In order to get the most out of my travel dollars, I tend to be a bit thrifty, even when on vacation. However, protecting your pocket-book may have the wrong impact on your trip. If you are like me and most other travelers, you been cutting coupons and brewing your own coffee to get to your destination of choice. Once on vacation it is time to loosen the purse strings and enjoy yourself because memories are priceless. Here are a few pieces of advice that may cost you more but will be well worth the expense in the end. For those who still insist on frugality, I have included ways to live the high-life and still save a little to put back in the vacation fund.
Make sure that you experience some of the local cuisine at your destination of choice. If you live in a “fly-over” state (like Minnesota), I would encourage you to try some seafood when vacationing in coastal areas. A nice seafood meal may run you $50 or $60 but when else are you going to have the opportunity eat fresh caught ocean swordfish?
Money Saver: Pick a hotel that offers a continental breakfast. This will save on average $10 per day, per person.
When making your lodging choice, make sure that you are doing more than simply booking the least expensive room on your favorite internet travel site. Often times the least expensive hotel is priced that way for a reason. Trip Advisor has travelers’ reviews for you to read, and I suggest that you do. If you are traveling with your kids you will want to ensure that it is a place that they will enjoy. If you are planning on doing some recreational activities, the expense of a higher-priced hotel may pay for itself if you participate in their on-site recreational activities such as boating or parasailing.
Money Saver: Select 3 hotels that you would like to stay at and then make it a game to see which hotel offers the best deal. Sites like Priceline, Hotels.com, Expedia, and Bing Travel can aid you in ensuring a great room rate. That being said, no one will fight for you as hard as you will – call the hotel and put your powers of persuasion to work. Also, remember that members of AAA and AARP receive discounts at most hotels.
Tours and Guided Expeditions
Before slapping down your credit card to take advantage of what seems like a great deal, check out their equipment and ask others about their experience. Often times for just a few more dollars you can get a better outing utilizing upgraded, cleaner and safer equipment. I made the mistake of going with the cheapest vendor in Colorado for a “Jeep Mountain Trek”. We made it to the top of the mountain; however we were crammed in like sardines and I think the jeep we were in was straight out of WWII. Later the same evening we were talking to another couple who did the same type of tour during the day. It turned out that for a total of $20 more, they rode in a newer style jeep, had a great lunch and were even able to access parts of the mountain that we did not because of their equipment. Their guide even took an extra hour to ensure that they saw some wild game.
Money Saver: 1.) Get together with other families or tourists looking to do the same activity and negotiate a group discount. 2.) Purchase your activities in bulk from the same reputable vendor. Many places offer discounts when you purchase your activities at the same time. For example: If you want to go deep-sea fishing, rent a jet-ski and go parasailing, see if you can’t get one of the activities for free when you book everything through one company.
Trinkets come in all sizes and prices; however, just like at home, a $5 t-shirt is not going to last very long. Instead of buying a lot of little things that you may or may not care about, try purchasing just a couple of nicer items that you will treasure for years to come. Even consider shipping a piece of paradise home.
Money Saver: Put your powers of negotiation to work. If a street vendor, or even a small shop, is asking $50 for a sweat shirt, try offering $25 and see where it goes. Although you may not be comfortable negotiating for items like this, many vendors are more than happy to engage in a negotiation with you..
I have often set out on a trip with a disposable camera, only to be devastated by the poor picture quality upon returning home. Digital cameras allow you to instantly see whether or not you caught that amazing sunset or if your kid gave you a real smile. Splurge a bit on ensuring that this trip will live on through your pictures.
Money Saver: If you do not have a decent digital camera, perhaps your phone does. Many new smart phones are equipped with pretty decent cameras. If you do decide to use the camera on your phone, practice with it at home to ensure that the photos you take on your trip are of the quality you expect.
I am a big fan of gratuity. Most people in the hospitality industry rely on tips and take care of those who express generosity through the act of tipping. You may get exclusive access and unprecedented service by simply sliding your bellman a five dollar bill. If you frequent the bar, a nice tip can actually save you money as your bartender may be empowered to serve you complimentary beverages or make a reach for the top shelf.
Money Saver: Tip hotel staff at the beginning and end of your stay, no need to tip everyone that smiles your way, or to tip after every act of service. The exception to this rule is the housekeeping staff; leave them a little every day. Not only ore you doing the right thing, but you will also be assured that your room is taken extra special care of.