Budget Vacations are About Preparation
You love to travel but so much money seems to pour through a hole in your pocket that by the first day you can’t believe how much you have left. However for the price of one vacation package, you can put together a couple of budget vacations with a little preparation.
Preparation begin days and months before you travel. It starts with finding out where the good airline deals are, where the good hotel deals are, where to find the best dining deals are, and where to find out on how to save on attractions. Thank goodness for the Internet! Without it you are at the mercy of travel agents.
Not that travel agents are bad, I want to say that travel agents are a great resource and I find them very useful. But they don’t always have your best interest in mind because they are working for the travel providers who best compensate them. Again, that is not bad because if you don’t want the hassle of find the better deal, you would hire a travel agent and you would not be looking at this article.
Find Low Air Fares
Currently a lot of airlines are advertising low air fares in the hope of peaking your interest and getting you to part with your money by buying their airline ticket. What you want to do is choose the airline that best fits your needs and serves your market. Sign up with that airline so that they can send you an email of their upcoming deals and last minute air fares and you don’t have to keep monitoring their website. This would also be a great way to have air fare information handy for future budget vacations.
Also you never know when they might send you an announcement on discount business class air fares. To get a good feel of the discounts in airfare and hotels, Travelzoo.com with its top 20 deals has been a great source for me. Another good resource is Airfarewatchdog.com; they can give you the latest deals that serves your particular market and destinations. You also want to sign up to airfare search providers so that they can notify you of any upcoming deals. I have found Cheapair to feature very low prices for air fare. You can also compare prices among various airlines and air fare search providers at Kayak.com.
Finding Hotel Discounts
You have a wide variety of hotels to choose from with different levels of service if you don’t have a place to crash at your destination city. You have to decide whether you want to pay for really cheap hotel rooms or if you want a certain amount of comfort and facilities which means luxury hotels or whether you want something with more style and personality such as a boutique hotel. So is it a one-star establishment for you where all you get is a (hopefully bed-bug free) bed in a simple room or do you prefer the 5 star hotels with the 500 count sheets, fluffy bathrobe and room service? For budget vacations you will probably want something in between or the higher the star rating at a cheap price (yup that’s me).
Another consideration is whether you want to be near the happening spot by staying at downtown hotels or whether you want to watch your budget but not skimp on the amenities by staying at an airport hotel.
Again you will want to start signing up to hotel chains so that they can let you know of upcoming deals. Sign up for the hotel’s frequent visitor program to get upcoming announcements on hotel discounts. You also want to sign up with hotel search providers and they are usually the same ones who provide you with the airfare deal. Sometimes a good search provider will combine the two and really give you a good bang for the buck.
Hotel search providers I have found helpful are Hotwire, Cheapair.com, Hotels.com. If you like to couple the air with your hotel, Travelocity and Expedia have great deals. You can also look at bed-and-breakfasts and hostels. There are web search providers for them too. Usually with the hotel search provider, to get the hotel room at a good rate you might have to pay it up front. You will have a confirmed hotel reservation but if you make any changes you may forfeit the cost of at least one night. Again all this is preparation not only for current travel but for future budget vacations.
Finding a Nice Restaurant
To find the best dining deals, again you initially turn to the internet. But you don’t want to search individual restaurants. What you want to do is find your destination city’s website for tourists. Each city usually has one because each city wants to be visited and have you stimulate their economy. You will find restaurants who want you to visit them by enticing you with coupons or some great deals. The city’s website might also feature Restaurant Week where the city’s best restaurants participate and have a special prix fixe menu for lunch and/or dinner that includes an appetizer, an entree, and dessert for a great price. Another key to budget vacations is flexibility, you can’t always eat out at nice restaurants but what you can do is use the information you have to plan a week of dining so that you are able to use any discounts, specials, or coupons at the appropriate time.
You can also wait until you get to your destination and hit the information desk at the airport. They can start you out with brochures about the city and inside those brochures are ads with coupons from restaurants. Your hotel may also have a concierge that could be helpful. The hotel could also have a rack of magazines and brochures containing information about restaurants. And nothing beats getting a tip from an insider, so ask your cab or shuttle driver, the airport information lady or guy, or any of the hotel workers. A website that I have used where you can get great coupons to knock of $10 or $25 from your meal is Restaurants.com. Travel Zoo also has information about restaurant discounts in various cities from time to time.
When it comes to finding deals on the city’s attractions, nothing beats the city’s website for tourists. All the big cities have them, so if you are going to Las Vegas or Chicago or San Francisco or Dallas, etc go first to their city website. They may have a tab for visitors of they may refer you to their website exclusively for visitors and that’s where you’ll find any deals on their city’s attractions.
If you are into the cultural stuff, you can search google for the key word whether that’s chamber music or ballet, or museum and destination city and that would be a good starting place. In fact some cities like Boston and New York offer some sort of culture pass where you can go to more than one cultural or tourist spot for a set price. If you like to go to museums and are a member of one of your home city’s museums, ask them if they have a reciprocation arrangement with the museum at your destination where they will let you in for free. The other source that you can look at to save money on attractions is the airport visitor information counter. Again many airport visitor information counters have brochures, magazine or flyers with coupons on various attractions. Your own hotel can also have brochures as well as coupons of the attractions of the city.
So the two keys to budget vacations are essentially preparation and flexibility. Once you have those habits in place, putting together budget vacations get a lot easier.