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Monday, January 10, 2011

11 Ways to Save Money on Vacation

I love taking family vacations, but sometimes there is more room in the budget for traveling than other times.   To save money on vacations I do a handful of things before and during the family trip. Here are 11 ways I save money on vacations.

1. Use Discounts! Do you qualify for a discount on anything?  AAA, AARP, military, local government, are you part of some sort of club that can get you a discount, or does your child's age get them a discount.  Use your discount on everything you can: hotel, flight, tickets, meal, or activities.

2.  Hotel Breakfast.  Stay at a hotel that serves breakfast.  9 times out of 10 you can find a hotel that serves breakfast for the same price as one that doesn't.  If you are on a week long family trip this could save you money on 5-7 meals.

3.  Combine Attractions  Buy a multiple use pass.  Decide ahead of time some of the things you plan to do on vacation.  Then see if they are selling these activities together.  One price covers all, like CityPASS. CityPASS is an American thing and available in many of the bigger cities.  In Europe you will find similar deals.  In Rome we got the Roma Pass that got us 3 days bus and subway use and into two of the attractions.

4.  Take a podcast tour.  Quit paying to go on tours if you can help it.  You can download free podcast tours of the destination you are visiting.  The podcast will tell you where to start, where to go, and what to look for.  Often you can find multiple podcast tour of the same place.  Listen to all of them if you like, each one will tell you a little something new.  I recommend Rick Steve's podcast for places in Europe.

5.  Extra ear buds  If you go on a museum tour they often have audio guides.  Instead of having to rent one for each person take some extra ear phones.  Most audio tour devices have a place to plug in a second set of ear buds.  You may have to walk closer together, but you will save money on each device you don't have to rent. Even if they don't have a second place to plug in you can just use a headphone splitter.

6.  Subway Use the subway, bus, train, plane, or a car.  Take the time to figure out what is the cheapest way to get around.  A subway system can be very intimidating if you are not familiar with it.  Download a subway app to your phone and it will pinpoint where you are and tell you which subway to use.  It's easy! 

7.  Use Cheap Transportation  Don't assume that one form of transportation is cheaper than another.  When we were in Europe we thought we would take the train everywhere, but it was so expensive.  Instead, we found Ryan Air and flew from one destination to another.  We took three separate flights and it was less than half what the train would have cost and took about a sixth of the time.

8.  Get a Hotel Deal  Watch various websites for the best hotel deal.  Use which ever site you need to.  I use Travelzoo, Priceline, and Expedia.com the most.

9.  Daily Deals  Once you know where you are going on vacation you can sign up with daily deal websites for that city.  Everyday is a different deal.  You can get up to half price restaurant, spa, hotel, and tours.  LivingSocial's Daily Deals and Groupon are available in most cities.

10.  Buy Restaurant gift certificates  Utilize restaurants.com to your benefit.  Look up your hotels zip code and search for restaurants available nearby.  If there is one you want to go to or one that is recommended get a $25 certificate for it.  I do this all the time and pay $2 per gift certificate.  There is usually a minimum of 2 entrees or $35 that you have to spend to use it and they add tip.  If you sign up with them they will send you coupon codes.  I never pay $10 for a certificate, because I always use an 80% off coupon code. 

11.  Free admission  Almost all museums have times when they admit people for free.  Look up the museum you want to visit and find out if they offer this. Even some of the most famous museum in the world do this, like the Prado.

For some other ways to save money on Family Travel check out Veggie Mom's 10 tips for family travel deals.

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