One of my favorite things in life is going on vacation. I not only love planning my own trips, but I also enjoy hearing about other people’s travel stories. One thing I can’t stand, though, is when people pay too much for travel. Even worse is when someone wants to go on vacation but doesn’t because of the belief that travel is out of reach financially. I am a huge fan of using reward points to make vacations affordable. But even when paying in cash, there are a few steps that make travel much cheaper. Why pay more if you don’t have to?
Disclosure: This post was written in collaboration with Groupon. I was compensated for my time, but all opinions are my own and from tips and tricks I’ve used personally to save on travel.
Maybe your heart is set on staying at the resort that offers cushy bath robes and free s’mores after dinner, but this level of luxury is way over budget. Instead of going into debt to stay at a particular place, look around the area to see what else might be available. After all, are you going on vacation to sit in the room wrapped up in a robe or to explore a new place?
We love Coronado, CA and think it would be amazing to stay at the historic Hotel Del Coronado. At upwards of $300 a night, though, it would eat a pretty big chunk of our travel dollars. Instead, we usually stay across the road at the El Cordova Hotel. It’s not as luxurious, but it’s about a third of the cost and still in a prime location. Who cares if we have to cross the street to get to the beach?
Another great option is VRBO or AirBnB. While visiting the Oregon coast, we found a sweet little cottage for less than the cheesy boardwalk hotels were charging. It had a full kitchen and also allowed us to see a different area that was a bit off the beaten path.
Look For Cash Back or Coupons
Before booking any type of travel, log into a cash back portal, like Ebates or Top Cash Back, to see if there are any rebates. Sometimes hotels and travel booking sites offer a decent amount of cash back after your trip is completed.
There are also various coupons for booking travel through companies like Orbitz or Expedia. By taking a few minutes to search, you can often save hundreds of dollars by stacking coupons with cash back.
Book Early But Keep Looking
Once you’ve decided on the perfect vacation destination, nothing is a bigger bummer than finding that the area where you want to stay is booked solid. To avoid being disappointed, book something in your price range as early as possible, even if it isn’t ideal. Then, keep checking back.
For the last night of our upcoming trip to Europe, we wanted to stay close to the airport and booked what we thought was a reasonably priced Hilton. I kept searching and the prices dropped by $80 a few months later. Also, new availability might open up as your travel dates get closer and other reservations are cancelled. Just make sure there is no penalty for early cancellation if there is a chance you might change plans
Discounted Gift Cards
Sometimes hotel chains will put gift cards on sale for loyalty members to purchase. Last fall, we took advantage of a Hyatt promotion offering gift cards at a five percent discount. We then used them to pay for our Thanksgiving stay in Scottsdale.
To take advantage of sales, make sure to register for all hotel loyalty programs and opt in for deals and promotional messages. Most emails will not be helpful, but hidden gems do appear on occasion.
Stack on Added Bonuses
Another option for travel savings is to buy gift cards for airlines or hotels at the grocery store when there is a bonus promotion, like the 4x fuel points that Kroger chains have been offering this summer. We did that for Disney gift cards a few years back and were able to get $1 off per gallon to fill up the car.
These type deals aren’t going to earn a free vacation, but getting $25 or $50 here and there can add up to cover food or other travel expenses, especially if you combine them to some of the other savings methods above.
Travel is certainly a luxury, but I can honestly say going on vacation makes me much happier and a better person to be around. Trips don’t have to cost a fortune, especially if you take advantage of opportunities to make travel cheaper.
Have you ever been surprised at how much you can save on travel by searching for deals? What is the best travel coupon you’ve ever used?