Travel doesn't have to be expensive. Sure, it takes more effort to save money on the road, but when you are a hard working gal with dreams of hoofing it across continents, sometimes those pennies saved can mean the difference between out on the road or broke at home. Here are a few tips to help you get the most for less while your seeing the world.
Get that AAA membership. It may sound like something your mom would tell you to do, but it's worth every penny. For about $45 a year, you get free help if your car breaks down and serious discounts on hotels, motels and museums. You even get a discount on Amtrak. I recently took my mom to the beach, and the cash my AAA card saved me on hotels for that one trip more than paid for the membership fee.
Bring a friend. Not only is it safer and more fun to travel with a friend, it's cheaper. You can split the cost of gas and hotels, making travel almost half the price of going solo.Food Smarts. Eating out costs a pretty penny. If you're going to eat out, do lunch then eat dinner in your hotel room.
Lunch is always cheaper. When you go out, ask around and find out where the locals eat, or look for mom and pop diners or ethnic neighborhoods full of authentic and inexpensive cuisine.Buy bottles of water and snacks at the local grocery store before heading out to sightsee. The same stuff will cost you half as much as it will in tourist areas or convenience stores.
You may want to keep a handy dandy cooler packed with sodas, water and fruits in your car. Fill it up with treats before you hit the road and just refill the ice from the hotel ice machine.The best food is often local food. Locate the farmer's market and the local bakeries. Stop at the bakery for some bread, then stop by the farmer's market for fresh veggies and cheese and soon you'll have the fixins for a healthy, fresh lunch for much less than the cost of eating in a restaurant.
Hotels/motels. If you can, stop by a truck stop or travel center on your way into town. They always have racks of free coupon magazines that can save you a few on accommodations. And they usually contain a map of the area too.
At Roomsavers.com, you can also download coupons for hotels. Of course, traveling during the week instead of on weekends will save you on your hotel bill, too.If you decide to stay in the locally owned, non-chain motel ( which will usually be a better deal) ask to see the room before you pay for it. You don't want to stay somewhere too icky or unsafe just to save a few bucks. When you do find a place, work that AAA discount.
Remember there's always a hostel. Hostels are almost always the cheapest way to go for single travelers. Sometimes it can be cheaper than a motel for two people.
Another new option is house swapping. If you live in a reasonably interesting place, chances are pretty good you can trade apartments with someone in another city for a week or two. Check Craigslist or one of the many house-swapping organizations for more information and to see if it's right for you.And if you have tent, will travel. You can park your tent on a spot with water and electricity for as little as $10 a night. Throw an air mattress in there and you can camp like a queen!.
There are usually state parks, private campgrounds and national parks with camp sites near most major cities and along major highways, making them a convenient lodging option. Many parks have cabins with kitchenettes, where you can sleep up to eight people for as little as $20 a night.Travel during the off times The best way to stretch your travel dollar is to travel during off-peak times.
That means when schools are in session and not during three day holiday weekends, when the legions of people tied to 9 to 5 jobs maximize vacation days.You'll always get a better deal if you travel during the week, not on weekends, or during a city's slow tourism season. For instance, the beach will be cheaper in May and September than June through August. New Orleans and Las Vegas are cheaper during the summer because their high season is winter.
Remember, hotels raise their rates on Friday and Saturday nights. Some rates nearly double. Travel Sunday to Thursday if you can. You'll save serious money on lodging. You'll also avoid long lines and crowds at local attractions, and maybe save a few cents a gallon on gasoline.
Summer is universally the peak season, and prices for rooms, shows, gas, airfare and just about everything else are higher from May through August. If you can travel from September to April, you'll save a lot more money. If you're considering a European trip, you'll cut your airfare in half and will have your pick of inexpensive lodging, entertainment and transportation.Book early In most cases, you can get primo rates and first pick when you book early and you're more likely to lock in the best airfare and hotel rates. You also may have the option of putting down a deposit and paying your trip off in installments instead of putting it on a credit card and paying interest.
Use the Web Many times, booking rental cars, hotel rooms and airline flights on the Web, directly through the hotels or airline's Web sites will net you the best deal. Always try to book directly first, rather than through a broker, then try Priceline , Travelocity or Orbitz to see which has the best deal. You may also try your hand at BiddingforTravel.com, a Priceline message board designed to help you get the best possible deals for travel..Denise Trowbridge is an award-winning journalist residing in Ohio. Her work has appeared in newspapers and magazines across the United States, as well as on her site http://www.
DeniseTrowbridge.com Denise is also the editor of the women's Web magazine, http://www.PussycatMagazine.com.
By: Denise Trowbridge