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52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Get a Bang for Your Buck on Travel Expenses {Week 45}

How to Find Great Deals on Travel

My husband and I love to travel. However, we’ve found some creative ways to do so, while still sticking with our budget. How? Here are some simple ways we save:

Purchase Online

We’ve done a lot of comparing and have found that you can almost always beat the prices you’d get over the phone or through a travel agency if you purchase airfare, hotel rooms, or car rental online. Some of our favorite sites to use are: , , and .

If you’re willing to be adventuresome, you can purchase your hotel, flights, and rental car “blind” through or and get a great deal. You’ll save at least $15 or $20 — often more! — if you’re willing to purchase the hotel room without knowing what hotel you are staying at. You can search by lowest price and star rating to see what prices are for the area you’ll be traveling to. We are typically able to find a three-star hotel for around $50-$60 per night this way.

Each site is a bit different and will offer you different rates and options. When we are making travel arrangements, we always check multiple sites to compare prices and options.

Note that some travel sites add the tax already into the final price shown and others don’t add this in until you checkout. Make sure that you know if there are any extra fees which will be added in when you’re comparing prices.

Need a Laugh? Check out Frugal Failure posts on How We Spent $145 Trying to Save $40 and How a Split Second Mistake Cost Me $500.

Unless you don’t mind staying in rather questionable hotels, I wouldn’t suggest getting anything less than a three-star hotel as we’ve learned the hard way that two-star hotels can be hit and miss and one-star hotels should be avoided altogether. (Ask me to tell you the story of the roaches and the guy trying to break into our room in San Antonio at the one-star hotel we stayed at there if you need further proof. Yikes!)

If you want to get to pick your hotel before you purchase or be able to get a refund if your travel plans change, I’d recommend going through . They have great deals, they show you the price including fees, and they do not charge you if you cancel your reservation. Usually, their prices are a little higher, but it might be worth it to pay a little to know what hotel you’re reserving ahead of time, and to not be charged if you cancel your reservation.

Four Tips to Save on Online Travel Deals

1. Choose a Package Deal

You will usually save a substantial amount of money by purchasing airfare, hotel rooms, and car rental as a package deal. In fact, it’s usually a savings of 50% or more off the retail price to go this route. And sometimes, it’s even greater savings than that!

Even if you don’t really need to rent a car, but it would be nice to have, it’s worth checking into. Many times, you’ll actually save money by renting a car—as opposed to just getting a hotel and flight package.

2. Be Flexible with Dates and Times

The more flexible you are, the more possibilities there are for you to score a great discount. When you’re searching online for deals, I recommend inputting different dates and times to see if there is a significant price difference. Oftentimes, just being willing to go 12-24 hours sooner or later, you’ll be able to save $300 or more per person on a package deal.

3. Use a Coupon Code

When you’ve chosen which package deal you’re interested in, do a quick search for a coupon code. You can find these codes listed on sites like . You can’t always find a coupon code for the travel site you’re booking through, but it’s worth checking on if it will save you $50—as the coupon codes often do!

4. Shop Through a Cashback Site

After you’ve compared prices, found the best package deal, and applied a coupon code, the final way to save is to shop through a cashback site. Do not overlook this important savings tip! Considering that most travel packages are around $300 or more per person and offers at least 1-3% cashback on orders through , , and , your cashback earnings on travel purchases can quickly add up to a nice little bonus savings!

How to Save Money on Travel

Call and Haggle for Your Hotel Price

Jesse loves to do this when we’re booking hotels. He’ll pick out a few hotels he’s interested in having us stay at and then he’ll call them and ask them for the best rate they can give us. We usually can’t get as great of rates as we can reserving the hotel online, but we almost always are able to get at least a 15-20% discount off the price they initially quote us.

Be sure to ask for any applicable discount that might apply to you (AAA membership, AARP, Military, etc.) and call knowing exactly what you’re willing to pay. If they aren’t willing to do it, call the next hotel on your list.

