My kids are going on spring break next week, so I have been scouring the Internet for the best travel deals. My middle son has been requesting a camping trip, but if a great deal pops up, I think we might just go for it instead, as camping is a lot of work, and camping in the Florida Keys can be quite expensive. I would like to share my top 10 tips for getting away with great family travel deals with all of you.
1. Know your seasons. If you can travel in the off season, do so. It is amazing how much money you can save by traveling in the off season, and you will find that you can get much better incentives from the hotels, locations etc., when the hotels and attractions are competing to get your money. If you have little kids, this is a lot easier to do than if you have school aged children. The school vacation times will always be more expensive for everyone.
2. Do your research. When it comes to getting the best deal, doing your research is extremely important. With the Internet in front of you, researching is easier than you realize, and make sure to use several different price comparison deals (Travelocity, Expedia, Hotwire etc). Getting a package deal flight/hotel/car rental can often be much cheaper than buying everything separately. Sign up for the different rewards programs and travel sites to get the inside scoop.
3. Don’t Take The First Offer You Find! In the past I have had great success with doing my research and asking the hotel directly for an even better deal. If you do find a great offer, make sure to look for discount codes. A simple search for the hotel name + coupon code might bring up great results, or you can check out specific coupon code databases for coupons on the hotel or rental car you need.
4. Read the reviews! Reading the reviews can save you a lot of headaches, as there is nothing worse than ending up at a dirty hotel with bad service. Don’t just settle with reviews from one travel site, make sure to get your information from several different sources including Tripadvisor.com.
5. Consider the location. Is location what is the most important to you, or is it spending time with your family? If you want to be close to the beach, but you cannot afford to be on the beach, you will have to get in the car no matter what. Florida is a great example of how location can be a big factor in how much you spend on hotel cost. You can get a fabulous hotel room at a luxurious resort in Orlando for 1/4 the cost of a comparable hotel in the Florida keys or Miami.
6. Can you afford to be spontaneous? Being last minute does not necessarily mean you will get the best deal. In some cases it can help though, and if you can afford to be spontaneous waiting for those last minute deals might work very well for you. If you can be spontaneous, using the hotel coupon booklets is another great way to get a fabulous discount. Check out roomsaver.com for examples of coupon discounts (I recommend calling ahead to ask if they have rooms available for the coupon, before you get to your final destination). If you want the deal on the coupon, but you do not want to be last minute, send the hotel an email asking for a similar deal without the coupon. It never hurts to ask!
7. Consider the extras. What do you need? What will save you money? Will you actually end up using that gym or, or will you be better off choosing a hotel with free breakfast? If free breakfast is included in the price, you can easily save $20 a day by not having to pay for breakfast for your entire family.
8. Ask for upgrades. Once you get to the hotel ask for upgrades, it never hurts to ask, and the worst that can happen is that you get a no. Last year, my family got stuck with a small room on the top floor of the hotel. After a kind request at the front desk, and a few minutes of waiting until another room became available, we instead received a large room with a small porch and direct pool access.
9. Don’t forget to consider car rental. Car rental can easily cost more than the hotel, and doing your research can save you lots of money. Signing up for emails from several car companies can send great deals directly to your inbox, and quite often being early is better than being last minute. Look for coupons in the Entertainment Book, coupon codes online, and if you are a member of a motor vehicle club, you might be able to get discounts through them.
10. Shop like you do at home. Bring your own foods, or shop at a local supermarket, and do not leave your coupons at home. If your hotel room has a small fridge and a coffee machine, you can easily make breakfast in your room and make sandwiches to bring for lunch. If you travel by car, make sure to bring a cooler just for drinks. It is amazing how much you can save, if you have a cooler in the back of the car with refreshments. When the kids are thirsty or need a snack, you can simply pull over at a local playground, or make a stop at the beach with your cool drinks and snacks from home. Some hotels even offer free ice, but even if you have to buy your own ice at the local supermarket, you will still save a lot of money.
Finding a great family travel deal is easier than it sounds, but you usually get as much out of your research as you put into it. Sitting down for a couple of hours doing your research, comparing prices, amenities and sending emails to hotels could very easily save you hundreds of dollars. My family cannot afford to pay full price for our vacations, but by taking the steps above I usually get a fabulous deal on a fabulous place to stay. Don’t leave frugality at home just because you go on vacation. Bring your frugal ways with you, and you will return home refreshed without any credit card bills to pay.
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Disclaimer: I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Alamo blogging program, for a gift card worth $25. For more information on how you can participate, click here.