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Strategies for Budget Friendly Traveling

Strategies for Budget Friendly Traveling

| May 10, 2021

The desire to travel is the most common goal for our clients. Let’s make sure your savings and hard work let you get away – to enjoy somewhere new, decompress, or just go on an adventure!


Some of the best money-saving opportunities come from benefits offered through memberships and loyalty programs. By covering these bases in advance of booking, you’ll likely find yourself with multiple ways to save:

Travel reward credit card offers. Many hotel chains and airlines reward new credit cardholders with perks for signing up, including rooms, flights, award points, and miles for future travel. Sign up for these well in advance to potentially benefit from the kickback! Some require a minimum charge and/or timeframe before you can claim the free offers. Just remember to pay off the balance in full monthly since these cards can carry high interest rates.

Enroll in AAA and/or AARP.  AAA and AARP carry a nominal annual cost yet can save you a lot of cash. You’ll get savings on things like hotel and rental car rates, discounts on cruises as well as free access to travel agent professionals to assist you in your planning.

Join travel loyalty programs. Joining hotel rewards programs and frequent flyer clubs is usually free. Their valuable offers are designed to keep clients coming back. Use your rewards number when you use their services to log your activity and qualify for future rewards on your next trip.

Use current discounts available. Many companies offer lower prices to specific groups of people, including students, seniors, emergency personnel, military families, and government employees. Utilize these discounted rates throughout your planning process.

Register with online coupon websites/apps. Sites and mobile apps such as Groupon provide users with an online marketplace to purchase things to do in specific areas at incredibly discounted rates. Check these sites frequently for local activities that catch your eye.


When you picture yourself on vacation free from everyday stress, money is the last thing you want to worry about. Airfare is one of the largest vacation expenses, particularly for families or long distance destinations. When searching for flights, here are tips that will save you some green:

Plan in advance. Since most travelers buy tickets three to six months in advance, airlines raise fares in that timeframe. Once inside the seven-week mark, airlines will increase or discount fares based on seat availability, leaving you at the mercy of the remaining supply. Start looking nine months out to get ahead of these automatic price adjustments and snag the best fares.

Clear your cookies. If you’ve been searching and are coming back later to book your ticket, clear your cookies on your computer first.  Most airline websites use browser cookies to record which destinations and dates you’ve previously looked into. Then, they nudge rates higher when you revisit the site. Beat them at their own game! Next time, clear your browser’s cookies. That way, you’ll see the airline’s best deals!

Set price alerts. You can set price alerts that will notify you of any changes to your desired flights so you can scoop them up at the best price. You can pick specific airlines or see what comes available based on route and dates.

Flexible travel days. Since the cost of airfare is based on supply and demand, sometimes flying a day earlier or later can yield better prices! When subscribing to newsletters or setting price alerts, make sure to utilize the “flexible dates tools.”

Bundle, bundle, bundle. One of the best ways to shave costs on every part of your vacation is to bundle your airfare with other expenses. Look for packages that include cruise tickets, lodging, excursions, rental cars, or dinner reservations. Most travel booking sites will give you a heavily discounted option to purchase them together.

Avoid extra fees. Many companies neglect to include all fees and taxes in the dollar amount they’re advertising. Know what is and what is NOT included in the airfare price. Before you book, be aware of any costs that could be tacked on later.  Common charges include ticketing and flight change fees, checked and carry-on bag fees, preferred seating costs, and extra fees for items like car seats, strollers, or other bulky items.


Lodging is often the biggest expense in most vacations. While hotels remain the popular choice for many travelers, house rentals have become trendier, especially for budget-sensitive travelers like groups and families. Regardless of where you sleep, here are a few tips to negotiating the best deals for each:

Hotels. Check room rates on the hotels’ site first before checking third-party deal sites like Expedia or Travelocity. Unless it’s last minute, the hotels’ rates are often similar to the third-party sites. Use an AAA or AARP membership to further reduce the rate! The key to getting the lowest rate is picking up the phone and talking directly to someone. Ask about special discounts, promotions, and free upgrades. More times than not, they’ll beat third-party pricing by removing the middle man.

Vacation home rentals. If you’re planning a vacation with other people, sharing a house can be much more economical than multiple hotel rooms. The per-person rate can drop considerably and save everyone cash upfront. You will encounter some added fees for booking through sites such as Airbnb and VRBO, but these sites protect your money and vacation from scammers. After you’ve vacationed at a rental, try contacting the manager directly for future visits. Oftentimes they’ll wave fees.

Know extra costs. All too often, accommodations that seem like a bargain can quickly become an overpriced nightmare. Know what is and what is NOT included in your lodging costs. Unexpected charges aren’t always apparent until you’re already locked in on the price, or you’re staring at the final invoice. Extra costs could include resort fees, on-sight parking costs, WiFi, cleaning fees. Be sure to ask for everything that factors into the cost so you can compare apples to apples.


It’s no secret that the busiest months for tourist destinations are also the most expensive. When you plan your next vacation, if you’re not committed to perfect weather, consider traveling to a destination during its off-season. You could find some great deals!

