than hotels. If you have some basic supplies, including a small tent, which she says she picked up for less than $100, you can explore new areas on even a small budget.
Take a road trip.
Skipping flights altogether and reaching your destination by car is one affordable approach, McDaniel suggests, especially for large families that would require multiple plane tickets. She also recommends packing food for the road in a cooler to avoid costly pit stops. You might also want to get your car serviced in advance to make sure it guzzles gas as efficiently as possible.
Take a day trip.
A getaway doesn't have to include a sleepover; U.S. News Frugal Shopper contributor and Frugal Rules founder John Schmoll suggests taking a day trip. With a little research, you might even find nearby tourist attractions, such as an orchard or national park, that you haven't yet visited.
Plan a few indulgences.
Even though you're trying to be frugal, splurging on a new restaurant or fun outdoor activity can make the vacation memorable, Schmoll says. Just be sure to check out your options in advance, and read reviews by locals to make sure you're in for a good experience.
Copyright 2015 U.S. News & World Report
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