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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Fabulous Travel Freebies 5.28.11

Free is always a great price, but if you don’t know how to get it, then it’s not really all that helpful. I love travel freebies and try to maximize them on every trip I take, because that’s less money I have to pay out of my own pocket. The more money I save, the better trip I can take or the more I can put towards a future vacation. There’s also the fact that if you save more, you spend less and suddenly a trip that was a little out of your reach is now within your budget! You know that old saying “You get what you pay for”? Well, I know for a fact that discounted travel does not necessarily fit into that category. I like getting MORE than I pay for and feeling like I’ve rewarded myself for all my hard planning work.

So, what kinds of freebies can you get that help you save? I am basing the total savings over a 7-day vacation

Free breakfast – Free continental or buffet breakfast is a fantastic saver! On the low end, say you usually only have coffee and a bagel in the morning, you can save $5 per person, but on the higher end, if you like to eat out and have someone wait on you in the morning, you could be looking at $12+ per person. (Total savings: $35-84 per traveler)

Kids Eat Free – If your hotel has a restaurant and they offer free dining for kids, this is another big savings. Usually, you can get free meals for up to 2 kids this way if you purchase an adult entrée. Assuming a kid’s meal is the average of $6, that’s up to $18 per day per child. (Total savings: $42-$126 per child – depending on how often you eat in our hotel’s restaurant.)

Free WiFi – I always like to stay in touch, blog, check email and Facebook while I’m on vacation, so I tend to bring my iPad and netbook everywhere I travel. This way Eric and I can both check up on what’s been happening while we’ve been gone and also communicate with friends and family. Hotels and resorts sometimes charge for internet service, or you can wait in the lobby and use one of their computers free of charge for a few minutes. Your best bet on this is to find one of the many places that give you free WiFi, because it can save you weekly or daily rates, or those minute rates charged by Internet cafés. These fees can range anywhere from $4.95 per night to $29.95 for a week block. Internet cafés can be considerably cheaper, but it depends on where you go. I’ve spent $5 for 10 minutes of time and then $4 for half an hour. (Total savings: $30-35)

Laundry on-site – While usually not free, it’s still a minimal charge to use the machines there compared to the local Laundromat or worse, the laundry services they offer where you leave your bag of clothing and then come back to fresh clothes and a bill. Generally, the machines off-site can range anywhere from $1.75 - $3.00 per load for both the washer and the dryer. If you do laundry out of the country, it can cost almost $8 just to wash your clothes. Anytime I’ve used the on-site facilities, they range from $.50-1.00 for each machine and most times they were free. A big price tag comes with having your clothing laundered while you’re out and about. A shirt of any kind will cost you about $5 and pants $8. That’s $13 for ONE outfit. If you bring 3-4 outfits with you and have to wash 3 while you wear the 4th, that can REALLY add up. (Total savings: $3.50-16 for laundry, $39 x traveler for laundry services)

Free Coffee and Snacks – Many hotels offer free coffee/tea and snacks (like fruit and/or cookies) in the lobby. There’s no reason to not take advantage of such things that are included in your room rate. Think about all the times you want to snack during the day while you’re sightseeing. If you had a banana or some other snacky thing that you snagged on your way out, you wouldn’t have to shell out any money again until lunch or dinner. The free coffee and/or tea provided, while not fancy, can save you a trip to Starbucks in the morning. (Total savings: $35-56 per traveler)

Free dessert or appetizer – Like most hotels and resorts, yours is bound to have the rack of brochures and dining card ads. You can totally score big on these, because usually there is a deal on the back for dining venues that give you something for free, like a dessert or appetizer. If you’re lucky, a 2-for-1 is offered. With a free appetizer you can order less or split an entrée with another companion. (Total savings: $7-15 per dining experience)

Free Activities – I love to be busy most of the time I’m on a trip, because I like to experience as much as possible. Getting to do some stuff for free is awesome and saves a lot. Here are three of the best ways to do things for free.
  • CityPASS – This is a great way to get free activities, because each pass includes many popular tourist attractions and activities for a discounted price. We always try to buy one if it’s offered and we plan to do much of what’s on the list. You can save 40-60% off the price of paying for everything separately. Use my handy-dandy list on the right to find links to CityPASS, GoCards and London and Paris Pass. We were able to pack a lot into our London trip when we got the London Pass and did much more than we expected for the money we paid. Some cards even include public transportation. Besides money, they also save you time, because you can skip the ticket queues and go straight to the door with your card. You can even get them for Disney. (Total savings: $50-hundreds considering location and how many things you tick off the list)
  • Groupon (and other daily deal sites) – Daily deal sites can save you a bundle on 2-for-1 and discounted activities and attractions. Sign up for the ones that offer things in your chosen destination and wait for things you know sound like fun and you want to do. This is also the way to get free dining. You can find links to Groupon and other daily deals on the right and also learn more about aggregates HERE. (Total savings: $20+, depending on what you do and how many you can use.)
  • All-inclusive resorts – I know you’re paying to stay at these places and be entertained and well-fed; most of them also offer free activities in the form of non-motorized watersports and even have nightly entertainment. That’s a freebie in my opinion, though you may feel differently. I suggest pricing out what you would expect to spend on your trip if you didn’t go all-inclusive and see if the savings are significant enough to go one way or the other. (Total savings: unlimited, since you can do a variety of things provided throughout your stay)

