8 Ways to Save Big on Your Next Vacation
Travel smart, not hard
Enough wanderlusting. You promised you’d make it back to Europe in 2016 and, goddammit, you’re going to make it happen. One caveat: It definitely can’t break the bank. (Especially since your car needs new tires, your dog needs cataract surgery and you have five weddings between now and June.) Don’t worry--you got this. Here, eight ways to save big.
BOOK ONE AIRLINE TICKET AT A TIME
You know all about clearing your cookies, but did you know that booking one ticket at a time can also save you cash? Here’s why: Airlines actually divide seats into fare buckets. So, if you search for two coach tickets to London, but there’s only one left at the lowest rate, the search engine will skip over the cheapest ticket and show you rates for two seats in the next fare class up. To keep tabs on price differences, book your own itinerary… then go back and book your boyfriend’s.
OPEN A CREDIT CARD WITH A MILEAGE SIGN-UP BONUS
For example, the United MileagePlus Explorer Card offers 30,000 bonus miles (the cost of a round-trip domestic flight or a one-way international flight) if you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months. (Just be sure you pay off the balance right away.)
NEGOTIATE HOTEL RATES (OVER THE PHONE)
Don’t just use a third-party site to nab a good rate. Call the hotel (if it’s in Europe, mind the time zone) and speak with a real live person who’s manning the front desk. A lot of times, they’ll help you negotiate a rate that’s about 20 percent lower than what’s being offered on Orbitz or Expedia. Booking sites often make a 30 percent commission, so it saves the hotel money if you book directly.
ASK ABOUT “EXTRA” HOTEL FEES BEFORE YOU CHECK OUT
The room rate said $200 per night, but when you checked out, you were charged $255. Sure, sales tax is one thing, but fees for newspaper delivery, Wi-Fi, even a “tourist” tax are another. Vet the fees when you check in so that you can negotiate any miscellaneous charges--or nix them altogether.
CONSIDER VACATION RENTAL SITES
Airbnb isn’t the only option. New vacation rental sites like Kid & Coe and House Trip are helping expand the market for travelers looking to avoid crazy hotel costs. Think of it this way: You could spend $350 a night on a hotel room in Paris or you could spend $150 a night on a one-bedroom apartment with its own private terrace. Survey says? Terrace.
DECLINE CAR RENTAL INSURANCE
It can run you as much as $30 extra a day, but in most cases, your personal insurance policy (and sometimes your credit card) covers rentals--both collision and liability. That said, you should always contact your insurer to confirm and review any exclusions (like luxury cars) before you get to the rental counter.
OPEN A DEDICATED VACATION SAVINGS ACCOUNT
A lot of banks actually give you the option to earmark certain funds for specific purposes, like travel. Set a goal you’d like to hit (say $2,000 in spending money), then determine how much you’d need to save per week to hit that goal. (If your trip is six months away, that’s about $77 a week.) Automate the payments to your savings and then forget about them. When it’s time for your trip, cash out.
KEEP TABS ON TWITTER
If you follow the places you intend to hit up (hotels, car rental companies, museums, even restaurants), you’ll be the first to know about discounts, price adjustments or, hey, two-for-one drink specials. In some cases, it may only save you a few bucks, but when you’re on vacation, every dollar counts.