With gas prices at a premium and airlines adding fees to everything from ticket prices to luggage to printing boarding passes, it's no wonder more people are rethinking – and re-budgeting – their travel plans. But before you swear off travel altogether, consider these cost-saving options to help stretch your dollar and get you on the road, or in the air, this season. We consulted some budget-minded experts and got their travel tips for making your dollar go further.
Save For Travel
You save so your kids can go to college. You save so you can retire comfortably. Why not start saving for travel? Sean O'Neill, senior editor of BudgetTravel.com, recommends putting aside some paycheck cash for travel funds.
“You probably already have your paycheck deposited into your checking account electronically,” says O'Neill. “Why not put your vacation fund on autopilot, too? Each month, ask your employer to shift a sum from your checking into a savings or money-market account. You'll be more likely to stockpile enough cash if you don't have to think about the process.”
Don't just stash that money in the mattress. Find a savings account that pays interest and you'll get more for your dollar over the period of a year or two.
Before you book your travel, shop around – for everything. Online travel sites like Cheapflights offer great deals from various partners, including airlines. When you book online, you also avoid paying an airline agent surcharge.
“When you're making comparisons, make sure the quotes you're getting include fees and taxes so you're comparing apples to apples,” says Leslie McFadden, staff reporter for Bankrate.com.
Don’t forget to compare lodging options based not only on the costs, but also on quality and location: Darngooddigs can help you with that so you can find a place to stay where you’ll enjoy yourself without spending all your money.
Once you've booked your travel, do some research on your destination and find comparison rates for tours, rental cars, excursions and other tourist activities. You're likely to find many of the top tourist activities in that destination offer additional sights to tour, or coupons to other tours, which will save you money in the long run.
Vacations abroad can be eye-opening experiences, and also very costly. If international travel is in your plans, carefully consider the destination and seek out vacation packages to help save a dollar or two along the way.
Consider traveling to countries that use the dollar, or whose currency is linked to the US dollar. The Caribbean and surrounding islands, including the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands, and Turks and Caicos, are a few places where the dollar is set. Countries in Central and South America are dollar-friendly and also provide a unique cultural experience.
If you do travel to another country and need a different form of currency, do your research before cashing out. Currency conversion at the bank can sometimes cost more money than it’s worth.
“To reduce the costs that typically come from using a money-exchange bureau, use credit cards whenever possible and obtain cash at ATMs,” says O'Neill. “Currency-conversion charges could cost you up to 3 percent extra on every purchase and are rarely listed on credit card bills.”
Before you go, consult your bank's ATM withdrawal policy and check with your credit card company about international conversion fees and rates. If you do your research ahead of time, you could wind up saving money when you spend internationally.
Smart travelers know how to save money. From airline tickets to hotel rooms, there is always a bargain to be found if you're flexible and spend time researching. Leslie McFadden offers a few helpful tips to remember when booking trips and saving at your destination:
- Travel mid-week to save on airfare.
- Use public transportation when you're visiting a large city.
- Hotels at major cities are cheaper on weekends when business travelers are gone. On the contrary, leisure destinations and resort areas will be cheaper during the week.
- Buy convenience items – sunscreen, lotions, shampoo – before your trip.
- Once you arrive at your destination, head to the Chamber of Commerce. You'll find coupons for restaurants, activities and excursions that will save you money in the long run.
One last tip: When you're traveling, consider yourself a local. If you don't dine out every night when you're at home, don't do it when you're on vacation. If you take public transportation at home, use the same mode of transportation at your destination. If you do your research and plan your trip wisely, you'll stretch your travel dollar and you might even have an opportunity to splurge on something frivolous while on vacation.