This is a post by Jeff Norris. Jeff is a frequent flyer who constantly searches for new ways to travel rich on a low budget. While we here love to fly on miles and stay on points, we need to be reminded sometimes that there are other ways to save money, too.
Whether you’re planning a beach vacation, ski trip, or city tour, regular travel can help you stay energized and excited about life. But not everyone has lots of cash to lay out on vacation expenses. Rather than forfeiting this year’s trip, assess your vacation planning strategy; by avoiding these common travel mistakes, you just might be able to afford the perfect getaway.
1. Failing to Investigate Airfares
You should start investigating your airfare as soon as you know your destination and travel dates. Input your information into BookingBuddy to receive alerts for airfare price reductions. Also, check the direct websites of your favorite carriers; there are times when they offer better deals than travel booking sites like Orbitz.
Also, make sure you’re smart about when you book and the days you travel. You can reduce the cost of your ticket by flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday, especially if you have a Saturday night stay. And always book at least two weeks in advance of your travel dates – rates start rising after that point.
2. Using the Wrong Credit Card
The right travel rewards credit card can make travel much more affordable. The Citi Thank You Preferred Card offers double points on dining and entertainment, with no annual fee. And if your travel is a few months away, consider signing up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. After spending $3,000 in the first three months, you’re rewarded $562 worth in airfare or hotels. For even better value, transfer points one for one to airline and hotel partners, such as United Mileage Plus and Hyatt. It also doubles the points on dining and entertainment purchases, but does have a $95 annual fee after the first year.
3. Ignoring the Locals
Wherever you travel, get friendly with the locals. They can provide you with insider tips on how to save money, such as lesser-known (and usually less expensive) entertainment options. Start by chatting up the hotel staff, and always be sociable when you’re out and about.
4. Overspending on Dining and Entertainment
Consider opting into deal of the day alerts from sites like LivingSocial or Groupon. Just enter your destination zip code to receive offers for deep discounts on restaurant and entertainment. Just be sure to always cross-check deals to make sure you’re really getting a discount.
5. Failing to Plan Souvenir Purchases
Instead of haphazardly picking up mementos throughout your trip, consider devising a plan. Do your window shopping first, then set aside a few hours on your final day to make your purchases. This helps you pick the best items at the best prices without going overboard.
This goes for day trips to amusement parks as well. I recently visited Sea World and found much better souvenir deals located at vendors toward the back of the park.
6. Allowing Stress to Take Over
Traveling can be stressful, and if you’re not careful, that stress can result in overspending. Think about the most stressful vacation moments, such as the airport security line and hotel checkout, then come up with a game plan to reduce the stress during those moments. For instance, get to the airport in plenty of time, double-check your bags for everything you need, and make copies of your passport and credit card customer service numbers. Prep travel snacks, games, and entertainment for the actual trip so you don’t find yourself overspending at the airport because you or your kids are suddenly starving. A little planning can go a long way when it comes to saving money and preventing gray hairs.
After your trip, take time to determine how much you saved, then funnel those savings toward a financial goal. For instance, start beefing up your emergency or retirement fund, or saving for your next vacation. Saving on travel is great, but directing your savings effectively is even better.
What other financial pitfalls should be avoided when traveling?