I once vacationed in Hawaii for two weeks and paid almost nothing for the first-class flights and lodging.
I think it’s the best travel bargain I’ve ever managed, but it was not magic. I got the best deal by using multiple travel tricks that are always worth checking out when you’re planning something big. They can often defray your costs significantly.
However, to save money on travel, you need to plan ahead so that you have time to explore the options, adjust your timing if necessary, and apply coupons and rewards.
Here are steps to take that will get you low-cost or no-cost vacations:
1. Snag a credit card with rewards points
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You can look through more than a dozen categories, including:
- Travel rewards
- Cash back
- Gas rewards
- No annual fee
- 0 percent APR
When you consider which credit card rewards program makes the most sense to you, don’t forget to factor in the miles you will receive if you are approved for the card and make purchases. I have two credit cards that reward me for purchases with airline miles. Of course, I pay off the cards at the end of each month. That way, I never pay interest.
2. Be flexible on dates
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Being flexible with your travel dates can save you money. There are no hard-and-fast rules here. One recent study suggested that booking 70 days out often will get you the best deal. But even that study warns you not to put too much stock in one guesstimate.
Keeping your eyes peeled for deals — and maintaining a schedule flexible enough to take advantage of these bargains — is probably the best approach.
3. Consider different airport options
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I generally look at flight options and prices for all three airports in my area. For my Hawaii trip, the best option was to fly out of one airport and return to another.
In some parts of the country, flights that connect you to major air hubs can be disproportionately expensive. So, if you have the time, consider renting a car and driving to and from the larger hub at the start and end of your journey.
4. Book the flight and hotel at the same time
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Consider booking your flight and hotel or rental car together. Such package deals save you a bundle.
Are you looking for an affordable adventure for your family? Check out our travel deals page, powered by ShermansTravel.
5. Price shop for hotels
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Also, avoid unpleasant surprises by looking at this article: “12 Tips for Avoiding Ridiculous Hotel Fees.”
6. Consider a hostel
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Hostel lodging varies. You might book a private room and bath, a shared room and bath, or some combination of those. It might seem like a hassle to figure out how hostels work, but lodging priced from $22 a night makes it worth many people’s time. Scope out options on a site like HostelBookers and Hostelworld.
7. Rent a house, room or apartment
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You have plenty of private space, and the prices are often surprisingly low. I’ve rented entire homes for less than half the price of a hotel room. When traveling internationally, you also can often get a richer experience of the culture by renting homes or rooms from individuals rather than going to a large hotel chain.
For many more ideas about lodging deals, check out “10 Ways to Score Free Lodging for Your Next Vacation.”