Make the Most Out of Your Next Vacation

Making vacation plans, saving on travel expenses and exploring another city or country has never been easier. Thanks to the Internet, you can research information, find exciting places to visit, get discounts and plan your trip well in advance for additional savings. With a little creative planning and the following tips, you can save money on transportation, lodging, meals and entertainment, which makes the trip so much more enjoyable for everyone in the family.

Scheduling

Avoid scheduling your vacation during peak-seasons. Off-season rates typically drop dramatically at hotels and restaurants. However, the weather may not be as beautiful, but you can easily put on a jacket or rain slicker as needed.

Most people take vacations because they want a place away from home to relax, and they enjoy seeing something new and different. If that’s the case, then consider visiting little known out of the way places that do not command such high tourist rates.

You might also consider countries that have a lower cost of living or a down economy such as Russia, India, Greece, or Thailand. These countries all have fascinating places to visit, and you’ll pay less for all of your travel expenses.

Discounts

Once you’ve finalized where you’re going, you’ll want to purchase tourist cards for that particular city. Most major cities offer tourist cards for savings on attractions, lodging, restaurants and admission discounts.

Put Google to work and research your destination with keywords such as “Paris hotels discount” or something like “Rome travel specials.” You’re likely to come up with several options for hotels, flights, attractions and entertainment.

If you have been earning airline miles on credit card purchases, now is a good time to put those to good use when booking travel arrangements.

Transportation

When booking airlines, you should check with your employer and various organizations or clubs that you belong to for available discounts. In addition, you might consider booking a flight with a stopover to save quite a bit of money.

If you have some flexibility in your schedule, you could save even more by flying standby. Booking months in advance can also really add to your savings.

Researching flights online to compare ticket prices is a great idea. Check out discount sites such as Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity and Priceline. Be sure to book mid-week flights that are cheaper than weekends; Tuesday through Thursday are usually your best bet for savings.

Lodging

If you have your heart set on staying in a five star hotel, then you can expect to pay extremely high rates. However, there are several other alternatives that are often just as comfortable and have reasonable rates. Consider house rentals, apartments, hostels, condominium rentals, time-shares and budget hotels.

Rental rates are substantially lower than hotels and many houses, condos and apartments are available by the week (weekly rates are often discounted), and they may include great amenities such as hot tubs, saunas and swimming pools.

Meals

Eating three meals a day at restaurants while traveling can really add up. However, you can save a large amount of money by cooking your own breakfasts and lunches and treating yourself to dinner at one of the finer restaurants in the area.

When booking accommodations, looks for hotels that come with a kitchenette or go for home rentals that are equipped with a full kitchen. Exploring bakeries, fruit and vegetable stands, meat markets and local groceries is fun and often yields some fabulous delicacies that you can’t get at home, which can easily be prepared in a kitchenette.

Remember that a visit to a new country may also entice you to try exciting new cuisine choices, which may mean eating out more frequently. So be sure to set aside a little extra for special meals.

Entertainment

You’ll find some of the best entertainment by walking around a city. You’re bound to run into beautiful churches, gardens and outdoor markets (depending on your destination). Walking saves you on rental cars and taxis, and it gives you time to absorb the culture and learn about traditions in a new city. In addition, you’ll probably get to meet some of the locals that would be happy to share tips for the best restaurants, beaches and free things to do while visiting.

If you’re looking for evening entertainment, many clubs and bars may have free comedy performances and some great music by lesser-known artists.

Many cities offer free zoo and museum days, so you might want to check these dates out in advance of your vacation. Open-air markets are fun and free to wander through, and you might be lucky enough to find some craft shows with traditional artists and handmade goods.

Once you have determined your destination, entertainment and relaxation plans, you’re ready to make arrangements for your trip. Take your time and get all the discounts you can find for a fun and relaxing vacation.