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Traveling can be fun. Paying for travel can be a drag.
Whether you’re a once- or twice-a-year vacationer or someone who is home just long enough to do laundry before packing again, here are five tips to spare your wallet the wear and tear.
Don’t have the money to go on a vacation? Make it easy to plan for one with this budgeting tool!
1. Consider a travel credit card
Any rewards card can be handy for those who pay in plastic, but a travel card offers bigger rewards for travel spending in particular. So if you’re going to be doing a lot of travel, begin by using the right card.
Travel cards come in three categories: Airline cards, hotel cards, and general travel cards. If you favor a certain airline or like to stay in a specific hotel chain then the rewards are better on those branded cards. On the other hand, if you fly what’s most convenient that day and stay in no chain in particular, a general card is a better bet. You are rewarded at a lower flat rate but can redeem those earnings through a variety of airline and hotel loyalty programs.
About one-third of people who use a travel credit card say they earned more than $500 in rewards in the last year, according to U.S. News & World Reports. The most popular redemptions include free domestic flights, followed by cash and free nights at a hotel.
If you want to see exactly how worth it these rewards are, check out this article by ThePointsGuy, an expert on credit card points. He did the math.
2. Travel mid-week
Most people build their travel plans around being somewhere over the weekend – getting there Friday night, getting out Monday morning. So it’s no surprise that those arrangements cost more. The cheapest days to fly within the U.S. are usually Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. Travel sites such as CheapOAir.com are great if you are looking for last minute flights and even hotel accommodations. If you have a little flexibility, you can often save big.
Flying on those days can save you more than $100 or sometimes just $20 or $30. Check out these cheap flights for the month of April:
Miami – Boston
Fri. – Sun.:$339
Thu. – Thu.: $254
Sat. – Wed.: $194
Salt Lake City – San Francisco
Fri. – Sun.: $177
Sat. – Wed.: $157
Some sites, such as Priceline, will alert you if there are savings to be had on alternate dates.
In the same vein, you could let Priceline pick the flight for you – an option it offers as you begin a search. This saved hundreds on a recent last-minute booking when I just needed to get somewhere and the route and particular time didn’t matter. If you’re OK with a possible three-hour layover in New Jersey or with multiple stops and don’t mind knowing those details until you pay – then this may work for you. In my case, I got a one-stop with a layover under two hours so it was a true win.
3. Travel overnight
If you sleep on the plane anyway, red-eye or overnight flights may be the choice for you. They are typically cheaper – quieter and less crowded too. Time it right and save on hotel costs too. To get the most out of an overnight flight, plan ahead, wear comfortable clothes, book a window seat for less interruption and aim for a flight that departs about bedtime or a little later.
4. Rent the car off airport property
This one cut the cost of my week-long car rental nearly in half. Rental companies have a captive audience at airports and charge accordingly. But most major destinations will have car rental lots in town as well. The question to ask: How much does it cost to get to the lot versus the savings?
I took a $10 cab/Uber/Lyft from the airport to car lot and saved $130. To make this even more worthwhile, I picked a rental place near the hotel I booked the night before departure, dropped the car off, walked a couple blocks to the hotel and then took a shuttle to the airport for my pre-dawn flight the next morning.
5. Find a hotel that serves breakfast
This will be one meal you won’t have to pay for. Typically, the fare runs from muffins and cereal to fruit and scrambled eggs. Many also have waffle makers and fresh coffee bars.
Also, if you’re staying a couple of days, get a room with a fridge and a microwave that can store and heat up leftovers from the restaurant dinner the night before.