As I sit here at the Comfort Suites in Lumberton, NC on our annual road from from Florida to New Hampshire to enjoy the snow covered White Mountains, I knew that I had to let you in on one of my little secrets. I don’t always travel in luxury, spending a fortune on the Waldorf, Ritz or Four Seasons. When on the road I want someplace that’s clean, inexpensive and close to the on/off ramp, since I am not here to explore the area…just spend the night on my way.
Hotels and Motor Inns can be one of the most expensive parts of your vacation, but there are some easy ways to keep that portion of your travel budget under control, while still enjoying a nice hotel room, a good night’s sleep, and if you’re on the road – an early start the next morning. The same goes for an extended stay in your destination. Most people only get to travel once or twice a year, and they save year round for that special getaway. By saving money, you may be able to stretch that budget and go away for an extra weekend or extend your vacation.
1. Look for a package deal
Once you have created your travel budget, you should have a pretty good idea of how much you can afford per day. Go online to see what kind of package you can get at around that rate. For example, booking flight, hotel and car rental on Expedia can offer significant savings.
2. Be clear about what is important for you and your family
If you are single, chances are you won’t care what your room is like because you will be outside of it most of the time soaking up the sights. But do check if you get stuck with a single supplement fee.
If you are traveling as a family, a suite with a refrigerator and microwave can help you keep the kids fed and costs down. If you’re more of an RV family, think about investing in a used one and don’t forget to compare motorhome insurance to save money.
Remember, the less you spend on your room, the more you have to spend on other things.
3. Consider staying with family
If you have any family in the area, see if you can stay with them. You may even have a built in tour guide who knows the area!
4. Try Airbnb
Some of the properties are really great and a fraction of what you would pay for a hotel. Just be sure to check the location in relation to all the places you want to visit. You may need a rental car if you are not driving to your destination, which can add to the cost. Check for public transportation, and typical taxi fares.
5. Consider travel hostels
Hostels have come a long way in the past few years, and are clean, modern, and full of amenities. Some of them can be a bit out of the way, but their cheapness can more than make up for location. Backpacker hostels in New Zealand are a way of life and are used by people from 8 to 80, so don’t worry about being “too old” to go to a hostel. Just be prepared to share kitchen and sometimes the bathroom, or pay more for a private room if available. Today there are hostels that offer family or private rooms!
6. Watch your travel dates
Peak times will be at the holidays and in the summer in many locations. Travel in the off-season can cost a fraction of what it does at peak season.
7. Bid on Hotwire or Priceline
This has always been one of my favorites. Unless I have a particular hotel in mind or I’m visiting for a story, I use Priceline. I’ve gotten some great deals on high-end properties!! Just know that with Priceline, you can’t pick the exact hotel, but you will have an idea of location and rating.
8. Consider the location
City center hotels can cost a small fortune compared to others a bit further out. So too can airport hotels if you are not careful. Consider the cost and availability and time factor in relation to public transportation and/or taxis to where you need to go (and/or car rental), and see what makes the most sense.
9. Loyalty programs
If you are a frequent traveler, join a loyalty program for the same chain of hotels. It can add up to a range of perks and might also get you a room upgrade at no extra cost. Some programs even allow you to combine points with paying for a very cheap option on longer stays.
10. House Swapping
House swapping is becoming more popular, as families who want to visit certain locations but still enjoy comforts of home exchange with others. Just be careful of location, and do be careful of their property and your own valuables when you have anyone in your house.
Camping can be a great adventure. Campsites can be very basic, or full of amenities. Mr. S and I will be venturing out on our very first adventure staying in an RV (with Go RVing) this coming September. I hope you follow along as we (along with Ben & Allyson from HomeFoodFun.com) try to rough it in a luxury RV at Disney (ok, so maybe we won’t exactly be roughing it, but it should be funny).
12. Caravan parks
Caravans are one up from camping in a tent. They are warm, dry, have a stove and fridge, and can be a fun way to enjoy a holiday by the seaside or other scenic location.
13. Deals and discounts
Look for bargain deals, coupons and more. I subscribe to a number of emails that tell last minute deals. I’ll be staying at NYLO Warwick in a couple of days. I scored a DEEP DISCOUNT by booking it on Black Friday (yes, even hotels have Black Friday sales).
14. Check the fine print
Before making any booking, be sure to read the fine print so you know exactly what things will cost, as well as cancellation fees, etc.