Don’t cancel your vacation break! Stretch your travel budget with these bargain tips for trips.
Each time there’s a downturn in the economy, you see an abundance of articles on how everyone is canceling or cutting back their vacations. Last year it was all about the “staycation.” Earlier this year we saw the immediately disparaged term “naycation.” TravelMuse has it’s own response, the “yaycation”—namely, beating the odds to afford a vacation, especially when the economy is down.
We conducted a travel survey earlier this year, which revealed that more than 62 percent of respondents plan to take as many leisure trips or more this year than last. How can they afford to do so? A full 77 percent said they were willing to reduce spending in other areas of their life before cutting back on travel, including:
Are you one of those people who are just too hooked on travel to give it up? Here are ways to help you stretch your vacation dollars this year to make it possible to keep traveling.
If you know how much you spend and on what, you’ll know where you can start saving. TravelMuse has unveiled a new tool—the Yaycations Calculator—that can help you identify areas to save and then funnel that money into a vacation fund. Cutting down from five lattes a week to two, comes to $546 in savings—the price of an airline ticket, or a few nights’ hotel stay.
I used to avoid sites like Priceline and Hotwire because, well, I can be a control freak sometimes. No more. A recent a car rental would have cost about $400 if I had gone directly to Hertz or Avis. Through Priceline? The total was closer to $150. I ended up with Budget, which I hadn’t used before, but all was perfectly fine. Don’t be afraid to low-ball up front. All that can happen is a rejection with an alternative price option.
Sign up for weekly airline and travel newsletter deals, and be sure to regularly check the weekly Sunday travel section of your local newspaper. If you have a car, join AAA, for terrific travel discounts on hotels, attractions, restaurants and more. Follow travel news sites too. If a carrier expands to a new market, odds are it will be offering discount fares for that destination. Jet Blue recently added new international routes to Costa Rica and Colombia, and is expanding its service next month to Jamaica; Southwest announced last week it’s expanding to LaGuardia Airport, for service between New York and Chicago and Baltimore.
Two of my most memorable—and most affordable—vacations were to Nicaragua and Colombia. While neither is necessarily considered offbeat by avid travelers, they’re also not yet as popular as, say, Costa Rica, located between the two, and which cost me twice as much for the same length vacation. I backpacked some, but also splurged—on top-end hotels that were around $100 per night and high-end restaurants that averaged about $25 each, for three courses and wine.
Long popular in small resort towns and regional vacation destinations, charming inns and B&Bs can be the economical way to go—even in big cities. I’ve used them in Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and New York and never been disappointed—and often found rooms for about half the going mid-level hotel chain rate. Plus you get personalized attention, and often great local recommendations for sites and restaurants. Try Bed and Breakfast Network.com.
Off-season travel means the weather may not be ideal, but deals are to be had on flights and airfares. See the Caribbean in summer and early fall, or Europe in winter, often for half the price of peak-season travel. And for shoppers, between seasons can save you bundles. Visit big shopping destinations in spring or fall when boutiques and department stores alike offer major sales to clear out the old merchandise to make way for the new.
If you love trying top restaurants, try to book your trip during a city’s restaurant week. Most primary and secondary destinations offer them now, especially those with a strong culinary scene—look for dates on the tourism Web sites. Prices vary, but generally the deal includes a prix fixe three-course meal, often pegged to the year, e.g., $20.09 for lunch, and $10 to $15 more for dinner, which is still a bargain compared to regular a la carte prices. Beverages, tax and tips are extra.
Also check out popular farmer’s markets for local, in-season products; they often are accompanied by tasty food stalls. And don’t forget about street vendors. If ubiquitous in a destination, there will be a list online of the best ones around. Some of my favorite $5 New York lunches came from food carts located at the corner of my office building. Or book a room with a kitchenette and eat a few meals in.
Most museums offer some window of free or subsidized admission hours. Sure the place is more crowded, but you’ll have up to an extra $20 in your pocket. Several venues also offer event nights—such as the first Friday or Saturday of the month, when DJs are hired and the museums have more of a club atmosphere. And when the sign says “Suggested Admittance,” don’t be afraid to give a fraction of the requested amount. Just stick to bills and keep the loose change in your pocket.
If you’re traveling as a family or a small group, or plan to hit as many top attractions and tours as possible, consider discount tourist books, such as City Pass, with deals ranging from 50 percent off museum admissions to 30 percent off theme parks to two-for-one deals at restaurants. Check your destination’s tourism sites or your hotel concierge for multiple options.
During tough economic times, it’s often easier to find bargains for shows and sporting events. In New York, the TKTS booth is well known, offering 25 to 50 percent off ticket prices to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows. Though there’s always a line, during down times, it’s even more likely that you’ll be able to get seats to your desired show. As for sporting events, it also depends on how well the team is doing; for instance, I recently scored $20 New York Knicks basketball tickets.
There are many other ways to save money when traveling, but hopefully these provided a good start—and can help you say Yay! to travel this year!