As winter draws to a close and the weather in the Northern Hemisphere begins to improve (climate change notwithstanding), now is the time to think about your spring vacation plans. Even if you’re not in school anymore or don’t have any kids who are, it’s important to take a spring break to shake off the winter blues, and now is your last chance.
There are ways, however, to find good deals at the last minute. Remember that accommodations don’t have to be limited to hotels, and expanding your search to multiple airlines and airports helps, too. Your credit card company may also be able to help, as can different apps and websites dedicated to helping you spare your wallet. Believe it or not, you can also sometimes get free food or places to stay by helping out locals! Travel can involve a lot of planning, but it doesn’t have to be hard or stressful. Here are some creative tips for saving time as well as money for your last-minute spring travel plans.
When considering accommodations at your destination, check for any newly opened hotels. Unless it’s a highly anticipated luxury hotel, chances are they’ll offer cheap room rates as well as perks in order to entice customers.
One-way tickets can sometimes be cheaper than round-trip, so look through your options. You might end up on a different airline each way, but that can have the advantage of giving you arrival and departure times better suited to your needs. You can also book open-jaw tickets — tickets for different origin and/or destination cities.
If you’re traveling overseas, you should be aware that U.S.-based websites tend to not only give you higher rates, but also have fewer options. Check out websites such as Momondo, Booking.com, Agoda.com, and Venere.com, which not only offer cheaper rates, but also have a wider selection of hotels that aren’t all available to American travelers through U.S. websites.
Most major credit card companies have a reward system that allows you to earn discounts and rewards towards flights and hotels, sometimes specific chains depending on which card you have. You can even get entire nights or upgrades for free, as well as complimentary meals. Sometimes booking flights through your credit card company’s portal gets you even more savings, either through a discount or a bonus that you can redeem for gift cards, cash, or future trips. Using the right cards while on vacation can also get you travel protection, free checked bags, good exchange rates, and, of course, more reward points. According to WalletHub, you can save up to nine percent while traveling internationally — and domestically, your credit card could give you as much as another $625 to spend.
When you buy a travel package, you’re saving time, but you’re not always saving money. Because you’re paying for convenience more than anything, buying a whole package is often more expensive than just purchasing all the flights and accommodations separately.
Where possible, check to see if a foreign airline is taking your desired route. Many of the world’s best airlines are expanding business in North America, and a whole host of discount carriers are popping up too. Not only do they give you more variety, but you also can sometimes get better deals or better perks such as free blankets and pillows, newspapers, more food and drinks, and hot towels — even in coach.
Trips with connecting flights can sometimes be much cheaper than flying non-stop. There’s also the added benefit of being able to add another city to your itinerary, so consider a layover of 24 hours or more if you have the time.
You can get free accommodations and even free food in exchange for watching someone’s house and/or pets! Websites like TrustedHousesitters and MindMyHouse charge you a fee, but it will soon pay for itself.
Many people don’t realize hotel room rates are negotiable. Always check the room rates for a hotel online, and then call the hotel directly to book. Comparing the quote they give you over the phone to the online special will give you better leverage for negotiation. You can also pit local hotels against each other to get yourself a better deal by making a reservation that you can cancel at no cost, then calling up a nearby hotel. Tell them that you had come across reviews for their hotel and really liked what you saw, but you already have a reservation. Tell them where the reservation is, when it is, and for how long. After citing what exactly it is that you like about their hotel, ask the concierge politely if there’s any way they could offer you a better rate or room. Make sure you call the actual hotel’s front desk, rather than the reservations hotline, as the employees at the actual hotel are far more able and willing to help you out.
Rather than booking your stay at a hotel, save up to 50 percent — more if you travel in a bigger group — by renting a home or apartment through services such as AirBnB, VRBO, or HomeAway. Unlike booking a hotel, renting a vacation home also offers you the ability to negotiate price and arrival and departure times with the manager of the property, saving you even more money. This is a great way to experience the area like a local, and you’ll save on more than just accommodations too. According to Time, grocery prices went down last year while restaurant prices went up, so you can save by cooking and eating some of your meals (such as breakfast) in your rental instead of a restaurant. Access to laundry on the premises is also a possibility, meaning you won’t have to pack as many clothes.
The best time to get a good deal for spring holidays is on the actual day of the holiday. Consider traveling on Easter or skipping the Memorial Day barbecue. If you need to be at your destination before then, however, the next best deal would be flying in the Sunday before and flying out the very next day after.
Cities are expensive. One night’s stay can often cost a couple hundred dollars or more. If you stay somewhere even just 20 or 30 minutes away on the outskirts, however, you can often save more than half on accommodation and even food, if you so choose.
If you’re finding that all the rates for hotels and flights are outside your budget, don’t panic. Affordable rates might be available; you’re just not able to see them. Travel agencies often have access to this information, and it is their job to help you plan your dream spring vacation with it. The best part is travel agencies are often free for the traveler, as they make their money off of partnerships with the travel companies they work with.
When you book a sleeper car on an overnight train or take an overnight flight, that’s one night of accommodations you don’t have to pay for — two if you do it both ways, and even more if you’re hitting multiple cities. Plus, when you’re already rested from your trip, you can hit the ground running once you arrive.
Those sneaky travel websites often plant cookies on your computer that enable them to increase flight prices every time you come back to check on them. They don't all do this, but to avoid the possibility, turn on your incognito mode before browsing or clear your cache first.
Not only can you find discounted tickets and hotel stays through sites like Groupon, Living Social, and Coupon Sherpa, you can also find discounts on local attractions, as well as food and drink. We also recommend looking up promo codes online before you book anything.
WWOOF, or World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, is a federation of organizations that give you the opportunity to work on a farm in exchange for food and accommodation. WOOFers, as their volunteers are called, sign up for the national organization in the country they want to visit and pay an annual membership fee of around $30 per country. There are 99 countries that participate in WOOF, so your options are extensive. If WWOOFing is exactly the kind of life-changing experience you’re looking for, check out these other transformative travel experiences.
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