We are entering the busiest travel season of the year. If you don’t plan ahead you might pay an exorbitant amount of money to get from point A to point B for the holidays. But you don’t have to if you check out this money-saving list. Teri Gault, CEO and founder of TheGroceryGame.com, has shared tips in the past on how to save on Halloween decorations and how to cut back on your grocery food bill.
by Teri Gault, CEO
As CEO of www.TheGroceryGame.com, I fly over 150,000 miles a year, and stay in hotels, and rent cars all over the map! I also have a family and have enjoyed many family holiday trips and vacations without breaking the bank. Here’s my top 10 holiday travel tips for saving money when we need to most!
1. Compare alternative airports – Flights are higher during the holidays, but you’ve got lots of options to compare. Check to see if it’s cheaper to drive a few hours to a connection, than to take a second flight. Or, it may be cheaper to fly into Fort Lauderdale than Miami, for example. I’ve saved hundreds of dollars per ticket, and only had to drive 30 minutes further. I like Orbitz.com for comparing flight prices. Also, different airlines have different rates, as they have different hub and origination cities. Just note that Jetblue and Southwest do not participate on Orbitz. So, be sure to compare their rates on their websites as well.
2. Compare flight times and days – Fly on off days – Even during the holidays, the peak times prevail. Tuesday through Thursday are usually the cheapest days. Also off peak hours can be cheaper than flying early morning or late in the day. So if you want to get cheap flights to Rome for example, then it might be a good idea to make sure that you can on whatever day, at whatever time.
If you can fly on the actual holiday, such as Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day, you may be able to save even more money, and often times, the airports are empty. However, don’t do it, if you have your family gathering on that day, as a missed flight, or late flight can leave you trapped at your departure airport or somewhere in between.
Bonus tip: Take advantage of 24 hour check in online before your departure. Flights during holidays will be full and overbooked. They will begin to bump the people who have not checked in. So to be among the last to get bumped or not bumped at all, check in online 24 hours in advance.
3. Compare rental car prices off the airport – Rental car offices located at the airport have a much higher overhead than off airport. Check rates off airport, and you could cut your rental car cost in half. Many offer curb-side service or their own shuttle service, which can actually be easier in some cases.
4. Be wary of pre-paid fuel for rental cars!!! – They tell you that you’ll have to bring the car back full, or you’ll pay almost twice as much per gallon if the rental car company refuels your vehicle. Then they offer that you can pre-pay for your fuel at less per gallon than you will pay to refuel at the local gas stations. It’s a convincing pitch. But what many unsuspecting travelers don’t fully understand, is that in some cases, they will be paying for a FULL tank of gas up front.
Some rental car companies now offer the option to pay for half a tank up front or other variations. Just be sure you KNOW what you’re paying for and how much before you sign on that dotted line! In the end, I almost always opt to refuel my own car, knowing that I may not come back with a completely empty tank or half empty tank to recuperate all of my “prepaid” investment. It’s complicating. So be sure to take the time to consider your options. Don’t make any snap decisions.
5. Compare all classes for rental cars – Amazingly, depending on the inventory available, sometimes a higher class or bigger vehicle will be a lot cheaper than a smaller car. If you need a big vehicle for the family, an SUV may be less than a minivan, or vice versa. You may have already lined up the insurance for your desired vehicle. If not, you might want to check out something like One Sure Insurance for more information. Check all the classes and you just might be surprised to find that the rental price is not always based on the value of the vehicle, but rather on the demand in each class at the time of booking. Depending how far you’re going, you could take your own car to travel in. This saves on rental cost but of course, you do have to pay for fuel still. We recently bought a truck from https://vegasusedcars.com/used-trucks-las-vegas/ and I love it!
6. Bring your own snacks– Snacking on holidays or vacations can get pricey, especially with a family. For road trips, nuts, granola bars, and apples are compact, lightweight, travel well, and can fill the hungry tummies. Plus apples are in season, and cheap this time of year. A case of water and some juice boxes will also save a bundle. Now when you stop for gas or a pit stop, you don’t have to spend $20 buying snacks and drinks!
Bonus Tip: You can get free ice for your ice chest at lots of fast food restaurants, a nice service that many offer to travelers.
The same snacks, minus the drinks can be brought through security on flights. Airlines charge $7 or more for a small snack box. You’ll be happier with what you bring, and saves you a bundle!
Bonus Tip: Now, use the money you saved to buy an overpriced water bottle per person once you get through security. This is just the voice of experience saying it’s worth it, if your flight is delayed after you’ve boarded, and you’re sitting on the runway for hours waiting to take off. On the active runway, there’s usually no complimentary drink service. Also, during the holidays, flights are usually full, and they all too often run out of drinks and snacks. You don’t want to end up with nothing but Bloody Mary mix for your thirsty toddler!
7. Bid for hotels on Priceline – Bid for your hotels on Priceline, and you may get the same hotel for half off. I check the going rate for the star level I’m interested in. Then I usually bid half and get it.
8. Choose 3-star hotels over 4-star – Unless you just really love the ambiance or status of a 4-star hotel, there’s no reason to pay for that expensive room rate, because you will end up spending more on all the amenities on top of the higher room rate. A 3-star typically includes a long list of add-ons for free. You’ll usually get: free parking, free internet, free in room coffee, free gym, and maybe even free coffee in the lobby all day, and complimentary breakfast for all. All of that per day added up for a family of four could amount to another $200 a day or more in a 4-star hotel.
Here’s a rundown of the average costs for those amenities in a 4-star hotel: parking $25, internet $14 a day, Coffee for two $12, Gym for four $60, breakfast for four $100 (with tax and tip)… And remember that’s on top of a higher room rate as well. Plus, 3-stars usually have a convenient coin-operated laundry room, instead of paying for overpriced dry cleaning in a 4-star hotel. A laundry room can really come in handy for a family on vacation. In the end, with a 4-star, you pay more for less!
9. Make your own hotel breakfast – If breakfast isn’t included as complimentary, make your own in the room. With a 3-star, you’ll probably get a microwave, coffee maker and mini fridge in your standard room. If so, stop off at the supermarket and buy: cold cereal, milk, yogurt, fruit, instant oatmeal, instant hot chocolate, bagels, cream cheese or any other breakfast items that you can enjoy in your room every morning at a fraction of what you would pay in a restaurant. You can eat cereal or oatmeal out of the coffee cups provided in the room. Pack a few spoons and knives in your suitcase. This also saves time. When you’re on vacation with a family, figure a lot of time is wasted waiting on food to be prepared in restaurants three times a day. Having breakfast in your room saves time and trouble, as you’re all getting ready to get out the door for a great day!
10. Look for discount or free holiday entertainment – During the holidays, lots of civic organizations and shopping malls present free concerts and events for the public. Check the local Chamber of Commerce for your destination city, and find out what’s going on that might not cost you a dime! Or ask about discounts or coupons before you buy any tickets.
Teri Gault is the CEO and founder of TheGroceryGame.com, a website that provides shoppers with a fun and easy way to achieve substantial savings on their grocery and drugstore bills. Members log onto the site to get a weekly shopping list, which helps them to reduce shopping time and money by using coupons at precisely the right time for optimum savings. A wife and mother of two, Teri began The Grocery Game as a home-based business in February 2000. As an avid saver and coupon-clipper, Teri decided to use her skills to create a list to help identify when to use coupons, based on categorical sales trends, to achieve maximum savings at her local supermarket.