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Saturday, May 25, 2019

15 Ways to Save Money on Your Travels

Vacations can cost a lot of money, but that doesn't mean you can't go on one. Even a short vacation is better than no vacation. Don't be one of those 43% of families who aren't going on a summer trip (though going any other time works too), and don't be in the percentage of workers who never take any of their vacation days. Let's talk about easy and cool ways to save money on your travels.

ways to save on travel

  1. Be loyal and rack up frequent flyer miles by using the right credit card and then using it for all the things. Remember, you can use it for things like utilities and then pay it off with your actual money, just to get the points/miles. The more you earn, the faster you can get free travel.
  2. Travel light. By carry-on traveling, you save at least $50 on your flight. There's also no chance of your belongings going missing, because you always know where it is. Need help? Here are my tips for packing light.
  3. Use Daily Deal sites to save up to 90% on eating out, attractions and even your hotels. 
  4. Book attraction tickets online before your trip, as many times this can save you money over gate prices. If nothing else, look for coupons ahead of times, or hit up a hotel lobby for coupons in the brochure rack.
  5. Travel during off-season or shoulder-season. Generally, the summer is the most expensive time to travel, but some destinations differ, based on where they are. Try to avoid the most popular times and you can save up to 50%.
  6. Book a vacation rental rather than a traditional hotel so you can actually eat leftovers and even make some of your own meals. You might also save money on laundry, WiFi, and more. My favorite is Airbnb {<--use that link for $40 off!}. I use it any time I can.
  7. Walk or use public transportation when you can. It's almost always cheaper to take public transportation than to get an Uber, taxi or rent a car. And walking is free!
  8. If renting a car is a must, unless you find an AHmazing deal, choose to book and pay later, then monitor rates up until the day you leave. You won't get penalized for canceling and then reserving again at a lower price.
  9. Rent the smallest car possible. Unless you're doing a ton of driving, you won't be in the car for long periods of time. You just need everyone to get places easily. Rental companies will never downgrade your rental, even if you ask, but they will upgrade you for free if you arrive and your smaller car is not available. 9 times out of 10 I have driven away with a larger car, because the economy cars are booked out first or none have been returned when I arrive.
  10. Book your flights to travel on Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday, because these are the least popular days to fly. And if you book one of the first flights out for the day, you might save a bit more and you're less likely to get delayed.
  11. Volunteer to get bumped. Most airlines overbook, which means some people just don't get a seat, it just depends on when they check in. Sometimes the airline crew will call for volunteers to take the next flight, and if that works for you, you can get free money or airline vouchers. That means cheaper flights next time!
  12. Look for free activities at your destination. Many have them, including museums, landmarks, festivals, walking tours, and awesome parks. adding these to your trip will help you stretch your dollars.
  13. Hit up food carts where you can. You can often eat restaurant-quality foods at a cart, but at a fraction of the price of a sit-down restaurant, because you're only paying for the food and the cook. There isn't any other overhead being passed on to the customers.
  14. Choose to eat at your must-eat restaurants for lunch rather than dinner, as menu prices can be much lower earlier in the day.
  15. Bring snacks and a reusable water bottle. This means you won't be paying for unnecessary food and drinks on your trip. You'll be surprised how much these add up. Having snacks and drinks on-hand when hunger and thirst strikes between meals (or even on the plane) can be a lifesaver for you and your budget. This is especially true if you travel with kids.
This is my quick list to easily save money on your travels, but I have plenty more. Keep reading the blog for more, subscribe to my newsletter, or join my Facebook page, where you're free to ask questions and talk to other budget travelers. And don't forget that there are lots of little ways you can save for travel too.

I'd love to hear your tips too. If you could only give other travelers one money-saving tip, what would it be?

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Getting Deep Discounts on Car Rentals

Sometimes when you travel, it’s just not practical to take public transportation. Maybe you are covering a lot of ground on your trip or the bus schedule is iffy or you are on a business trip that calls for you to be at specific places at particular times. The problem with renting a car is that it can quickly add up over just a few days. Getting a good deal is not too difficult, but it does take some know-how and persistence. Here are some of the easiest ways to get the best deal possible.

Keep checking rates

Once you reserve a car, you are not usually locked into the rate at the time you booked. Rates can go up or down between the time you book it and the time you actually pick up your car. If they go down, you can always cancel and rebook with no penalty. Keep checking up to the day before you leave. You never know how much cheaper you can get by just keeping your eye on the rental rates.

Book for a week

Weekly rates are sometimes much better than if you booked each day separately and often even more affordable than a four- or five-day rental. Check the fine print to make sure there’s no penalty for returning your car early. If there isn’t, take the weekly rate and then bring your rental back a few days early. It can only help them make more money by having an extra car on-hand.

Reserve the smallest possible car

Yes, you’re on vacation and you want to be comfortable, but think about how much time you’ll actually be spending in the car. Rental companies can’t downgrade your car once it’s booked – only upgrades are acceptable. This means if you reserve a compact or an economy car (which are the most popular) and they don’t have any when you get there, they have to give you the next available size up at the same rate. If all they have at the time is a luxury car, they are obligated to rent it to you. The other upside to renting a smaller car is that it will cost you less in fuel, because you’ll get better gas mileage.

Use your own insurance

Insurance can end up costing you the same price as your rental. If you have insurance at home, it’s likely you are covered in any car you drive, whether you own it or not. Check with your personal insurance company before you leave home and then tell the rental car company you don’t need their optional insurance. The same goes for the credit card you use to pay for your rental. A lot of major credit cards have insurance coverage for rental automobiles that kicks in when the card is used.