As always, though, be polite and courteous. There’s no need to get irritated at them if they aren’t willing to go down on the price. Many hotels have specific pricing policies and can’t go lower than a certain price point.

Sign Up For Groupon Deals

I love this idea that Kelli wrote about in her post on Using Groupon to Boost Your Vacation Budget:

As a reader of December212012.info, there is a good chance you already enjoy the benefits of using . But have you considered using it to save money while on vacation?

Our family was recently planning a vacation and my cousin happened to send me a link to a mini-golf for one of the cities we’d be staying in. That triggered my mind, What if I signed up for the Groupon emails for those cities just until our vacation was over? I am so glad we did!

We love to eat out while we are on vacation and it is usually our main expense besides lodging. We like to try local places, and not stick with the chains. Groupon is great for that! For our vacation we not only bought vouchers for some local restaurants, but we also found a Groupon for a small local grocery store, where we were able to get ingredients for a few meals.

In addition, we found a Groupon for admission to a state park that saved us around $20. We also purchased a Groupon for an Imagination Movers show. With the four tickets we bought, we saved $84 from the at-the-door cost! Best of all, the kids loved it.

Read the full post for more tips.

Walk In and Ask For a Bargain

We’ve done this before and it does have some advantages, namely that you’re able to scope out the hotels and area ahead of time, instead of just relying upon pictures or information on the internet. You usually won’t get quite as low of a price as you could have by purchasing through , this works well if you need some flexibility in your travel plans or plan something at the last minute.

I recommend that you decide on a price you are willing to pay per night and then pick out a few hotels in the area to go into and ask for a deal. This approach works especially well if you’re traveling in the middle of the week or off-season when hotels are quite empty and are often more than willing to work with you to give you a discounted price. If you were going somewhere during a busy season, this approach likely won’t be as successful.

organized-packing

Planning a roadtrip? Check out my series on How to Have a Successful Roadtrip With Young Children. Also, check out Jenifer’s post on How to Save on Meals While on Vacation.

If you’re more adventuresome than our family and love to camp, read Jackie’s post on How to Plan a Frugal Camping Trip.

Three Steps to Paying Cash for a Vacation

1. Set A Goal and Break It Down Into Bite-Sized Pieces

A lot of people want to go on paid-for vacations, but few actually sit down and make a plan to make it happen without debt. Do you want to go on a three-day road trip in six months from now or a week-long cruise in three years from now?

Either way, you need to sit down and figure out how much it is approximately going to cost (I recommend rounding up the amount you think it will cost in order to give you some wiggle room in case it ends up costing more than you’ve planned on.). Once you have a set figure for how much you plan to spend on your vacation, break that down into monthly and weekly savings goals.

Let’s say you want to go on a three-day road trip as a family in December. If you calculate that it will cost you $500 ($250 for hotel, $100 for gas, $150 for food + attractions) and you have around six months to save, than you’ll need to come up with an extra $84 each month or $21 each week.

2. Make a Plan of Action

Once you’ve figured out where you want to go, how much it is going to cost and how much you need to save each week, you can devise a plan of action. What specific actions are you going to take to save the money for your vacation?

If you don’t have extra money in your budget to divert to a special vacation savings, think of things you could cut from your budget to free up the necessary money. To take our previous example, if you have a goal to save $21 each week for your three-day December road trip, that could mean giving up dinner out each week or shaving that money off your grocery budget by using coupons or playing the Drugstore Game.

3. Put On Your Thinking Cap

If you feel like there’s no way you can squeeze any extra out of your budget or lower an of your expenses, there are still ways to save money for a vacation, if it’s something that’s really important to you. You could have a garage sale, sell some items you no longer need on Craigslist or eBay, mow lawns, babysit, take on a small cleaning job, start a side freelance business, teach classes… the possibilities are endless. Think about things you are good at or love to do and consider how you could earn extra income by investing a few hours each week into them.

