Traveling with your family doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg if you know how to use Internet resources and budget correctly. By following these 50 simple tips, you can do more than travel cheap. You can have a luxury vacation on a budget. Who doesn’t love that?
Can You Have a Luxury Vacation on a Budget?
It’s true that being rich is better than being poor, at least when it comes to travel. First class is better than economy coach. The Ritz is better than the Red Roof Inn. That James Beard winning restaurant? Yeah, it’s better than Burger King.
Not that the Red Roof Inn, Burger King or economy airline seats are always bad. It’s just that luxury travel is better.
Join our NEW Facebook Community: Making Travel Easier. We promise to always tell you what we would tell our best friend -- what works for kids, what doesn’t and what you need to know before you go to have the Best. Family. Vacation. Ever. Our group of travel experts are ready to answer your travel questions!
You don’t have to be a billionaire to travel in style. These 50 tips will help you have a luxury vacation on a budget.
Long before you board that flight, think about where you want to go and how you want to get there. Then start looking for ways to make it cheaper and easier — or ways to get a champagne vacation on a beer budget.
- Join associations, credit unions and groups like AAA and Costco and ask about their travel discounts.
- When traveling abroad, order foreign currency from your bank the week before you leave to save on those onerous airline exchange rates.
- Apply for a credit card that doesn’t charge any currency exchange fees
- Apply for a credit card that provides car rental insurance.
- Look for travel packages that bundle airfare, cruises and hotels on sites like Expedia.com
- Use Ebates.com or other sites that provide cash back for travel purchases.
- Head to the local Dollar store to buy refillable bottles for carry-on size shampoo, conditioner and lotions. It’s much cheaper to fill them from your big shampoo bottles at home than to buy the already-filled mini travel bottles.`
- Become an efficient packer and learn to travel with carryon bags only to avoid those stiff airline luggage fees. (Need a great carryon bag? Check out our list of the best lightweight carryons.)
How to Save on Air Travel
- If you travel frequently, get access to the airport lounge through credit card or airline status. That will give you access to some pretty yummy snacks and save you from buying food at airport restaurants with their inflated prices.
- Apply for a credit card that lets you accrue airline miles to book flights with miles.
- Some airlines let you “lock in” a flight price for up to week. They charge a couple of bucks for the privilege, but you can spend that time looking for a cheaper alternative. If you don’t find anything better, you still have the original booking at the original price.
- Set a price watch for airfares through kayak.com or other websites to be notified of cheaper fares.
How to Save on Hotel Stays
- Join loyalty programs for freebies like Wi-Fi and bottled water. There is no charge for joining the program and you should be able to join when you check in if you don’t remember to do it before you arrive.
- Apply for a credit card that lets you accrue hotel points.
- Shop at the hotel chain’s virtual mall to accrue extra points. Some stores can give up to 10 points per dollar spent.
- Call the hotel directly and ask for discounts and any upgrades. That can include larger rooms and even executive lounge access. If you aren’t successful before you arrive, ask again when you check in. Being nice to the front desk clerk can go a long way toward getting you what you want. The worst they can do is say no.
- Consider buying executive lounge access with points or cash. It might save you money on breakfast, snacks, drinks or even dinner, especially if you are traveling with ravenous teens.
- Book a room in hotel chains that offer a fifth night free when you redeem on points to maximize the value of your reward points.
- If you don’t have enough points, look for chains that let you book with a combination of cash and points, such as IHG.
- Participate in Internet surveys to accrue additional hotel points.
- Ask housekeeping to remove any minibar products to prevent being charged for incidentals.
- Ask the front desk to block pay-per-view movies and 1-900 calls at check-in to prevent additional charges especially when traveling with kids.
How to Save on Dining
- Look for advertised local deals for restaurants on sites like Groupon.com, Yelp.com and Travelzoo.com to use at your intended destination.
- Find venues that offer a happy hour menu as an alternative to an early dinner.
- Order half portions or kid’s meals if you are not too hungry.
- Check for restaurant coupon books or 2-for-1 offers through your hotel.
- Find restaurants that offer family platters.
- Seek out restaurants that offer prix fix or “menu of the day” deals.
- Check for places that offer “kids eat free” deals.
- Go for a late lunch rather than an early dinner and take the rest of the food in a ‘to go’ box to eat later.
- Purchase ‘take out’ food at the local supermarket if you have one nearby.
Save on Things to Do on Your Vacation
- Buy package tickets online before you go. They are usually cheaper and will save you time when you get to your destination.
- Consider purchasing passes for several days instead of just one day for theme parks; they are cheaper with parks like Disney, Universal Studios and SeaWorld. Traveling Mom recommends Get Away Today for discounted Disney tickets and vacation packages. Not only does the company have the lowest prices, it offers a best price guarantee. If you ever find park tickets cheaper, Get Away Today won’t just match the price, the company will beat it.
- Research the destinations you plan to visit ahead of time and read forums for tips from locals.
- Remember to bring student cards and membership cards during travel. Check for family rates and disabled rates as well AAA, AARP and other discounts.
- Download free info and mobile apps about sites instead of taking paid tours.
- Many museums offer free entry on certain days.
- Buy a yearly museum membership that offers a reciprocal entry program for other museums across the country.
- Take free walking tours like the Chicago City Greeters tours.
Save on Car Rentals
- Join the major car rental company loyalty programs and sign up for promotions.
- Call the local car rental branch directly and ask for discounts.
Save on Cruises
- Stay away from sodas, coffees and alcohol as much as possible since those charges can really add up.
- Don’t be tempted to buy souvenirs onboard. You can find most items cheaper in the ports of call.
- Crave logo souvenirs? Participate in on board games for a chance to win.
- Don’t buy the photographs and video sold by the cruise line. Bring your camera and take your own.
Save on Cell Phone Charges
- Block data roaming on your phone while you are still on US soil and check continuously that it stays off!
- When traveling internationally look into buying a local phone card when you arrive at your destination.
- Use online services like Skype, Whatsapp and Voxer to communicate via Wi-Fi instead of phone service.
Save on Souvenirs
- Never buy souvenirs in ‘touristy’ areas or airports as they are usually priced higher than in small mom and pop stores and local markets.
- Establish a set budget and stick to it, especially when traveling with kids.