Many people spend a long time saving up for a family vacation or a trip of a lifetime. It is as important to make sure the saved pennies are spent wisely as it was to actually save them. There are numerous sure-fire ways to stretch your travel and vacation budget dollars and be able to make even more memories by being able to do and see further things on your long-awaited trip.
Sounds good . . . So how do I start?
Probably the most important thing you will want to do is to thoroughly research your destination online. The first thing to do is to see if the Chamber of Commerce or Visitors Bureau from the place to where you will be traveling offers a travel kit or brochures. Many kits like this include coupons and that is one huge money saver on vacation.
In addition to sending for the vacation kit well enough in advance, check online for coupons as well. It is not unusual to find a coupon for 50% off of a second meal of equal value at a restaurant or 10% off for a hotel room.
Above all, remember that “budget” or “discount” does not have to mean a bad hotel room or a lousy dinner. Take the time to research the places for which you have found discounts and choose the places that suit your tastes. You have saved too long for a vacation to settle for accommodations or food that does not meet your expectations. Many excellent hotels and restaurants offer discounts and having a coupon is *not* synonymous with “cheap” looking or tasting. Just do your homework to make sure that doesn’t happen.
The best way to do this online is to use a search engine looking for things like (we’ll use Orlando as an example for purposes of this article) “Orlando attractions,” “Orlando Lodging,” and “Orlando coupons. Then look at the websites to see what specials will be offered during the time you will be in town. Also use the internet for checking reviews that others may have written for hotels and restaurants in your destination city.
Find discount coupons for attractions as well. Often when you are looking for discounts, you will find some attractions in the area that you had no idea existed no matter how much you thought you researched the area.
Choose any or all of these tips and see how much money you can save!
Budget travel tip #1:
Research the area you will be visiting. Do this online and look for discount coupons that can range from anything between a free drink at dinner to an entire free meal if you buy one of comparable price.
While you are looking through the vacation kits and brochures, be sure to take notes about places that may have free admission. These often include places like botanical gardens, historical sites, national parks, and museums. Also note where there are places like beaches and free concerts at the time you will be traveling.
Budget travel tip #2:
Be sure to find out which of your memberships may bring you travel discounts for lodging, dining, and admissions.
Take advantage of any memberships you hold that may offer discounts on hotels, restaurants, and attractions. AAA and AARP members are given discounts in many places. If you are a member of AAA, be sure to pick up a map and any tourist books they may have of the place to which you will be traveling. Some hotels and attractions offer discount for those in the military as well.
One fact that many people don’t realize is that one does not need to be retired to join AARP. The age when you can join is just 50. Considering many hotels offer 10%, 15%, and 20% discounts to members, it is definitely something worth considering, especially if you do a lot of traveling.
Budget travel tip #3:
Don’t forget to check out little known places that are off the beaten track. You will find that many of these places often known only by the locals will not charge an admission fee. If you spend part of your vacation time at places like this, there will be more of the budgeted travel funds leftover for a special meal or a unique souvenir that you may not have been able to buy otherwise.
Budget travel tip #4:
Try to get some suggestions of places to eat from people on online travel forums. This is a great way to find some of the places where locals eat and usually those places have much lower prices than the places in the middle of tourist areas. If you are not able to find out online, check with some of the locals after arriving. This also works for some attractions that may not be heavily advertised for tourists.
Budget travel tip #5:
Don’t overlook the visitor centers if you are traveling by major highways. These places often have brochures for ideas of places to visit and books that contain hotel discounts. Some bigger tourist places (Orlando comes to mind) offer coupon dispensers that sit along the roadside. Just pull up and grab the booklets from your vehicle. There is really no excuse, especially in a place like Orlando, to not have a discount coupon for nearly everything you do with so many of them available.
Budget travel tip #6:
It is a good idea to remember that many restaurants serve at lunch prices until 4 p.m. If possible, try to eat a major meal at one of these places between lunch and dinnertime. You will not only get the lower prices and save on the day’s food budget, but perhaps eat less as well if a 3 p.m. meal will serve as both lunch and dinner. This works especially well at buffets.
Budget travel tip #7:
When you are looking for lodging, seek hotels that offer free breakfast as well as the discounts for AARP, AAA, military, etc. as mentioned previously. At most places you will find a continental breakfast of things like cold cereal, juice, toast, muffins and bagels, etc. but some hotels offer a more extensive breakfast. If a family of 4 would normally spend $15 for a fast food breakfast for 5 days, it could very well be the cost of one night’s hotel stay if you save that fast food breakfast cost. (Not to mention the healthier choices you will be able to find at a continental breakfast, including fruit at most places.)
Budget travel tip #8:
Consider buying some of your lunches at a grocery store instead of eating every meal at a restaurant. Some of them will have a deli section where you will be able to get some great food for a fraction of what it would cost at a restaurant. The old standby of cold cuts, a loaf of bread, and a bottle of squeeze mustard will work for a very quick and inexpensive meal. Just buy enough meat and cheese that will be used for lunch, though, if you don’t have a refrigerator in your hotel room. And make sure they give utensils along with your purchase if you buy something at the deli!
Budget travel tip #9:
If you are traveling with children, find out which hotels allow kids to stay free. It seems these days as if most of them would do that, but it’s not necessarily a given, so be sure. Some hotels let children under a certain age eat in their dining rooms free or for a large discount, too. The same holds true with restaurants. While you are planning your trip hopefully with online research, make sure to take note on which restaurants and attractions offer appealing discounts for children.
Budget travel tip #10:
If your destination is a popular tourist area, especially a beach, consider renting a condo-type place for an entire week if you will be there that long. It will often cost less than a hotel room does for the same amount of time, but you will sometimes have the added perks of a stove and refrigerator at places like this. Not with all of them, of course, so this is another thing that will need to be thoroughly researched.
In closing . . .
It sounds like a lot of work to look all of these things up on the internet, but it is well worth sitting down and doing just that. If you get the entire family involved and set aside a Saturday or Sunday afternoon or evening for the research, it can be a fun family activity and everyone in the family should be able to relate to the fact that if the budget is stretched in places that are flexible, it means more vacation fun can be planned for the same amount of money that has been saved.