When you set a goal, work hard, and finally reach it, it’s very rewarding and fulfilling. And you can enjoy your vacation without having to feel guilty or worry about how you are going to afford to pay for it later!

How does your family save money on travel?

Other posts in the 52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year series

  1. 52 Different Ways to Save at Least $100 This Year: Bake Your Own Bread (Week #1)
  2. 52 Ways to Save at Least $100 This Year: Make Your Own Coffee at Home (Week #2)
  3. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 This Year: Ditch Your Cable Package {Week 3}
  4. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Order Prescription Glasses Online {Week 4}
  5. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Make Your Own Homemade Cleaners {Week 5}
  6. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Make Your Own Homemade Mixes {Week 6}
  7. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Become a One-Car Family {Week 7}
  8. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Surround Yourself With Frugal Friends {Week 8}
  9. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 a Year: Eliminate Disposable Products {Week 9}
  10. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 a Year: Cut Your Own Hair {Week 10}
  11. 52 Different Ways to Save at Least $100 Per Year: Use Cloth Diapers {Week 11}
  12. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Become Best Friends With Your Freezer {Week 12}
  13. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Rent Movies for FREE {Week 13}
  14. 52 Different Ways to Save at Least $100 Per Year: Ask for a Discount {Week 14}
  15. 52 Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Cancel Your Gym Membership {Week 15}
  16. 52 Ways to Save at Least $100 Per Year: Get the Best Bang for Your Buck at Yard Sales {Week 16}
  17. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Grow Some Of Your Food {Week 17}
  18. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Cut Back on the Soda Pop Habit {Week 18}
  19. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 This Year: Buy in Bulk {Week 19}
  20. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Price-Match at Walmart {Week 20}
  21. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 This Year: Ditch Your Landline {Week 21}
  22. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 This Year: Refinance Your Mortgage {Week 22}
  23. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Follow a Local Deal Blogger {Week 23}
  24. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Use a Coupon Database {Week 24}
  25. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Plan a Weekly Menu {Week 25}
  26. 52 Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Strategically Use Daily Deal Sites {Week 26}
  27. 52 Different Ways to Save At Least $100 Per Year: Shop at Aldi {Week 27}
  28. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Buy Used Books {Week 28)
  29. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Buy Used Clothing {Week 29}
  30. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Shop With Cash {Week 30}
  31. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Eat Less Meat {Week 31}
  32. 52 Different Ways to Save at Least $100 Per Year: Is this really a good deal? {Week 32}
  33. 52 Ways to Save $100 Per Year: 3 Ways to Save on Online Orders {Week 33}
  34. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Turn Your Clutter Into Cash {Week 34}
  35. 52 Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Get Organized {Week 35}
  36. 52 Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Have an All-Cash Christmas {Week 36}
  37. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Sign Up for Swagbucks {Week 37}
  38. 52 Different Ways to Save at Least $100 Per Year: Cut Your Fuel Costs {Week 38}
  39. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Frequent the Library {Week 39}
  40. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Simplify Birthday Parties {Week 40}
  41. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Brown Bag It {Week 41}
  42. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Make Your Own Snacks {Week 42}
  43. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Use a Programmable Thermostat {Week 43}
  44. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Limit Eating Out {Week 44}
  45. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Get a Bang for Your Buck on Travel Expenses {Week 45}
  46. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Don't Pay For Pre-Made Baby Food {Week 46}
  47. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Eat More Beans {Week 47}
  48. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Make Homemade Cards {Week 48}
  49. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Shop At More Than One Store {Week 49}
  50. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Eat From the Pantry {Week 50}
  51. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Stay Home More {Week 51}
  52. 52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Develop Contentment {Week 52}

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42 Comments

  • says:

    I’ve used Orbitz a lot in the past but have found that I can usually get pretty close to the same price by booking through the hotel. The bonus of booking directly with the hotel is that if you book direct you can ask for an upgrade at check in. When you book through Orbitz or another travel site they aren’t suppose to upgrade you at N/C. Just a thought if you like free upgrades 🙂 I would also recommend if you find a chain that you like you join their membership rewards. That’s another good way to get free upgrades and nights.

