Since my family and I just recently traveled to the Lego KidsFest in Denver I wanted to talk a little bit about how to save money while you are traveling.
Tickets Please! It is important to be a shop around type of person when you are purchasing your tickets for the plane, train or an event. You will be surprised how much you can save just by shopping around. I like to call up a travel agent and see what deals they can get me, and then research about three places myself online and then I can commit to the best one. Sometimes shopping way ahead of time works and sometimes you can get a good deal at the end. But when it comes to travel if you can do it in the middle of the week you usually get a better price.
At the Hotel: I have certain needs when it comes to a hotel and that is because I have children. If you don’t have children this could also work for you to save money. I ALWAYS get a hotel that has a FULL breakfast. The cost of a full breakfast hotel is normally about $10-15 dollars more than a hotel that does not offer a full breakfast. The cost of me taking my children and two adults out for a full breakfast outweighs that little bit extra. We always grab an extra fruit, fill up our coffee or juice cups before we leave too and that saves us a few more dollars.
Free Transportation or Parking: This freebie will be for most of your big city destinations, but look for hotels that provide a free all day / night shuttle to local attractions. This can save you a ton! No cab fares no gas costs and they know where they are going! You might have to call hour in advance to get your ride on the way back to the hotel or wait a minute but it is really worth it. Other hotels offer free parking and if you are in a large city you want to look for this because sometimes the hotel rate is low but the parking fee can be high, like $29 a day high!
Free Entertainment: I also always book a hotel that has one extra bit of entertainment for my children that way if we have some down time I am not conned into spending anymore extra cash somewhere else on the trip I did not plan on. So what do I mean my extra entertainment? A pool, or an exercise room, an arcade, or some other freebie the hotel maybe near that will keep them entertained. The pool is always a winner. Depending on the hotel and the location some hotels even though in free tickets or admission to a local attraction. So do your homework and weigh out the savings.
Then there are tons of Freebies in your hotel:
Complementary items found in your room: coffee, creamer, sugar, plastic cups, shampoo, soap, lotion, conditioner, body wash, etc. Most hotels have some more freebies up at the front desk that you can use or get if you forgot let’s say something like your toothbrush or other like items.
Even if you don’t use all of these items you can take them home and use them on your next trip, or for your stock pile.
Use your Free Samples: I save all of my free samples that I get in the mail in one central location. When I have to take a trip I get the supplies I need for the trip, like one night I take sample toothpaste, sample body wash, sample hair gel, sample lotion, sample conditioner, etc. Most of these are in little packs that fit in a tiny little pocket of my bag. What a great space saver and I don’t have to buy $1 travel items at the store for each need. That saves you tons of $$. If you have a sample bottle of mouthwash, or shampoo don’t throw it away. It is easy to refill it with your full size container and you will still save because you don’t have to buy a travel size item. The travel size Q-tip container is really easy to refill also. These travel items can be placed in your guest bathroom and if they forgot something while they are visiting you have a nice supply for them to choose from.
Plan Ahead. The next thing I do to save while traveling is to check in advance the area restaurants near where we will be staying and print out any coupons for dinners or free kids meals that I can find. In advance give your children their budgeted amount of cash they are allowed to spend and then let them be the ones to decide if they want to spend part of their money on a soda at a quick pit stop or if they want to save it for something else at the actual destination. This keeps you out of the please can I have it game and teaches them how to budget their money too. Everyone needs to learn about impulse buys.
Get the Gas Rewards! Sometimes you may only have enough money to take the kids on the adventure so then you have to be creative on how you spend any other money. Gas alone can eat a fat huge hole in your vacation budget. Find your local grocery stores that offer discounts off of gas for groceries purchased. If you buy all your sodas, chips, and sandwich foods for the trip in advance at the grocery store you can save sometimes $.30 off or more per gallon! Most of these grocery stores also offer double points off gas if you buy gift cards at their store. Here is where spending a bit more time to research can save you a bundle. If you know your hotel is going to be near the Chili’s Restaurant and you like to eat there, then go to your grocery store and buy your gift card for your budgeted amount of what you can spend for dinner. Now you have to stay with-in your budget and you may have saved up to $.50 off your gas bill for the trip!
Pack your own snacks and drinks. If you really want to save have the kids pack their own snack kit in their lunch box. Each person gets a lunch box and then you can pack all of those in a nice little suitcase that you can crack open and lie on top of the hotel dresser or counter in your room. Now if the kids want a snack they can get it out of their box or trade with someone else that will save you from ordering extra food that was not in your budget or paying an arm and a leg for it out of a vending machine. Having it in a suitcase keeps everyone out of it while you are traveling. I like packing in the roll-type suit cases anyhow to save space and to save my back!
Eliminate SODA! Another way to save is to order water at the restaurant and get everyone their own stainless steel drink bottle. They seem pricy at first but they last and they are better for you to drink out of than from plastic. Everyone can fill up their water for free out of fountains along your way and it is WAY better for your health. If you have a non-water drinker check out some of the drink mix packets you can get at every grocery store they are small and compact and can be added to the free water. Saving you from the $1.89 or more per person charge you will get at every stop for drinks. This is really handy at the airport and at amusement parks. They won’t care if you bring in an empty container for water. It usually has to be empty before you go through security though.
Take the complementary! When I order a salad at a restaurant they always bring me some crackers that are meant for me to have. So I do. They come in handy when traveling and also are great for packing your own lunch at home. I take all complementary peanuts or pretzels also even if I don’t feel like eating them at the moment. If they bring me a package of mustard for my sandwich and I don’t eat it I take the packet. I do the same with salad dressing or anything else for that matter. All of that stuff can be used later either on your trip or some other time. Later you can pack your own salad for lunch and use that free dressing!
There are a million other ways to save but the next way is the most important:
Be nice and friendly and courteous no matter what. You will get tons of tips and deals while traveling if you are a nice, friendly and welcoming person. They will see you and your family and might give you a hint on an unadvertised deal. You can get upgrades and other freebies like letting you in early or letting you check out late. They may just tell you where the best place to eat at in town is, or that their is a free music show at the nearby park, but it is always a good little treat. The list is endless because it all depends. Some people call it Karma or like the age old saying you get more flies with honey, either way I know that it works. I am not saying be nice to get freebies, I am saying you should always be nice and treat others well, and when you do sometimes you get a sweet little reward.