Coupon Queen: No matter how far you travel, there’s plenty of ways to save
Are you traveling this summer? Whether you’re taking a local trip or headed to another state (or another country), there are many tips to save on your summer vacation of which you may want to take advantage.
Flexible flying dates: If you plan to fly to your destination, many travel-planning websites allow users to search flights near the days they want to travel. If you are not tied to leaving and returning on a specific day, you may find that midweek airfares are cheaper. The old advice about “staying over a Saturday” is true, too – round-trip airfares tend to be cheaper when you don’t fly on a Saturday – leaving prior to a Saturday and returning after a Saturday.Hotel, camp or cabin? If you’re planning a cross-country drive, camping each night is usually much less expensive than staying in a hotel. If you’re not the kind who enjoys tent, trailer or motorhome camping, there’s another alternative, too – cabin camping. Some campgrounds offer the camping experience in a log or wood cabin. You’ll usually bring your own linens, sleeping bag and pillow. In looking at prices for these (I checked KOA.com’s rates for camp cabins at several destinations in the U.S.) the cabins rent for around $50-$70 per night. Depending on area hotel rates, this may be a less expensive alternative. Another bonus: You’ll be able to enjoy a campfire and camp experience without truly “roughing it.”
If you enjoy camping, staying at privately owned campgrounds, state parks and conservation areas can save you even more money. One of our favorite Illinois campgrounds, located in a forest preserve, is just $15 per night. Another one we like is located in a conservation district, and sites are just $10 per night.
Staying at a hotel? Look for one that offers free breakfast. This tip’s very simple, but it can save you a great deal of money, especially when you’re traveling with a large family. As I write this, one of my friends is vacationing in Florida with her family. When she looked at hotel options, she opted for a popular chain that offers a free hot breakfast buffet each day. Competing hotels were in the same price range, but she wisely chose the hotel with the free breakfast. If she had bought an inexpensive, fast food breakfast for each person, she might expect to spend $5 per person, per day. Across her six-day trip, that would have quickly added up to another $150 spent on meals.
Staying at a house? I’m not talking about staying with a family member, which is a great way to save money, of course. Depending on where you’re traveling, though, you may find that renting a house will be more economical than paying for a hotel room. Two years ago, we took a “dream trip” to Hawaii with two other families. One of the reasons this trip became affordable for all of us is that we agreed to share the same house. We rented a large house with enough bedrooms and sleeping areas for all 13 people. Then, we split the rent three ways. Each family’s portion of the rent was less than it would have cost our family to rent one hotel room, and we had the added benefit of sharing common areas of the house with each other and cooking together in the house’s kitchen.
Dining out … or in? No matter where you travel, it’s highly likely that you’ll be eating meals on the road. The cost of eating in restaurants quickly can add up. Depending on your travel situation, you may wish to pack some food. If you’re planning to camp, preparing meals along the way is part of the experience. And, if you rent a house (or an extended stay hotel that has a kitchen or kitchenette) you’ll be able to cook meals at home versus eating out, too. Even when we’ve taken vacations that were entirely airline/hotel trips, I’ve packed some breakfast items, like cereal and granola bars, so we can save a little money each morning.
What are some of your favorite money-saving travel tips?