Thursday, January 10, 2008

Some ideas for inexpensive vacations

I want to travel more, but with my savings and debt reduction goals, vacations are something that tend to fall by the wayside. A couple of months ago, though, I was talking to my mom's best friend and she said something that made me rethink my view. She said to me, "We've eaten sandwiches out of the back of our van in some of the most beautiful places in the country."

As she said this, I realized that of course there are ways to take inexpensive vacations, I just need to rethink my idea of vacations. Not every trip needs to be a cruise to the Bahamas, or a month long Paris excursion. Often the most meaningful vacations are ones where we explore what different places have to offer.

Take shorter trips

One of the best ways to make your vacations less expensive is to make them shorter. In the past year, rather than blowing all our money on a two week trip, my husband and I have been taking long weekends to cities that are within driving range. The long weekend breaks up the season and gives you enough time to see what most cities have to offer. Also, finding places we can drive to saves us a lot of money on airfare and helps keep our plans more flexible: we can come and go on our own timetable, not the airline's.

Visit friends and family

We're very fortunate that we have friends all over the country now who would love to have us stay. Often my husband and his grad school friends will piggyback a visit onto the beginning or end of a conference or other business travel. Since the airfare is paid for by the work part of the trip, and the housing is free since they stay with us (or he with them), these are very inexpensive vacations indeed. It's also much more positive and fun than visiting a random city where we don't know anyone.

Find the best deal

When we do fly (generally to visit our families), we always shop around to find the best deal. For flights, I usually check Expedia and Travelocity first to see who has the best deal. Before I book, though, I always check the airline's own webpage to see if they have a better rate. Continental, for example, guarantees that their own website will always have the best deals on their flights. Plus, many airlines offer bonuses, in the form of miles, points, or freebies, if you book through their websites.

If I do find the best deal through a portal, though, I always try to click through a rebate site, like or before I book the travel, to make sure that I maximize my rewards.

Sign up and accumulate points

I belong to just about every hotel, airline, and even train membership that's out there. Since I always fly the cheapest flight I can get, regardless of airline, I like to have all of my flyer numbers handy when I'm booking so that I can be sure that I'm being rewarded for all my travel. Some hotel memberships even have added benefits: when we signed up for the Holiday Inn club, we got a free upgrade; my husband's Omni membership entitles him to a free newspaper, morning beverage and wireless Internet.

I also use programs like E-rewards and E-miles to accumulate a few extra points here and there. The best resource I've ever found for free points is Free Frequent Flyer Miles, which lists a variety of ways to earn, transfer and use points. It's upgraded pretty regularly and is incredibly detailed and easy to understand.


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Ronald said...

That was really interesting post. I am one of those person who loves to travel and don't have the chance because I still can't afford. After reading your post, I just realized that we can always enjoy travelling even if it's not that far of luxurious. I just need the company of my family and friends. Thanks for sharing those tips and more power.

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