10 Travel Tips for a Cheaper Vacation

Use these tips to make sure your trip is as affordable as possible. 

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Family vacation

"Summer afternoon--summer afternoon, to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language."  

That age-old sentiment by Henry James has long been one of my favorites.  But how do you have a vacation during those beloved months that doesn't break the bank? With some careful planning, it’s possible.  Here are some tips to make your trip as affordable as possible:

1) Plan ahead.

You usually secure the best fare and accommodation rates when you book early. And, no matter where you're going, hotels and attractions often fill up quickly during the busy summer travel season.  The few rooms that may remain are usually the most expensive. Pick some dates and start planning! 

2) Check travel websites frequently.

On travel sites like Farecast, Kayak, Orbitz, and Last Minute, you can sign up to be notified by email when fares to your desired destination are cheapest.   Some even offer great last-minute deals.

3) Travel with another family.

On a road trip, you'll share gasoline and wear and tear on a vehicle.  And you'll have memories that will last forever.

4) Check out B & Bs.

For a more charming (and often budgetwise) stay, bed and breakfasts offer a beguiling alternative to traditional hotels and motels.  And because the first meal of the day is included for the whole family, the savings can be substantial.  Ask if there's a price break for staying mid-week instead of over a weekend or for recommending the establishment to others. Whether you're at a hotel or a B & B, ask about discounts for AAA members or AARP members. Check out sites like AirBnB to find cheap, cozy places to rent by the night, instead of spending a fortune on hotels.

5) Pack your own snacks.

The costs of vending machine and convenience store pop and chips can really add up. Fill a cooler for your next road trip with favorites from home or the dollar store. You'll not only save, you'll have more nutritious and tastier treats as well.

6) Collect spare change throughout the year.

Every time you receive change after a transaction, tuck it away in a Mason jar. When the whole family does this for a year, it can add up to an amazing amount of spending money for a long-awaited trip.

7) Look into trains for travel.

My brother Bob says trains are the new bus. His comment convinced me to travel from West Virginia to Chicago with his family on the rails last winter to revisit my brother's college town.  It was cheap, clean, and oh so nostalgic. And the stories we shared will never be forgotten.

8) Book when the rates are lowest.

My friend Jim always books hotels during Halloween weekend when many locations offer surprisingly affordable packages as families usually want to stay home come the end of October. Also, try booking airline prices on Fridays and departing between Tuesdays and Thursdays.

9) Clear your cache when searching for fares.

Have you ever looked up a flight on a travel site only to come back later and find the fares have increased? Because travel sites collect data on who visits their sites, they can increase the fares on potential customers who don’t purchase right away. If you clear your cache by going to your web browser’s history settings, the travel site won’t have any recollection of you visiting the site already and fares should return to the ones you originally saw. 

10) Teach your kids the old-fashioned lesson of the value of the dollar.  

Ask each child to find a way throughout the year to earn extra money be it babysitting, cutting lawns, or shoveling snow. Then have them save that money toward a family trip. They'll appreciate the time they had so much more when they make a real contribution and the lessons learned will serve them into adulthood.

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