Traveling is a luxury, but for many people, it also contributes to their sense of well-being. However, the cost can be prohibitive. Let's explore some ways to get in some inexpensive travel.
We travel with a family of six or seven at a time. We know the cost of hotels, public transportation and dining out, as well as the cost of exhibits and activities. We have discovered some cost-cutting methods that do not detract from our enjoyment.
- Pack everything you will need. You will pay greatly inflated 'travel' prices for items you buy on the road. Pack them in the amounts you will need and use the smallest sizes possible to reduce space. This includes health and beauty items, laundry needs, clothing, and maintenance needs for your vehicle (tools, fluids, spare parts).
- Pack basic snack and food items you get on sale at home. You can eat these on the road or in the hotel room. Bring energy bars, cereal, beverages, microwave soups, dried fruits and items that will not spoil and can be heated in a microwave.
- Look for lodgings with the most amenities for the price. For our family we look for:
- Free breakfast
- The ability to keep the whole family in one room
- In-room microwave and refrigerator
- Laundry facilities
- Pool (for free entertainment)
- Pay per view movies
- Internet use
- Free health and beauty items
We have enjoyed Amerihost Inns most in all our travel. They offer all the amenities listed above and are priced reasonably.
- Travel with a good mechanic or a road service plan on your vehicle. You will pay enormous prices for emergency car repairs when you travel.
- If you can use or borrow a Global Positioning System (GPS), it would be helpful. The GPS is an in-car computer system that keeps track of where you are, where you are going, weather conditions, local conditions, and other useful driving information.
- Bring a cell phone with a web browser or a laptop also. The cell phone is probably the single most important piece of technology you could have for any travel, budget or otherwise. If you aren't on a plan, you can purchase a TracFone with pre-paid minutes.
Your cell phone could literally save your life in an accident, theft or any dangerous situation. It saves loads of money over the pay phone. And a phone card is useful only if you can find a pay phone (which, with the advent of the cell phone, are not as numerous as they once were).
- Book with travel websites for better air, train or bus fare: We have used several online eticket reservation sites. We like Priceline, with it's 'name your own price' feature; you type in the specifics and a price you are looking for and Priceline will search out airlines to match your criteria. We've also used CheapSeats and Travelocity. (If you're traveling internationally, exchange currency online before you leave home).
- Be flexible if possible: You will find better rates if you are willing to:
- Travel on different days (Mondays-Thursdays usually have better rates.)
- Take an early bird or night owl flight (before 7 a.m. or after 8 p.m.)
- Have a layover
- Book as early as possible (preferably 3-4 weeks ahead)
- Check rates for different arrival or departure airports nearby
We spent $20 extra for gas to take our daughter to Bishop Airport in Flint instead of GR Ford in Grand Rapids. But we shaved $100 off the ticket price. We saved an extra $375 booking ahead, taking a early bird flight, accepting a layover and traveling on a Tuesday.
- Don't park your car or take a taxi: If you are traveling by air, pay a friend to drive you to the airport. And take a bus wherever you travel if you can't walk.
- Be aware of parking ramp fees: In Chicago, for example, parking ramps are $12 to $18 per day. Plan to park in a ramp which is near all the places you want to go. You won't want to move it and pay another $12! We had a nice (long!) walk from Navy Pier to the Hard Rock Cafe and Ed Debevics! But darn it, we saved money!
Travel is a mental health necessity, so if you keep your costs down, it will keep the stress down, too. Hopefully these tips should provide you with some ways to save money and have a fabulous vacation!