    • WilliamB says:

      Another advantage of booking directly is that if there’s a problem, there’s only one responsible party – the hotel. You won’t get the hotel and the online site pointing fingers at each other, saying the other one should fix the problem and pay for it. Pretty much every place will at least match an online price.

      Same for airlines, btw – both the blame game and the price matching.

      I love staying at places that include breakfast. Even a cheap cold breakfast of milk/coffee/juice, cereal, oatmeal, orange/apple/banana, toast & toaster waffles can save one quite a bit. And places that serve a full meal hot breakfast are wonderful. My favorite is Staybridge Suites, which also serve a meal-sized “snack” T-W-Th evenings.

  • Julie says:

    Beware of military “discounts” at hotels. More often than not, you will get the military rate, which is often more expensive. (“Military Rate” is the maximum amount the government will pay if a service member is spending the night; it is NOT a discount!)

    • WilliamB says:

      Your best bet is to ask for the best rate – being very explicit to show you mean the cheapest rate with any membership “What is the absolutely most inexpensive rate you offer?” – then try to qualify for it or ask for it anyway. Sometimes it’s the military/goverment rate, sometimes it’s group membership, sometimes its something else.

      If you can’t get a discount rate, then see if you can get extras included in your regular price: larger room, snacks, movies, parking, extra club points, etc.

      Just being pleasant counts for a great deal in this circumstance.

  • says:

    A lot of times, if a hotel is a price per night at hotels.com or somewhere else, calling them up directly can result in that price or better. I call directly and say “I just saw this room for $x on xyz website, can you give me a better price than that?” They have to pay crazy commissions to those sites for booking leftover rooms, so it’s a win/win.

  • Mary says:

    Years ago, the doctor I worked for told me about the Travel Guides you find at rest stops along Interstate Highways. He said that he learned about them when he was checking in to a hotel that he had pre-booked. There was a gentleman that came in with his Travel Guide asking about the coupon he found for a $30 room. Turns out it was the same as the pre-booked room the doctor had just paid $60 for. We have learned to shop the Travel Guides when traveling. It works well when we plan an impromptu trip to Grandma’s house.

    • Susan says:

      Oh yes! Those racks of travel brochures in hotels, visitor centers, interstate rest stops, and other such places that are normally visited by visitors (as opposed to locals) are a goldmine. I’ve found great discounts for not only hotels but also for restaurants, tickets, and attractions.

      • Ashley P says:

        I grab the travel brochures from local spots near our home! South Florida is a very touristy place, and I don’t see why tourists should get all the discounts. Local kids want to see the attractions, too! 🙂

    • Lana says:

      We do that too! Last summer we drove 1000 miles each way to visit our son and DIL in Boston. On the way back we ended up driving and extra 125 miles before we found what we considered a clean and safe place to stay though.

  • amanda says:

    Normally I book online but I was having trouble with a certain site and decided to call instead, we ended up getting a bigger, nicer 2 room suite for the same price of the standard room! From now on Ill be calling to see what price they can give us!

  • says:

    Because our family road-trips ALL THE TIME 😉 (we fulltime travel in our RV with 9 kids), saving money on the road is very important to us! We do everything from buying multi-destination tickets to asking for a homeschool rate (many educational stops have them). We have also received special tours and lessons for the asking (or sometimes just because my kids have shown a genuine interest in something), which adds value to a destination.

    If we are going somewhere that my littles will want a souvenir, I often buy them ahead of time, and pack them away to gift them there (especially t-shirts, and my littles don’t care about the actual buying).

    If you are road-tripping, a plug-in cooler will pay for itself in a day! We tend to nickel and dime (which ends up being fives and tens in bills!) for junk food if we haven’t planned well, but having a well-stocked cooler will save you a ton (and you don’t have to keep buying ice or get soggy food with a plug-in one!).