Research destinations you’re interested in to pinpoint their high and low seasons for tourism. Usually, the “shoulder months” (early spring and fall) are the least traveled. There are destinations like the Caribbean and Palm Springs that consider summer a low-season due to high temperatures. Once you’ve found a location or two, look for these ways to save:

Deep airfare discounts - Lower airfare is a definite perk to off-season travel. Ticket prices drop, and additional fees are often waived for desirable seating, which is key when booking long or international flights. And, if the plane is only half-full, you can stretch out to make your own upgraded seating!

Cheaper lodging and rental car options - Not only do hotel and rental car rates drop, but so do luxury accommodations costs. Some hotels may waive fees for parking or valet and may include a free night or food and beverage credit for good measure! For the best rental car deals, reserve as far in advance as possible, and then check for price drops as your travel dates near. There’s no cancellation fee for doing this!

Discounted dining and activities - Since off-season destinations have less foot traffic, the cost of eating out and excursions usually come at a much lower price too. Massages in Vail during the summer can be half that of those in the winter. The same is true for guided tours. Bucket-list trips like an African safari or a trip to the Egyptian pyramids can see shoulder-season price discounted 40% or more!

Even lower costs with flexibility - Utilize “flexible date tools” to see if there’s an even steeper discount for choosing the cheapest travel days. Flying on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays and staying in hotels Sundays through Thursdays usually offer more savings. So double down with flexibility when you can make it work!


For many, a cruise is their preferred way to travel. With all-inclusive cost options, cruises are by far one of the best vacation values out there, and they can cover lodging and transportation in one fell swoop!

While advertised cruise prices may seem cheap, there are other expenses you need to factor in before committing. The cost of drinks, gratuities, shore excursions, WiFi, and kids’ club packages can add up quickly. So the best way to save big during the booking process is to consider these six tips:

Cruise close to home. If you’re within driving distance of a cruise port, you can instantly save hundreds or thousands that you’d otherwise spend flying there. Save the money or put it toward upgrading to a more expensive cruise.

Book last minute. The best cruise deals are usually three to six weeks before departure. If you have the flexibility, you can save big there too. You will have to settle for the cabins they have left, and if you’re flying to the departure port, last-minute airfare could be expensive and offset your savings.

Cruise off-season. Holidays and summer are typically the high season for cruises, while less expensive cruises are offered during fall or early winter. Just make sure you factor in things like hurricane season, which could create dangerous weather.

Look for price drops. After you book, keep an eye out for price drops on your cruise. Cruise lines usually honor a discounted rate if you haven’t yet made your final payment. If you see a price drop after the final payment, try to negotiate a free cabin upgrade or cruise credits to offset the difference.

Subscribe to cruise newsletters. The best way to find deals on things like cruise credits, beverage packages, or included gratuities is through the cruise line’s email newsletters and ones available through travel agency sites. Subscribe to them all, and check them frequently.

Book interior and/or guarantee cabins. Opting for smaller, interior cabins is a great money-saving tactic. If you prefer a window or balcony for fresh air or daylight, interiors cabins aren’t for you. Guarantee cabins are usually discounted as you are guaranteed the category of the cabin you choose, but the location of it will be handpicked for you by the cruise line. If you aren’t picky about where you stay on the ship, this is a great money-saving option too.


One strategy for saving big while planning a vacation is snatching up heavily-discounted, last-minute deals. But this isn’t always best practice for booking activities to do on your trip. The timing of booking activities often hinges on their demand and how important they are to your vacation experience. We compiled the following tips for how and when to book activities for your next trip.

If you have your heart set on an activity that sells out (luau in Hawaii or breakfast at Disney), waiting for a discount won’t be worth the missed opportunity if things book up. Reserve these right away, you may be able to still find great deals! For high season activities, such as ski lift tickets, the sooner you book, the better. These are unlikely to have discounts attached and may increase in price as your dates get closer.

If you’re vacationing in a place during its off-season, there’s less pressure to book early. Also, if you’re willing to be flexible and adventurous, you may land some fun last minute activities at a discount. This could be anything from a comedy show or piano bar performance, to a booze cruise or whale watching tour. Here are a few ways to find these discounts:

Package deals - Purchasing activities when you book your travel and lodging could land you the best discounts overall. Travel sites like Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity and membership programs (like Costco, AAA and AARP) have travel package deals you should consider.

Discount websites - No matter where you’re going, there are likely discounts available. Websites such as and list them by destination.

Social media sites - Last-minute deals are usually advertised through social media accounts of the destination, on travel search engines and in travel email newsletters. Subscribe to those relevant to your trip, and opt in for notifications.

Coupons - Use websites such as and mobile apps such as Groupon for access to discounts on activities. You can usually find and print coupons right from company websites as well.

Airbnb – This vacation rental site has activities that you can book, even without using them to book lodging. The best part is, these activities are often put on by locals that have the best insight on the culture, hidden gems and customs. Be sure to read reviews and book with a reputable guide

Visitor’s guides - Every town will usually have a visitor’s guide, center or bureau with ideas for popular local activities, as well as discount offers.

Booking activities for your upcoming vacation doesn’t have to deplete your savings account. Knowing when and how to score the best deals on the right activities is key. We hope your next vacation is filled with lots of fun and adventure… or relaxing.