Right now, the economy is causing everyone to tighten belts a bit when it comes to spending money. Travel is extremely expensive, but your vacations do not have to suffer.
Are you used to five-star accommodations and first-class travel? If so, you might feel uncomfortable resorting to cheaper travel plans. So, what should you do if your five star tastes exceed your three-star budget? Here is how to save money while you travel without sacrificing quality.
First, consider traveling less often. Although you may be used to going on vacation annually or even more often, by saving up longer for your vacation, you can travel in style. Right now, you might be scared to invest, but putting your money into a high-yield savings account is very safe. CDs can help your money multiply, and when you can withdrawal, you'll have more to spend on your vacation. In the meantime, take shorter day trips or simply use some of your vacation days to get a little break from work.
If you are not willing to travel less often, you can still save money and travel in style. One of the best ways to vacation for less is to reconsider your transportation plans. Are you used to first-class flights and other pricey forms of transportation? You do not have to give that up! Instead, look for cheaper ways to purchase the airline tickets. Websites like Priceline allow you to bid on your plane tickets, and when airlines have empty seats, they are usually willing to drop the prices for those seats significantly. That is good news for you! However, if you search for cheap tickets online, whether you are bidding or just using a basic search function, keep in mind that you will have to choose from the flights they post. These are not necessarily all of the flights. Sometimes, it can be more convenient to simply order tickets from the airline directly. Shopping around is important!
In fact, shopping around for the best price on everything is important - this relates to more than just your transportation. Shop around for hotel prices, rental cars, and tickets to your favorite events. This is where having a travel agent can come in handy. When you work with a travel agent, he or she often gets better deals on everything from theater tickets to hotel rooms. Yes, you have to pay the agency a fee to plan your vacation, but in the end, this often leads to a better price overall. In addition, a travel agent knows secret "insider" information to many of the most popular tourist destinations. These tips can help you save money, giving you more to spend on the things that matter to you, like a nicer hotel room or better dining experiences.
Another way to save money while on vacation without giving up quality is to change your travel dates. You may not realize it, but the date you have planned for your trip is extremely important. Around the holidays, for example, more people are traveling so airline prices and hotel rooms skyrocket in price. Every location has a specific tourist season. For example, a mountain resort will be busier in the winter when skiers come to town while beach resort will be busier (and thus, more expensive) during the summer months. So, if you vacation in the off-season, you can get a better deal on everything. Even if you are not willing to change your entire vacation schedule, sometimes just moving the trip one or two days can make a big difference. Flights on Tuesday through Thursday are always cheaper than flights over the weekend, for example. Be flexible with your time and you can have a five-star vacation on a three-star budget.
Your location means a lot as well. Really popular tourist destinations are always going to be much more expensive, so look for vacations which are off the beaten path. Stay at amazing seaside resort in Maine this summer instead of visiting your normal hot sport in the Carolinas. Switch your plans from a pricey ski vacation in Aspen to a trip to a little-known community in the northern Appalachians instead. Choose a little local restaurant instead of endless room service.
Of course, if your bank account is not accommodating to a five-star vacation, you may have to compromise a bit, but there is good news. By going with a less expensive hotel or renting an economy car, you will have the money to make some of your other five-star dreams come true. You can also travel on the cheap for part of your vacation and then move up to spend the last day or two living like a king (or queen). Sure, it is not optimal, but it is better than not traveling at all, and when you return from your trip you will not be as worried about paying the monthly bills.
Cynthia Andrews is a freelance writer who writes about the travel industry often focusing on vacation planning similar to what one would encounter when working with a travel agency (www.libertytravel.com).
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