    Also, don’t forget to mix in some free stops with the touristy ones! Places like National Parks, as well as zoo and science museum reciprocal membership locations, can make fabulous fill-ins that will save your wallet while you are reeling from Disney or Six Flags! 😉

    Love us a road trip! LOL! 😀

    • Karen says:

      What you said about showing interest can really pay off. I’ve worked as a park ranger with the national parks and state parks. By simply asking you may get to go into rooms or areas that are normally off limits to visitors. Always abide by the rules, but many times a ranger is willing to escort you. When visitation was light, I’ve given tours to people simply because they have asked. I don’t know if it is still true, but you used to be able to use your National Park receipt for 7 days admission, so you could break up your visit over a week. Also some parks have a free day, and in Georgia, you can borrow a parking pass or a state historic site pass from your local library.

  • Debra says:

    I use betterbidding.com to try to determine the Hotwire hotel ahead of time. They have lists of hotels by state, area and star rating. That, coupled with other information about the hotel (Tripadvisor rating or sample room photo), have allowed me to identify the hotel most times I’ve bid and take advantage of Hotwire’s great deals.

  • Susan says:

    We travel frequently, and I’ve had the opposite experience with package deals. I find that they’re usually not the most economical.

    If you were to sit down and book flights and hotels in one sitting, a package deal may well be the least expensive. But you can save quite a bit of money if you look for deals on each and book them separately. Set alerts for flights and hotels for the cities you want to visit. Promotions occur frequently, but you have be quick!

    Just one example — my daughter and I took a 4-night/3-day trip to Disneyland, for under $1000 by shopping for airfare, hotel, and venue tickets separately. I researched pricing for this trip for six months, and no package deal came remotely close to that price.

    I’ve had that experience many times over. Flights and hotels are usually the two most expensive parts of a trip. Some times I’ve booked the flights and hotels several months apart, but I’ve always come out ahead by being patient and doing it this way than by trying to book both at once.

    Personally, I prefer to hotels directly rather than reserve via a third-party site such as Travelocity or Orbitz, more for the customer-service benefits than price, although, like Elizabeth mentioned, I find the prices to be pretty comparable either way. If you book via a third-party site, the hotel can’t change it, whereas if you book directly with the hotel, they can. For example, a hotel can offer customer service options, like upgrades like Elizabeth mentioned. Also — and I learned this the hard way — if you decide to check out from a hotel early, the hotel will charge you for just the nights you stayed, whereas with a third-party booking you pay for your reservation. It’s possible to get a refund on your unused nights with a third-party reservation, but it’s much more of a hassle.

  • Christy says:

    We’ve used vrbo.com to find one bedroom condos for the same prices as hotels in the area. That way, we have a kitchen, which saves a ton of money (not eating out constantly) and we can put the kids to bed in one room and stay up later in the other room (find ones with a pull out bed in the sofa). Works much better for us than all going to bed at the same time!

  • Charlene says:

    We joined a rewards program for a particular hotel chain. We travel a few times a year to visit family, for dr. appts. and for a few sort of local overnight outings. Usually, they have a stay for 2 or 4 nights, get one night free. My husband has found that we can actually go to the hotel, call the rewards number, and book a room, then walk in and get the room, and the rewards. Then we have looked to see what kind of neighborhood, etc. The people at the rewards site are very helpful. We have even called from the road, giving them our location, and they have helped us find a room. We don’t always know how far we will get in our 1200 mile trip… or in our 600 mile trip, so we don’t make reservations ahead of time. We have gotten up to 2-3 free nights/year doing this. That adds up to way more than $100 a year, for something we would do anyway.

  • says:

    Great post! We usually save money when we travel by staying with family or by tent camping. Campsites usually range from $10-$30 per night, and food is cheaper too because we can just cook hot dogs and other simple items over a campfire 🙂

  • says:

    I freeze meals & we pack them in the cooler. I take our crockpot & we use that to defrost/warm the froaen meal. This works really well if we’re staying in the same location for a couple of days or more. We also take potatoes & have chili, ham, etc. for a yummy meal. We cook the potatos in the microwave in our room.

