It’s hard to relax on vacation when all you can think about is the bills mounting. Watching the money tick away like a taxi meter isn’t very calming. Instead of stressing out, use these tips to curb costs on your next get-away:

1. Put Your Money Where It Counts. When planning a two-day getaway for my family, my research showed that we could pay $250 per night for deluxe accommodations, or go the budget route at $79 a night. Traveling with kids, I knew we’d be spending the majority of our time out and about, not staying in the hotel room, enjoying the in-room Jacuzzi and 1000-movie DVD library. We opted for the cheaper room and put the savings towards day excursions to local attractions.

Your dream vacation might be the exact opposite; you prefer to lounge in the room, dining on Champagne and strawberries and waiting for your in-room massage. If that’s the case, terrific! Choose accordingly. But don’t get hooked into believing there’s only one “right” way to vacation. Know what your priorities are. Are you there for the sightseeing? What about some fine dining? How’s the shopping? Maybe you’re all about just relaxing. Perhaps golfing or the spa is your style. Make your choices based on YOUR preferences. Now that’s money well-spent.

2. Forgo the Travel Agent. It used to be that you had to go through a travel agent to get the best deals and packages. Not so anymore! At the click of a mouse, anyone can be their own travel agent, searching out little-known bargains and booking their own rockbottom fares and rooms. In fact, most travel agents get paid a commission, and guess who ends up footing that bill? You do, in the form of higher rates. Do your own legwork and save yourself some cash.

3. Register for Last-Minute Deals. Most airlines and vacation brokers offer services where you can sign up for last-minute fare and package deals for your favorite locales. If your travel plans are flexible, get on as many of these email lists as possible. You never know when a three-day getaway to Mexico can be yours at unthinkable rates, if you can book today and leave tomorrow!

4. Rethink Alternate Means of Transportation. Let’s face it, the old Greyhound bus has gotten a bad rap. From smelly on-board restrooms to nasty traveling companions, it’s become synonymous with the cheapest, least attractive way to travel. But it’s time to blow that old stereotype out of the water. Today’s Greyhound offers reserved seating, on-board Wi-Fi, more leg room, and electrical outlets – and low-price tickets. A recent search showed a one-way ticket from Boston to NYC clocking in at 5.5 hours and $37; the same route by train was 3.5 hours and $95. By plane? Just over an hour and $133. A family of four could save $400 by taking the bus.

5. Never Take the First Rate Offered. Back in “the day,” when I worked in a major hotel at the front desk, we were told when answering requests for room reservations to cite the highest “rack room” rate first, and slowly lower the rate until we found one that the caller would accept. However, if the caller asked for the “lowest available rate,” we were required to quote the lowest rate we had.

The lesson I learned from this personal experience is NEVER take the first quote, whether it’s for a rental car, a plane fare, or a hotel room. Always ask for the lowest rate and always ask for a discount. Many hotels have a substantial “corporate discount” that is available to anyone, regardless of what company they are with or whether they are traveling for business or pleasure. It never hurts to ask. Don’t forget to ask about AAA, AARP, military and other association discounts, as well.

Take the time to investigate options for your vacation travels. It may take some sleuthing, but the savings may amount to a substantial bit of money. Maybe even enough to take another vacation!


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