We watch airfares for months, we buy flights on the best days, and we bid on hotel rooms and get good deals.
And while all of those things definitely contribute to making our vacations as cost-effective as possible, they are not the only costs involved. Often we can sabotage our vacation budgets by the “little things” that occur once we get to the airport or train station or when we put the car in drive and head off on our road trip.
Planning ahead for all aspects of a vacation is the #1 thing we can do to cut costs. If we only consider how we’re going to get there and where we’ll stay, chances are we’ll find ourselves spending way more money than we want to.
Here are some ways to save on travel when you’re at the airport, train station, or in your car:
Eat Outside of the Airport – Your best bet is always going to be eating at home, if your schedule allows. If you can’t eat at home, pick up something on the way; it’s still going to be cheaper than eating in the terminal. Yes, it might be fast food, but there are healthier fast food options available for you to choose from.
Bring a Few of Your Own Snacks – Even if you eat a meal before you get to the airport or train station, it’s easy to find yourself with a case of the munchies before you board. Snacks are rarely cheap in airports or train stations. If you pack your own, you’ll be better prepared to resist the urge to make an impulsive purchase.
Make sure your snacks are dry goods and don’t include liquids or gels, though. If you’re driving, take a small cooler with drinks and even picnic items. Stop at a park and give the kids a chance to get out of the car for a bit. It’s a win-win.
Bring My Own Reading Material – Load up some books on your eReader or bring some from home. Better yet, go to the library and pick up a few or share eBooks with a friend. If books are too heavy, consider borrowing magazines instead. Rarely is one magazine going to be enough for one vacation, and if you wait to buy them while you’re away, then you’re looking at extra money.
Carry On Your Bags – Checked baggage fees are astronomical these days. Inasmuch as you are able, pack lightly and take a carry on bag instead of a large piece of luggage. If you’re traveling as a family, try to pack everything into fewer suitcases than you have family members. You will still have fees, of course, but less than you would have if everyone took his/her own.
Catch a Ride to the Airport or Train Station – Parking fees will add up if you are gone for even just a few days. Another way to save money is to ask a friend or a family member to drop you and your family off and have them pick you up when you arrive home.
Sure, it might be inconvenient for them, but offering to reimburse them for gas money is still probably going to be cheaper than if you paid parking fees or for a taxi service.
Use Public Transportation – Sure it would be nice to jump in a taxi and be dropped off at your hotel, but it is going to cost more money than if you were to take a bus or subway. It would be helpful if you researched routes before you left home, so that you could already have your plan in mind before you even picked up your baggage.
Consider Off-Site Car Rental – An additional way to save is to rent a car from a location away from the airport. Just be sure to note what time the off-site office opens and closes and plan your pick-up/drop-off accordingly because you’ll want to leave yourself enough time to clear security after dropping the car off.
You’ll also want to consider the price of getting to/from the airport to the car rental site, which might involve public transportation or hailing a taxi back to the airport, another expense.
Refuel Your Rental Car Yourself – Their gas is always more expensive because you’re paying them for the time and effort it takes to refuel the car after you’ve returned it. Save yourself a few bucks and fill it up at a gas station down the street before you return it.
Carpool to Save Money on Gas – Going on a road trip in the family minivan? Depending on how much space you have, is it possible to invite a friend or another family to join you? It sure would help save on gas and other expenses, not to mention add more adventure to your vacation!
Many of these ideas might seem insignificant, but they add up over time—especially if you’re traveling as a family and not an individual. And, let’s be honest, who doesn’t like to save on travel when they can?