Americans expect to spend as much or more on travel in 2012 as they did in 2011, which — for a family of four — could mean dropping nearly $5,000 on a summer vacation this year, according to a recent survey by American Express.
Before you start making plans for a staycation, try these insider tips and tricks to save money on your next vacation from travel experts John DiScala, editor-in-chief of JohnnyJet.com, and John Novotny of Travellers, Inc. in Lawrence, Kan. Their advice will ensure that your wallet won't need a vacation from vacation.
Invite grandma and grandpa.
While adding two more people to your vacation plans may seem counterintuitive to saving, “you need to be aware of senior rates and things offered for active retired people,” says Novotny. “A lot of travel suppliers really discount prices for seniors heavily.”
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Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are an excellent resource for deals, says DiScala, so “like” and “follow” your preferred airlines, hotels and car rental companies—as well as travel experts like DiScala, who are often privy to deals before the general public. “Just two days ago on my Facebook and Twitter I talked about deals to Germany for $697 from New York and $800 from L.A., roundtrip, including all taxes and fees,” he says. “That’s unheard of for the middle of summer.”
You may have heard this one before, but it really does help, experts say. DiScala says Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays typically are the cheaper days to fly in and out of Europe, while Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays may get you a better fare within the U.S. “But you should price out every day,” he adds, “because you never know what’s going to be on sale.”
And while a summer cruise down the Seine may be your ideal, to save cash, consider cruising in the off-season. Fall is when cruise lines tend to offer deals because the weather is often less-than-perfect. Worried about an increased chance of storms at that time? Don't be. “Once you get past November 1, the likelihood of storms isn’t that great,” Novotny says.
If you're flexible on where you sail from, and what kind of liner you bunk in, you can save even more money. “The cruise lines have positioned ships in places like Galveston [Tex.], Los Angeles, New Orleans, Baltimore [Md.], Tampa [Fla.], Port Canaveral [Fla.]—areas that are less traditional cruise ports,” Novotny says. “They have ships that have been refurbished but aren’t the newest of the new, but often times you can obtain a real value considering one of those departure points.”
With gas prices hovering around $4 a gallon, why would you want to drive anywhere on vacation? “To
avoid having to purchase the air transportation as part of the trip,” Novotny says. “Then, as a double bonus, part of the excitement of the trip could be the route you take to the destination—how unique can you make that?”
Get creative with accommodations.
For families of four or more, Novotny suggests looking into condo or house vacation rentals, “which may have a kitchenette or a full kitchen to help avoid eating in restaurants for every meal.” The more adventurous can explore a house swap, says DiScala. “There’s a bunch of websites that specialize in that to help make sure you’re getting the right one,” he says, adding, “You don’t want to go to Craigslist and find some random one!”
Check out what's online.
When booking a hotel room, you may find yourself on a site like Priceline. But before you even visit it, DiScala recommends first going to BiddingforTravel.com. “It’s a message board where everyone who’s using Priceline goes and puts in what cities they’re bidding for, what dates, what they paid for, and what hotels showed up, “ he says, “so you pretty much know what you’re going to get and how much to bid for.”
Novotny also suggests checking the website of your destination’s visitor’s bureau to see if they are offering any promotions for visitors.
Don’t assume a deal is done once you hit “book.”
“It’s always good to re-check the price prior to arriving, but never reference the reservation that you already have,” Novotny says. “Always act as if it’s a new reservation, and if they quote you at a price that’s better than what you already have, you say, ‘I’m glad I called. Let’s get my rate adjusted to what you just quoted.’”
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