We are heading into holiday travel season again (quicker than any of us expected) and it always becomes the same game of keeping travel costs low. I like good food and good drink just as much as the next person (if not more), which always makes it hard for me to figure out where to cut back on costs. Since a handful of people have been asking, I wanted to report back on some ways that I’ve been keeping the cost down on my current vacation – and hopefully we can all (me included) roll of these tips into holiday season travel as well.
Use points to book
This one is probably obvious. If you have hotel points, train points, free weekend car rentals, or airline miles – consider using them when you’re booking your trip. While there are some instances that it is not worth using them – for example if the airline miles are racked up so high that you could essentially use them on an international trip if you planned it right or if the hotel points are 40,000 a night, but the price is actually only $89 and you can get a discount rate or you would have to use 4,000 Amtrak points to go across the northeast corridor, but you’re actually only going 1.5 hours away and could take a bus for $10 – it usually ends up helping in the long run. If you book early enough with the airlines, you have to use less points (I managed a round trip ticket to California for around 25,000 points). As for how to rack up these points, there are a few ways – your day job, credit cards, and by buying a lot of things from them at regular cost.
Stay with friends when you can
Did you know that you can search your facebook for “my friends who live in [insert city here]”? That means any city across the world you are going to you can check to see if you have any friends currently living there. This is super useful when planning your trip because (a) they have a good idea of what to do around their own city, (b) they might be able to offer you a place to stay, and (c) if you’re traveling from far enough out of town they might buy you a meal or a drink. While it’s not good to rely on b or c you might be surprised, just don’t forget to send a thank you note after your vacation is over.
Bring your own nourishment
BYOW – that’s right, bright your own water. Instead of spending $2 on a new bottle of water every time you need one, this is an easy way to save a few dollars. Also, if you carry your own snacks, you don’t need to buy the ones on the airplane or in the Disney park or at the gas station. While I keep hoping that if I eat snacks I won’t want to order an appetizer, entree, and dessert for meals, that part hasn’t happened yet.
Save on transportation costs
There are a few ways you can do this one. If you want to save on gas money – you can either split the cost with somebody or get a smaller rental car (yay for better gas mileage) – I’ve even considered not taking car upgrades because of this. If you’re in a big city with a public transportation system, you can also hop on a train, subway, or bus instead of hopping in a taxi. Not only that, but having to figure out on your own how to get from point a to point b is the best way to get familiar with a city. Also, I know I mentioned this earlier, but consider taking a bus instead of a train if you have the patience, the prices are significantly cheaper.
Use bathrooms when you can
I know this one might sound strange, but let’s say you were walking around NYC and all of a sudden needed to go to the bathroom, where would you go? Probably your closest coffee shop, and then you might feel the need to buy something since you used their facilities – and then because you’re you you might need to buy a grande vanilla rooibos tea latte with vanilla syrup instead of classic (oh wait, that’s probably just me) – and then all of a sudden you’ve spent $4.50 to use the bathroom. Every time you need to go.
Save on data
If you are paying for data on your phone, but using your phone as a way to get around, you can take a look at the map and then put your phone into airplane mode. I’m pretty sure you can even still look at maps while you’re in airplane mode, it just can’t track where you are. When my phone was dying while I was in California I was literally just following highways signs for a while and didn’t turn on my phone until I got close enough to my destination to need it. (I knew Los Angeles was north of San Diego so I just drove north for a while until I found it.)
Pack light, but pack right
Look! It rhymes! (Easily entertained over here.) The lighter you pack the better – that might be the difference between you checking and carrying a bag on the plane (which could cost you $25) or it might be the difference between you being able to carry your bag and carrying for daily storage. I’ve definitely been on trips though where I’ve forgotten to pack some essential things (like underwear) and had to pick them up while I’m on the road and those costs definitely start to add up. So make a list (and check it twice) ahead of time.
I’ve been proud of myself – trying to save a little cash here and there along my current adventure, we’ll see how the bill turns out at the end of the month. I really do need a budgeting gameplan for 2015. I finally got a mint.com account, and I’m going to have to sit down and really create a budget.
Are there any other holiday travel budgeting tips you can share? I’d absolutely love to know.
PS. Don’t forget to fill out the Chrystina Noel 2014 Reader Survey if you haven’t yet. You could win a set of free post cards