Hotel nights – There are so many rewards programs out there, I can’t even tell you. If you tend to stay at the same hotel or chain when you travel, get on their rewards program. It’s free and with each stay you earn points that can get you free nights, upgrades, freebies and other useful things. A few others that I love are:
  • Hotels.com’s Welcome Rewards. You stay 10 nights at participating hotels (they don’t have to be in the same trip either) and you get a free night worth the equivalent of the average cost of the 10 nights combined (if your trips averaged $65, then you would get a $65 credit towards a room of your choice).
  • MyPoints is another program to get in on. You take surveys, click through links on emails and make purchases through their site (click-through to merchant site) and accrue points. Those points can then be traded in for hotel gift cards, dining rewards and much more.
  • HotelClub is yet another site that gives good rewards. The basis of their program is that you get “cash back” with each reservation you complete (the more you book, the more you can earn) and then that amount is added to your account to be used on your next booking.
(Total savings: $15-150, more if you stay at swankier hotels than I do)

Free airfare – Who doesn’t want to fly for free? It’s one of the biggest parts of your travel expenses. You can do this several different ways:
  • Get bumped from your flight and obtain vouchers or credit towards a future flight. You can read more about how to do that HERE.
  • Be loyal to one or two airlines and accumulate air miles to trade in for free flights. This will take longer, but you can also sign up for programs within the program to get miles for some purchase and even for booking hotels, cruises and car rentals through their website. You can learn a bit more about how to use your mileage programs to your advantage HERE.
  • Get a credit card with frequent flyer benefits. Just for signing up and spending a certain amount you can gain 15,000-25,000 on most cards. Other cards have a higher benefit, but you will have to determine if the fees and rates are worth getting the airfare or if the cons outweigh the pros in that case. British Airways teamed up with Chase a few months ago to give new cardholders up to 100K points, which is the equivalent of 2 roundtrip coach tickets to Europe. The fine print was that you had to spend $2,500 on your card in the first 3 months, but if you use that card for everything you planned to use your checking account for and paid it off at the end of each month, you could easily do it without disrupting your normal buying routine.(Total savings: $500-1300 per passenger)
(Total savings: $500-1300 per passenger)

Onboard/Resort Credits – There’s really no one way to get these, but some of the best ways is to subscribe to different deal emails where you can get in on last-minute travel itineraries for cruises and all-inclusive resorts and also to book far in advance – 6 months or more. Resorts and cruises often like to reward those that plan in advance with freebies like room/cabin upgrades and spa credits.  They offer such deals again when they have open rooms a month or so before sailing or when they are trying to get more passengers on the “off” season. Sign up with Travelocity, Expedia, Hotwire and more to get weekly emails with current deals. (Total savings: $100-2,000)

Free alcoholic beverages – If drinking is one of your favorite vacation pastimes, there are a few ways to get free drinks on your travels. The most obvious way is to stay at an all-inclusive resort where this is included. I consider it free, because you’re paying for your accommodations, entertainment and food all in one lump sum. Anything beyond that is a plus in my book. Another thing you can do is find a hotel that offers a free cocktail hour. They are kinda few and far between, but if you’re lucky you can find them. I see most of them listed on deal sites like Vacationist, SniqueAway, VoyagePrive (which you can link to on the right for an invite) and also on many beach destinations on BookIt (also linked on the right). I hear guests rave over the cocktail hours they experienced at different hotels. Most also offer appetizers and cheese at this time. (Total Savings: unlimited)

100 for 100! I would love to run another giveaway here on the blog, but in order to do that, I would like to get to 100 subscribers via Google Friend Connect and Networked Blogs. If you are a regular reader and not already subscribed, please consider doing so. Once we reach 100 readers, I'll be giving away $100 in Dining Dough to be used at Restaurant.com for dining certificates. Save $100 on your vacation dining! That's a nice savings!

If you plan on shopping over the Memorial Weekend, make sure you get your cash back by shopping through Ebates. Right now there are a dozen stores that are offering double cash back through May 31. Some of these are great for your travel, like Groupon, Entertainment.com and Eddie Bauer. And don't forget, if you aren't a member yet, you get $5 just for signing up and then $5 for every friend you invite that also joins and makes a purchase! The more friends that join, the bigger rewards you can earn, like gift cards and an iPod!

Don't forget to join me on the awesome new Savvy Living Community sponsored by Ebates. Not only will you learn how to save money by better utilizing Ebates, but you will also be able to read Savvy blog posts and join in discussions and live chats with Savvy Leaders (like me!) to learn how to save money on all aspects of your life. With 21 bloggers who are experts on everything from travel to family life, you're sure to learn a lot of new information, find some great new blogs and even make some friends along the way. Join Ebates.


  1. Good info and tips ! Following you here.

    Truly Asia

  2. I know Kristin :) For us, it's kind of a must. Plus, they aren't losing anything by making it free, so it's always nice to see when it's offered.

  3. Hubby and I stayed at the Best Western Kelly Inn in Omaha, Nebraska a couple of weeks ago. They have a wine/beer event complete with or'derves Monday-Thursday evenings from 5-7pm.
    The rooms were very nice and the kids pool and a hot tub were terrific.
    We used our Best Western rewards points/vouchers for two nights and did priceline for another so I'm not sure what the room rates would be, but I thought if anyone wanted to do the OMAHA ZOO which we did, it would be worth it.

  4. That's a fantastic suggestion and thanks for the review as well. Best Western is one of my favorite chains. I did a quick search and on their site any of the 4 locations in Omaha are $80-90/night for the weekend rate.


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