Monday, March 07, 2011

How I save money on travel and get the best travel deals #GreatGetaways

This blog post is brought to you by Alamo, via SocialMoms in response to asking bloggers to share their top 10 tips for getting away with great family travel deals.

Planning a family vacation is tough, but finding the best travel deals is sometimes even tougher.  We've been on two major vacations and several mini-vacations with the kids and all required extensive planning.  Since I'm a frugalista, I always want to find the best deals possible.  I figure any money saved along the way means a better time where I'm going!  That $30 you saved on a hotel room will buy another nice souvenir or allow you to upgrade to a better meal.  Here's what I do to get away with great family travel deals.

1.  We shop prices around.  When we were planning a trip to Disney, we checked with several travel agencies before booking.  The prices varied by several hundred dollars for the same basic package.

2.  Buy a guide for where you're going.   This was a must for us the first time we went to Disney, since we didn't know any of the insider information.  Inside, we found useful tips that helped us make the most of our trip and take advantage of fantastic freebies. Looking for hidden Mickeys around the parks was free entertainment for our kids.

3.  Keep snack coupons in the car.  If you see a great coupon for $1 off two bottles of soda, snag it.  Later on in the trip you will inevitably find yourself at a different convenience store and thirsty. 

4.  Use your hotel points for upgrades/free rooms.  My spouse travels as part of his job and racks up a certain number of hotel points per year.  We have, in the past, used those points to get an upgrade to a nicer hotel room or to get our room for free.  We drove to Disney last time and spent the night at the same hotel twice; once on the way down and once on the way back.  Both times it was free from points hubby gathered while traveling for his job during the year.

5.  Research what restaurants are nearby your destination.  We stayed off-site on our first Disney vacation and used gift cards to restaurants that we earned with our Discover rewards.  Since it takes a few weeks to receive these gift cards, we had to know in advance what types of restaurants were near our lodgings. 

6.  Gas cards.  I use several points programs, with MyPoints being one that I frequently.  In the past, I have saved up my points for gas cards and used them to gas up along the way.

7.  Staycations.  If you travel closer to home, taking in the sites and attractions in your state within a day's driving distance, you can save on hotels and air fare.

8.  Haunt the forums and join clubs.  If you love to go to Disney, hang around the Disney forums.  When there's a really good deal, someone will post it and you can get a good deal on a trip.  I advise traveling off-peak season, even if it means taking the kids out of school.  A well-planned routine means lots of fun and homework getting done while you're away.  Alamo has a membership club called Alamo Insiders.  If you are always on the lookout for deals on vacations and getaways,  you can join to receive exclusive travel deals and other perks.

9.  Do the math.  If money is an issue, calculate all the costs of your trip.  For instance, flying to your destination could mean that you'll need a rental car.  Be sure to include all your costs when you tally up the numbers.  If you are looking to rent a car, be sure to ask about special discounts.  Our car insurance even offers a discount with a car rental company!

10.  Don't let cost savings always rule.  It is important to  have good experiences.  If you've never been on a train, but it is more expensive than flying, maybe the train ride is worth the extra expense.  Part of the fun of a trip is getting there!  Don't be afraid to try new experience and never be shy about asking about potential discounts when you are speaking with a customer service rep to book.

Those are my tips!  We are hoping to get a great price on a getaway package sometime this summer.  We want to go to Colonial Williamsburg for a few days and you can bet I'll be using all of my tips to get the best travel deal possible. 

Where do think you'll be headed this summer for vacation?  Are you planning a long vacation or several short ones to break up the summer doldrums?  Let me know!  I'd love to daydream about other destinations.

I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Alamo blogging program, for a gift card worth $25. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

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About Alamo
Founded in 1974, Alamo Rent A Car is a value-oriented, internationally recognized brand serving the rental needs of airport leisure travelers. Alamo offers low rental rates and a hassle-free customer experience at the most popular travel destinations throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Latin America and Asia. In addition, Alamo customers in the U.S. are able to conveniently choose their own vehicles, based upon their advance reservation and requested car class, and then simply drive away from the airport.

The Alamo membership club, Alamo Insiders, offers its members numerous perks including exclusive, member-only deals, quick and simple reservations, and frequent traveler miles with each rental.
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