According to a recent Spending and Saving Tracker survey conducted by American Express (2016), vacation planning is on the rise. Seven out of 10 Americans surveyed expect to splurge on leisure travel in 2016−up from 66% in 2015. According to the same survey, most survey participants report saving more money is still their number one goal. You may be thinking, “How do you accomplish both goals when you need one to do the other?” The reality is travel can be expensive, but there are ways to travel in style without breaking the bank.
Save Money by Traveling During the Off-Season
The time of year you travel can significantly affect your vacation plans. According to the same survey, the most popular vacation destinations are right here in your own backyard. Many well-known vacation spots offer great deals, if you know when to go. For example, visiting Arizona in July during the peak of summer or skipping Disney World during their most popular months both add up to big savings on hotel and airline prices. If your sights are set on the tropics, resorts in places like the Caribbean, the Bahamas and Mexico greatly reduce their prices during Hurricane Season.
Flexible Departure Times May Mean Lower Fares
When driving is not an option, the flexibility of your schedule can have favorable impact on your vacation finances. The blog airfarewatchdog.com reports the biggest changes in airfare can usually be found for a flight at 21 days, 14 days, 10 days, seven days and four days (Hobica, 2014). Keep in mind fares may start out lower but as the last of the lower fares are bought, ticket prices will likely increase. In this case, the early bird really does get the worm. Another tactic is to travel at night (by train) or take a “red eye” flight. Overnight travel is less popular, making it a good option for saving on your flight.
Best Days for Buying Airline Tickets
While it varies between airlines, on-sale flights are often posted on Mondays causing other airlines to match the fares the next day. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays are often the cheapest days to fly due to empty seats−the result of fewer business passengers. Don’t have time to look? Stay on top of last-minute travel deals by signing up for email alerts from travel sites and your favorite airlines or by staying in touch through social media.
Use Reward Miles
If you have accumulated airline miles, the more flexible your schedule is, the more reward seats that are available to you. One report by USA Today on frequent flier miles suggests airlines typically release their mileage reward seats 330 days in advance of a given departure date (Andrews, 2015). If planning in advance is not your style, then seats are most likely to become available again just before the scheduled flight. If you can do it, searching for your flight the day before or the day of can be advantageous. Not to mention adventurous!
Ways to Save When You Reach Your Destination
Once you arrive, look for more ways to stretch your budget. Use public transportation like shuttles, buses and trains instead of taxi cabs or buy a multi-day pass if you plan to go sightseeing. If you can, walk or take a bicycle or scooter to get a better look around.
A large part of your vacation budget will go toward food. Why not ask locals about their favorite restaurants and enjoy the local flavor? A good rule of thumb is to look for crowded restaurants, which usually means the food is good and inexpensive.
You have several options when it comes to overnight lodging. Unless you are using reward points or you got a great deal on a hotel room, staying in a rented apartment, condo or home (like those available on airbnb.com or homeaway.com) not only saves you money but it also supports the local residents. Often the owner or host can make recommendations for attractions you should take in. Another benefit is having a kitchen and the option to stretch your budget by not eating out at every meal.
An affordable vacation is as simple as finding creative ways to stretch your budget. Get the most out of your money (and your vacation) by using these tips to guide your research and planning before you say bon voyage.