Oh man, I love to travel. I love packing. I love getting mini bottles of shampoo or contact solution. I love when the plane touches down at your destination. I love it all. Unfortunately, traveling is one of those things you can't do when you're living frugally - or can you? YES! You should travel! See sights, eat interesting food, learn something new...just be smart about it. Here's some of my tips to travel on the cheap:
1) Travelzoo - this is my favorite travel website. Travelzoo searches everywhere for the best deals for every destination. They search cruises, travel packages, car rentals, airfare, hotels...you name it, they do it. They have sections on their website, like "Today's Top Deals" or "Memorial Day Deals" - feel like going to Costa Rica? You can stay at the beachfront Hilton for $99/night. And that's just the first one I saw. Plus, I signed up to get their weekly emails on what's out there. I definitely look forward to Wednesdays when I can dream about Tahitian beaches or Parisian cafes.
2) Timing is everything - almost every destination has an off-season. Most people would much rather go to Hawaii in January than in July (I'm not picky - I'll go whenever). There are different hotel rates, different airfares...sometimes, even excursions or activities are cheaper. Figuring out when the off-season is for your destination could save you beaucoup bucks - maybe you'll even have enough money to extend your trip or indulge in a spa day!
3) Rent a condo - if possible, try to find a condo to stay in while you're on vacation. First of all, condos tend to be owned by an individual or small group instead of a large hotel company, and might be more open to negotiating a better deal with you during the off-season. And don't be afraid to negotiate either. The worst they'll do is say no. If they say yes, you've saved money just by asking! Next, condos tend to have more amenities, like a kitchen. This matters because you should...
4) Make your own meals - eating every meal in a restaurant can really add up after only a few meals. Add tip, parking and gas...you're looking at a huge chunk of your vacation fund. What my husband and I did when we went to Maui for our honeymoon was stock up on bagels, cream cheese, yogurt, lunch meat, fruit and other snacks. We kept it in our mini-fridge and had breakfast on our lanai every morning. After laying out at the pool all morning, we'd come back up to the room, get out of the sun and have a nice lunch. We ate about 8 meals plus snacks for around $50, and we would have paid triple that if we would have eaten every meal out. We put that saved money towards macadamia nuts and coffee instead. Half kidding...
5) Miles credit card - this is very controversial, I'm sure. I will say that it has worked really well for my husband and I, but ONLY because we have the cash and pay in full every month. Basically, instead of putting regular purchases (groceries, gas, utilities) on our debit card, we put those on our Alaska Airlines Visa and earn miles for what we buy. Every year, we get a $50 companion fare (a $50 ticket when someone else buys a ticket...and we just found out this goes anywhere in North America!), plus 3,000 miles. And it's 20,000 for a free continental U.S. ticket. You earn your way to tickets with regular spending. I personally like this more than cashback cards, because what's the likelihood you're going to spend that cash on things you don't need? Whereas with a miles card, you can only use it to fly AND miles are good for 7 years. So even if you think you don't travel very often, you'd probably fly at least once in 7 years.
Now I've gotten the itch to travel! Just for fun, me and my husband on our honeymoon in Maui at the Old Lahaina Luau (we got 10% off for booking online).
For more traveling tips, feel free to check out my friend Kirsten's blog here. She does a Travel Tip Thursday section that has some great ideas!