Skip the GPS

Sure, it’s probable that you won’t know where you’re going when you travel to a new destination, unless directions to your hotel are super simple, but that doesn’t mean you need to rent the navigation system from the car company. If you have a personal GPS, bring it instead. It will take up a little space in your luggage, but it will save you quite a bit of money if you will be at your destination for more than a few days. Also, the fee is outrageous if your car is broken into and the system is stolen. You would stand to lose much less if your own GPS was taken.

Avoid the inclusive gas option

By far the biggest rip-off when you rent a car is the optional fill-up upon return. While there are some exceptions, it is very common for them to charge you over a dollar more per gallon than what is charged at the pump. On top of that, no matter how much gas you return with, you will be made to pay as if the tank was empty, and at the highly inflated rate. Tell the rep at the desk that you will return the car with a full tank and then ask where the nearest station is, so you can take note to stop there upon your return.

Rent away from the airport

Airports impose a rental fee to car companies, which they then pass onto the customer. If it is possible to rent off-site, compare pricing to see if there is a notable difference. If there is, choose the least expensive option.

Add a second driver

Most rental companies allow you to add a second driver to your rental for no fee once you get to the counter to sign in. If you are married – or live in the same house and say you are spouses – then you can both be on the rental agreement for the same rate as just one.

Get the most out of your rental

You always want to get the most for your money and renting a car is no different. Sign up for reward programs and earn points toward free rentals, upgrades and more when you use each company. You can usually use your frequent flyer membership number to earn miles for each rental you complete as well. Sometimes you have to pay a bit more for your rental this way, but usually it’s less than a dollar per rental day, so you are still coming out ahead.

Rent from a person

Use Turo*. I've done this before. It's basically like an Airbnb, but for cars. Rent a car from an individual and it includes insurance and mileage, plus you can pay extra for drop-off if you need it at the airport or somewhere else. You may just have to give the owner a ride. 

When we went to LA last August, I was having issues finding a decent rental car rate. Everything for 5 days was upwards of $400. On Turo, I found a great car with excellent reviews for less than half that price. The app is easy to use and everyone is vetted, plus it's cheaper than using rideshares if you need to do a lot of driving. *If you click through my link to sign up, you'll get $25 credit towards your first rental.

Renting a car doesn’t have to be a daunting experience. It’s fun to drive something new, it’s exciting to save money and you’ll be glad to not have to rely on public transportation if you will be traveling around a lot during your stay. A car rental also enables you to take day trips from the city and go on your own schedule. With these tips, you can eliminate the stress of high rental costs, because you’ll know the rate you’re paying is the best one that you could find.

How often do you rent a car when you travel?

Saturday, May 18, 2019

5 Affordable Summer Beach Destinations

Summer is all about visiting the beach, and with a majority of travelers doing so in the summer months, it can be hard to find a decent deal near the shore. I've read that something like 40% of people will not travel over the summer due to vacation costs. Luckily, there are still some spots on the coast that won’t break your bank. 

affordable summer beach destinations

They may not be places you’ve thought of traveling before, but if your goal is to walk along the sand and play in the ocean, here are five budget cities to plan your summer getaway to.

Photo by MacKenzi Martin on Unsplash

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

With tons of resorts on the oceanfront, there is someplace to stay for every budget. Rental condos of all sizes are always on special to entice families to visit. Saving so much on your accommodation can help you do a lot more once you’re there. Not only will you find over 60 miles of beautiful beaches, but also amusement parks, award-winning golf courses, watersports and lots of outdoor activities like fishing, hiking and shopping.

Santa Monica, California

Best known for its famous pier, Santa Monica is packed with great people watching, mild weather to enjoy the beach and delicious restaurants. Third Street Promenade has wonderful shopping and in the evening you can catch live street performances and other entertainment. During the summer there are plenty of special activities to keep you busy on the beach, but if you’re hoping to get away from the crowds and hope to catch a glimpse of a famous face or two, jump on the hop-on, hop-off bus yellow route and ride it to amazing neighborhoods where you can get off and sightsee, including Rodeo Drive, Brentwood County Mart and Fox Studios.

Photo by parth upadhyay on Unsplash

Jersey Shore, New Jersey

For a traditional beach getaway, you can’t beat Jersey Shore. It’s not all Snooki and JWoww down at the water’s edge. Try your hand at boardwalk games, get on a few rides, take in a bit of shopping and then hang out at one of the many restaurants near the pier. If the fun in the sun becomes a bit too much for you, you can always hop on a train to ride into New York or try your luck in Atlantic City.

Photo by Matthew T Rader on Unsplash

South Padre Island, Texas

Best known as a hotspot for spring breakers, South Padre Island is a great place to engage in a variety of watersports, and also has many other activities to pique your interest. There’s a weekly farmers’ market, fireworks on the beach, catamaran races and other festivals during the warmer months. After lounging on the beach all day, dance your nights away at the numerous nightclubs on the island.

Photo by Taylor Rooney on Unsplash

Kennebunkport, Maine

Not really a famous destination for beach-lovers outside of the New England area, Kennebunkport feels like a bit more of an upscale ocean getaway. Feast on locally caught seafood and explore the historic town of Kennebunk. When not hanging out at the beach, you can fill your days with browsing antique shops, checking out the latest art and learning about long shipbuilding. Don’t forget to make some time to go shopping at a few of the many boutique stores to find the perfect gifts and souvenirs to bring back home.

No matter what your travel style, there is a beach vacation destination to suit you and your budget. From family-friendly to a romantic escape, one of these five cities can be the perfect vacation spot for you.

Where's your favorite summer beach spot?
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