May 01, 2009 Believe it or not, it's still possible to have a great vacation without spending a lot of money. These tips will help you plan that much-needed getaway for a lot less.
Save on Airfare
Airlines list new specials on Monday nights, so check fares on Tuesdays.
Taxes and fees can add a lot to so-called "low" fares. Use sites such as Kayak.com and LowestFare.com, which compare flight prices that include fees and taxes.
Consider flying alternate routes, adding stop-overs or having a flexible schedule — they can all keep prices down.
Sign up for email alerts from travel sites such as Travelocity.com or Farecompare.com. You'll find out quickly when a fare changes.
Take a Road Trip
Just where will a tank of gas take you? Find out with TripAdvisor.com's "Tank of Gas" tool. Type in your zip code and how much gas you want to use — quarter tank, half tank or full tank — and you'll get a list of destinations in your area.
Find a national park within driving distance. Nps.gov and discoveramerica.com give you the scoop on some nearby national treasures.
For a themed trip, try Lonely Planet's "Trips" guidebooks. They list itineraries for six different regions which are organized by interests, such as food or history. They even suggest a road trip music play list for the journey.
Many hotels have rewards programs which award points for each stay. They can add up to free nights and other perks.
Alumni associations sometimes have discounts for certain hotel properties (and sometimes car rentals.)
If you belong to AAA, AARP or the military, ask the hotel about available discounts.
Packages are popular, but they don't all add up to savings. Do some leg work and find out how much each component would cost on its own, then compare the prices.
Dealbase.com is a web site that does cost comparisons for you. It lists package deals from all over the world and shows you exactly how much you'll save — or overpay.
Get a hotel room with a refrigerator. Stop by a local grocery store and get drinks, snacks and sandwich makings. Pick up some picnic lunch food as well — picnics are a fun and inexpensive way to enjoy a meal.
Choose restaurants where kids can eat for free. Mykidseatfree.com lets you search kid friendly establishments by state.
Restaurants.com sells discounted gift certificates. It's possible to buy a $25 dollar gift certificate for only $10.
Other Money Savers
Set a daily spending allowance. Put each day's cash in an envelope and take only that envelope with you that day. You can't spend what you don't have.
Schedule museum visits on free or discount days.
Instead of pricey souvenirs, look for local treasures. Budget Travel recommends chocolate covered macadamia nuts from a Hawaiian grocery store, or tea from a store in Britain.
Use alternative transportation. Many cities have excellent mass transit systems that can save a bundle on car rentals. Look into renting bikes, riding a train and just walking.
Clear the calendar and get ready to have some fun. With these savings tips, a great vacation is within reach.