  • says:

    I like Hotwire for car rentals. It’s like $125 for a compact for a week with pickup and return at two different airports.

    Take advantage of hotel deals offered directly on the hotel websites. I signed up for Best Western rewards when we relocated from Wisconsin to Florida, they were offering a free night when you do three separate stays. Since we took four days (and three nights at three different hotels) to drive down, that counted as separate stays. We used our free night for our first child free night away for my 30th birthday at a hotel on the Bay in Tampa. I did book each of the nights for our drive down online with the nonrefundable rates and not one of them was over $100 for a king room (one was two doubles actually but that place was the nicest out of the three).

    Look on Trip Advisor for restaurant reviews and Four Square for tips on specials and deals.

    We always flew Southwest, they are one of the cheapest with non-stop flights and two free checked bags. No frills but who needs frills on a two hour flight? And a crying or whining child will be more easily ignored by other passengers. We recently got our first AmEx card and they have even better rates for better airlines through there so we may check that out next time.

  • Dahlia says:

    The whole vacation was a splurge, but we recently went on a cruise. We saved a bunch by cruising in the off season (homeschooling allowed us to do this) and booking opening day (there was never a lower price for what we booked, even the last minute rates were more). We also booked through a travel agent which gave us a nice onboard credit. We got an additional onboard credit by booking with a specific credit card. So while the vacation was still expensive, we saved quite a bit on the fare by booking the day booking opened and not cruising at a peak time and received nearly $300 in onboard credit, which definitely helped the bottom line.

  • Linda says:

    I buy an entertainment.com book when they are on sale for my local area and then set up an account and download the app. Many of the coupons are available on a phone for any location- just go to the app and search for stuff nearby when you get to your destination or search online ahead of time.
    My hubby travels a lot for work so he has signed up for several reward programs and we get the free nights.

  • says:

    I’ve come to love using Priceline to book hotels. It is a gamble, but I’ve had very few duds sticking with bidding 3 stars and above. The only time I don’t use Priceline is if I need two beds. Although, most hotels are great about giving you a bed choice even when you book through Priceline. We even used it to rent a car last year and got an incredible deal. If you’re flexible and patient Priceline can really save a lot of money. If you’re looking for hotel and attraction reviews head to Tripadvisor. The reviews are usually recent, and most people even post pictures.

  • JOLINDA says:

    If you are a member of the HSLDA (Homeschool Legal Defense Association), you get a discount at Choice Hotels (Quality Inn, Comfort Inn, etc.). This discount has saved us a lot of money. You do have to pay a membership fee, but we would be members of the HSLDA anyway. This is an additional perk. You do have to book online.
    On non-Choice Hotels, we will often ask if they can upgrade us to a better room if we’ve already booked online. We have gotten some neat rooms that we would never stay in – like ones with a jacuzzi or special suites. It never hurts to ask.

  • Ashley P says:

    Ways we’ve been able to save money on travel:

    Cash in your credit card points for a free hotel voucher. We were on a road trip to a resort near hubby’s hometown in Missouri, and stopped halfway for the night both directions at a Best Western. Both nights were paid for by our credit card points.

    Stay with family. This proved invaluable on our tour of North Carolina last year. I had wanted to visit all of my relatives there since I hadn’t seen them since the family reunion over 5 years ago and only one of them had met my husband. But they were too old to gather together for a big reunion, so we spent 2 nights at each relative’s house. We were able to visit all 3 of my aunts and my brother-in-law this way, and never once paid for a hotel. And since we only spent 2 nights at each place, my aunts didn’t have to worry about keeping us for an entire week.

