I love traveling. Don’t you?
If I’m going to spend some money outside of my normal living expenses, this is one of my favorite ways to do it.
Mrs. PT and I have been lucky to do plenty of traveling internationally over the past few years.
Now that we have a little one we plan on taking advantage of more domestic locations.
A great experience is hard to beat dollar for dollar with something you might take home from the store. But taking a trip, like a summer vacation, doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune, or go into credit card debt.
There are ways to save a bit of money in advance by doing a bit of preparation. Here’s a few ideas:
Open a separate savings account. As with any big future expense, my first advice is to begin funding a separate savings account with current money.
Many people are receiving their tax return money right now. This could be a great use of those funds. Just make sure you stash the money away safely over the next couple of months.
If you didn’t get a big tax refund, consider setting up a direct deposit into this account, and taking on a temporary second job to make extra money for this trip.
Earn credit card rewards. Even though I advocate having the cash ready for your trip. You’ll need a credit card to reserve the hotel room.
You could also benefit from all the rewards as well as travel and purchase protection that some travel rewards credit cards offer. Have the cash, but use your card. Then pay off your trip as soon as you get home.
Get social. If you have an idea of the places you might want to go this summer, I want you to do one of two things: become a Facebook fan or follow the tweets of the companies you might be working with to plan your vacation.
These companies sometimes reserve their best deals for their Facebook fans or the Twitterverse.
Here’s some popular vacation related Tweeters:
If you don’t want to follow a bunch of tweets or use twitter, simply bookmark this twitter travel list. It contains tweets from all the travel related tweeters.
Shop around and let the deals come to you. Shopping online for travel deals has become really easy. There are a ton of sites that will help you. You could use one of the big brands like Expedia.com, or use a service like Kayak that is supposed to combine all the big sites’ best offers.
Another good site for your local airfare only is AirfareWatchdog.
Most of these sites will allow you to set up alert type features which inform you when a good deal is available for your destination. At the very least you could set up a Google alert using the terms “your destination” and “deal”.
Get honest reviews. This is how I get honest feedback about the place I’m going to visit: Once I find a nice deal on a travel website, Southwest Airlines Vacations for instance, I’ll write down the name of the resort or hotel that’s included in the package.
Then I’ll visit TripAdvisor.com to see what people are saying about the place. This site has never let me down. Mrs. PT and I booked our honeymoon hotel based on reviews from this site.
Leverage contacts. If you know someone in the area you’re planning to visit or who’s been there before, let them know ahead of time about your plans. They may have a local discount you could take advantage of. At a minimum, they’ll be able to tell you which places to avoid.
Use free travel guides. If you know where you’re going, hit up the local library and check out some free travel guides for your destination. These books might share some good tips for saving at your destination. They may even contain some coupon codes.
Lastly, to make the most of your frequent flier program efforts, I recommend you check out a guide by Chris Guillebeau: Frequent Flyer Master. If you get it he guarantees you will get at least 25,000 frequent flier miles, enough for a round trip domestic US ticket.