Americans spent more than $100 billion on summer vacations last year, according to Allianz Travel Insurance. It seems to be money well spent –experts say travel reduces stress, eases heart attack and other health risks and boosts energy and relaxation. The downside? Travel can be very pricey. Here are some tips from experienced travelers to get the most vacation bang from your hard-earned bucks.
Start with a budget. Branding and marketing consultant Gabriela Cardoza, one of several frequent travelers who joined me on a recent #WinnieSun Twitter chat, likes to use Excel to plan for travel expenses. Cheval John, the founder of the social media marketing agency Vallano Media, recommends @TransAbroad for its budgeting guides for various types of trips, while Dr. Joyce Knudsen, who runs Imagemaker, an image consulting business, with a Twitter following of over 1 million followers says she’s had good results with budgetyourtrip.com. Others like TripAdvisor. Priceline and Orbitz can help you find good hotel rates and Gasbuddy steers you to the best fuel prices in the region. Work benefits expert Jim Katzaman said the best place is to start is with your bank account. “That way, you make sure you won’t spend more than you have and dig a deep financial hole.”
Use online travel websites and services that help you find the bargains.Publicist and spokespeople representative Robyn Stevens likes @NatGeoTravel, @Travelocity, and @Expedia. Travel writer and social media travel consultant Charles McCool uses @TheFlightDeal, @Pizzainmotion, @Travelzoo and @SecretFlying but his favorite is @Yelp. McCool says he knows many people who love @Skyscanner.
Mind those credit cards. Be sure to use a card that does not charge fees for foreign transactions, as those can add up fast. Gabriela Cardoza says it’s a good idea to take a second credit card in case you run into problems and need more credit than your first card allows.
Pay attention to your cell phone usage. In a foreign country, roaming charges can gobble up your travel budget in no time. Check with your carrier to find the cheapest way to use your phone overseas or find a service just for your time abroad.
Plan your trip during your destination’s “offseason.” You’ll not only likely get a better deal but will also avoid crowds that come with peak times. Buy your plane tickets and book your lodging as far in advance as possible. You might also want to consider buying trip insurance so you can get all or most of your money back if you have an emergency and your plans change at the last minute.
Sign up for airlines’ newsletters and watch for deals. Be ready to purchase tickets when you spot something good. Many of the best deals are offered for just a brief period of time. If possible, buy tickets six months or even a year in advance if you spot a good deal.
Search for local deals. Try your destination’s information centers, hotel concierge, and newspapers for discount coupons for local attractions. Some cities offer passes or discount books to multiple activities and events.
Participate in free activities such as local museums, free concerts, parks, scenic trails, or other low-or no-cost activities. Look over local newspapers or web searches to see what is available during your stay. There are lots of inexpensive opportunities for Instagram-worthy snaps without having to break your budget.
Lifehack offers still more ideas for stretching your travel dollars. Among them: Travel by bicycle or motorcycle when feasible, travel at night, skip hotels for hostels and family-run home stays and ask locals for the best budget-conscious places to eat.
According to the 2017 LearnVest Money Habits and Confessions Survey, 74% of people say they have gone into debt to pay for a vacation– by $1,108 on average. That doesn’t have to be you. With a little diligence and advance planning, your vacation won’t bust your budget. Happy trails!