    If you have the budget for it and you can get a good deal, timeshare. I know, I know, a lot of money-savers don’t like them because you spend the money but never go. Well, WE go. We’re very serious about taking a vacation at least once a year, and paying the money beforehand is an incentive for us to actually use it. It especially came in handy 2 years ago when we went to Las Vegas for my best friend’s wedding. We didn’t have to pay for a hotel, just used our Timeshare week. We’re part of a resort network that gives us the freedom to transfer to any in-network location for no additional fee. It’s also how we went to Missouri 3 years ago.

    That being said, if you don’t want to BUY a timeshare, there are some websites that will let you RENT a timeshare. Some people buy their timeshare and, again, never actually go. Rather than try to sell it, they’ll post it on the website for rent at usually a decent price. I’m sure if you Google “Timeshare rental” you might find a good website or two.

  • Brenda Zizolfo says:

    Crystal- another GREAT site that I rarely see mentioned on blogs is Lastminutetravel.com – It’s my favorite site for great deals. Reason being- it’s set up like hotwire where you see the price but not the hotel BUUUTTT there are pictures and details about the hotel, so with a minute or 2 of googling you can usually find out what hotel it is anyways. AND if you call them OR due an online chat with a representative and ask for a lower rate they will almost always lower it a considerable amount ANNND even better? They’ll confirm/reveal the secret identity of the hotel for you anyways! So you get all the perks of a mystery deal, without any of the stress of “Ooh, I hope it’s nice”. I’ve booked Ritz Carlton’s for $90 a night before and we recently booked my husbands 30th bday trip in Palm Beach, FL and got an oceanfront stay at the Four Seasons for a few hundred dollars less than the best rate out there. Oh and did I mention that my rate was totally refundable and the cancellation policies are rarely non-refundable? 🙂 Ha. I sound like a commercial for them but they really are my favorite 🙂

  • Shelly says:

    We always book through MyPoints.com and follow their links to the major travel websites. We earn points doing surveys and shopping (I don’t shop often) and cash in points for restaurant gift cards. Just last week I cashed out for a $50 Outback Steakhouse card.

    When taking road trips, we usually pack a lunch and search out rest stops and parks with picnic tables. For some reason, I don’t tolerate fast food on the road and doing this saves time, money, allows for healthier food choices, iand we get to stop and “smell the roses”. Nice rest stops also have coupon books for area attractions.
    We put most of our change in a jar (dill pickle jar actually), and this is an absolutely painless way to scrounge an extra $100 for our trips.
    Check out Restaurant.com for deals in your vacation area.
    When our daughter reached a certain age, we strongly encouraged that she earned her own spending money for vacation. Even young children can earn a small allowance with age appropriate chores. When we got to our destination, that money was precious and she really thought about her purchases.

  • Mandi says:

    We are in the process of planning a 10 day trip to WA DC/New York with our family of 6 (and another family of 4.) I know some people are wary of credit cards mostly with good reason. However, we were able to sign up for 2 new cards with very generous bonus sign up offers. We plan to cancel them after this year. (One of them waived the annual fee for the first year and the other one had a $100 annual fee that we won’t want to pay again.) With just our usual spending and these bonus points, we were able top pay for ALL of our airplane tickets with points- so essentially just paid $100 for them because of the one annual fee. (We are flying from the West Coast btw- in early summer) I am thrilled! I was prepared for our tickets to cost upwards of a couple thousand dollars.

  • says:

    It never hurts to spread the word by mouth if you’re looking to travel somewhere. Recently, we wanted to take our girls up to the snow and put the word out, and it turned out that a friend of my SIL owns a cabin a couple hours away that they’re going to let us stay in free of charge next month. Another friend of mine is lending us snow suits and boots for all the kids.

  • says:

    Oh, and another place to check for hotel deals if you’re flexible or it’s last minute is the app Hotel Tonight. I’m on android so I don’t know if it’s on IOS, but we’ve gotten deals equivalent to those you’d find on hotwire or expedia via the app. They don’t post their deals until noon though, so it would have to be pretty last minute. They have NICE hotels on there though, and the deals change every day.

