Tuesday, October 30, 2012

How to Save Money on Travel

As gas prices continue to climb and the overall costs for travel soar, many think that travel is out of reach and shelve plans for their dream vacation for “someday.” Retirees may give up on the notion completely, thinking that a big trip just isn’t possible on a limited income. 

However, there are many ways that you can save money and make travel a reality. Here are just a few ways you can make just about any trip fit your budget: 

Travel Off-Season 

Everybody wants to go to Paris in springtime. Unfortunately, that means that lines will be longer, your options will be limited, and you will pay more for everything. While traveling in the dead of winter when it’s cold and snowy most places may not seem appealing, that’s exactly how you can travel for a fraction of the cost. 

Talk with a travel agent about what constitutes “off-season” for the place you want to travel. You may be able to travel in the fall or spring when temperatures and conditions aren’t ideal but are still bearable. Just put on a warm jacket or a packable rain jacket if it rains, the Eiffel Tower won’t seem any less amazing!

Save on Flights 

There are many ways you can save on airfare if you’re willing to do a little research or be flexible in your dates of travel. Start by researching the lowest fares on comparison sites such as Travelocity or Orbitz. You can find out what airlines are offering the lowest fares, then try to bid for lower prices on a service like Priceline. 

If you’re flexible with your travel dates, this can lower your fares significantly. Do a search that includes flexible dates and find the lowest fares. Even being flexible enough to fly Tuesday through Thursday can drop a lot off your ticket prices. Of course, last-minute fares – just a few weeks or less before travel – will also be significantly cheaper.

Choose Low-Cost Lodging 

Low-cost lodging doesn’t mean 3-star hotels. You need to think outside the hotel. One popular option includes a hostel, which puts you in a room with a few other strangers but can cost as little as $10 a night. You can get a private room in a hostel, but the cost is a little higher (though still potentially cheaper than many hotels). 

A couple other options include renting an apartment for the week (usually less than the cost of a hotel), volunteering on a farm or non-profit organization (which usually offers lodging in exchange for the help), or couch surfing (in which you connect with good travel Samaritans who offer you their spare couch or room for a night or two for free). 

Skip Restaurants 

Eating out at home can be expensive, and it’s even worse when you travel. Don’t eat at restaurants, and you’ll save a lot of money. If there’s a kitchen in your hostel or your hotel room, you can purchase groceries from the local market and make meals there. If there isn’t, you can purchase ready-made items from local markets and grocery stores. 

Even if you don’t want to get your meals this way, at least grabbing snacks such as granola bars, nuts, and fruit can help you reduce the number of meals you have to buy out. 

Travel doesn’t have to be a distant dream for when you win the lottery or one of your investments finally pays off. By brainstorming ways to save, you can make just about any trip a reality. 

How do you save money when you travel? Share your tips in the comments! 

Charissa Newark is a writer and manager for Accountingdegree.net, where she has recently been researching requirements for an accounting degree. In her spare time, Charissa enjoys gardening and volunteering at animal shelters.

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