  • bobbiejo says:

    If you have a membership to your local zoo or museum you can use it to get half off the admissions for museums or zoos across country. You just have to check reciprocal list on website. We had a long cross country trip w 4 little ones and we stopped at zoos to break up the trip a little. I’d also recommend checking out trip advisor…we were going to splurge on a Lego museum until we read reviews….and you can often find free fun places to visit by searching under attractions for a specific area 🙂

  • Suzanne says:

    I’ve had a lot of success using Skyauction.com. Unlike it’s name, it offers many items and experiences for auction for a day or two. I’ve successfully bid on one week condos in different areas of the country and received a 7 night stay at for $250-450. They’ve always turned out to be nice places near great attractions and have full kitchens and sometimes laundry facilities. They have places around the world.

    We’ve also had success using Priceline’s Express pricing on hotels. We usually go for 3 star and have gotten them as low as $35/night.

  • says:

    We always stay in condos or houses versus hotels. I exclusively use Homeaway.com and vrbo.com. We are staying in a 3 bedroom condo right outside Disney maingate for under $800 for a week in April! Can’t beat it you can save more money by eating meals in the condo and pack less and do laundry!

  • Michelle says:

    Last fall we used VRBO.com and stayed at a wonderful condo in CA! To us it was nicer than a 5 star hotel w/o the price. Yes I search for some time, and we are hoping to stay at the same location next year we liked it so much!

  • Michelle says:

    Also I would suggest when traveling to use the Gas Buddy app (it gives you prices of gas for the nearest gas stations) if you have a smart phone. Last year while traveling through Nevada we pulled off the highway and went to a gas station on the right side of the highway to fill up and use restrooms. Then as we were getting back on the highway we noticed some other gas stations on the opposite side of the highway and gas was a $1.00 something less! Needless to say we used gas buddy for the remainder of the trip.

  • says:

    I haven’t read all comment so I apologize if I’m repeating information 🙂

    My hubby travels a lot for work so we frequently accumulate points for free hotel nights through hotel rewards programs and credit cards…we hardly ever pay for hotel nights anymore.

    If we don’t have free nights available or the area we wish to stay requires more points than we want to use, we utilize airbnb.com or vrbo.com to find a house or condo to stay in. This is also great if we’re traveling as a family and don’t have enough free nights to accommodate us all (we require 2 hotel rooms)–and having a kitchen and washer/dryer is always a that most hotel rooms don’t have; being able to cook meals is a money saver.

    Reading reviews on tripadvisor.com and travel guides for where we’re visiting helps; for example, we stayed in a hotel in NYC for a few nights and reviewers at TripAdvisor said to avoid the hotel restaurant for breakfast (outrageously expensive); they recommended a diner across the street instead. Great advice that saved us over 50% on our breakfasts during our stay! (Not to mention the diner had much more of that NYC atmosphere!) Doing research, planning ahead, and knowing what to expect will save money.

  • says:

    I wanted to take my kiddos to Disney World while they were still little. We live on a small budget so I didn’t think I could do it. But I worked and researched and we are going to Disney World in April and only spending about $500.00 out of pocket. I wrote up a blog for how I did it for my friends.

  • Chris says:

    Once we decide where we are going I get online and request free materials from the area’s visitor center. Lots of times they have coupons in the material.

  • says:

    Wow, this is an incredible guide and I’m going to bookmark it since I’m planning on booking my summer vacation soon.

    One thing I’ve always wanted to do is travel to the UK, and since my airport recently announced direct flights to London 5 days a week, I got curious and decided to see what the costs would be like on Travelocity. They were about what I expected, but I did see an option called “Travelocity bargain fare” that was less than half the price of everything else! Is this what you were talking about in the article when you talked about booking blindly? It seems too good to be true…is the only drawback that you end up with maybe a lesser regarded airline and unconventional layovers? That really doesn’t seem that bad, but I’m still in disbelief.

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