How do we do it?
I always get this question and it’s pretty simple—We Plan!
When we travel, we want the best possible deal. So, it’s not out of the ordinary for Corey and I to plan a trip a year in advance and are ready to book the day the flights become available.
Here are some tips that Corey and I follow when we plan our travels. (Note: It's a long blog post)
Tip #1: Transportation at the destination- If it’s a big city with a a subway or train of any sort, we are on it. I’ve taken the NY subway, BART in San Francisco, monorail in Las Vegas, and EuroRail in Europe. We’ve even taken a train from Seattle to Vancouver, Canada. Rental cars are an option but only in cities I am willing to drive in. I also love Uber and Lyft. I’ll compare the prices between the two before I book a ride though.
Tip #2: Search airports in the surrounding area- Just because you’re going to the Los Angeles area doesn’t mean you have to fly into LAX, especially if you’re renting a car. You also don’t have to fly out of your “local” airport. I’ll fly out of Montgomery or Atlanta. Atlanta is farther (about 2.5 hours away) but Corey and I have saved $700+ just driving to Atlanta.
Tip #3: Pick an airline
Stay loyal to that airline and earn frequent flyer miles. Ours is Delta!. You can also attach your credit cards (if available) to your Delta account to earn Skymiles. My American Express cards give me tons of miles. Also, when booking, use the flexible dates and no airport preference options in your search. One more thing- your Platinum Amex card will give you free access to airport lounges (Delta SkyClub and Priority Club)- FREE food and drinks at the airport while you wait.
Tip #4: Go during the off-season- Avoid the tourist season. Paris in February is wonderful. The crowds are smaller and the weather is mild. Go to Phoenix in the summer. You'll burst into flames (LOL) but hotel rates are really inexpensive.
Tip #5: Pick a hotel brand- The Hilton Brand is our preferred hotel. Like our airline, we try to stick with one hotel so that we can earn points. If it’s just Corey and I, we will attempt to stay in one of their boutique hotels. We just like the uniqueness of them. Many have rooms that are completely different from one another. One of our favorites is The Curtis in Denver. Check it out! Each floor has a theme. Again, look at flexible days. Look at the pre-pay options. When you have status with a hotel, that $50 per person daily breakfast is now FREE.
Tip #6: All inclusive- I love all-inclusive resorts. When you can go on vacation and put away your wallet, it’s the best thing ever. When meals, drinks, and entertainment are included, count me in. Now, here’s the caveat. You have to be careful with the resort that you select. Some resorts have different suite levels that determine your beverages. If alcoholic beverages are important to you then please pay attention here. You want top-shelf when on vacation. If your suite level doesn’t include top shelf, you’re going to be very disappointed. I also recommend checking out the restaurant menu and TRIP ADVISOR. I avoid looking at the professional photos (on TRIP ADVISOR) and focus on those taken by the guests only. That is the opinion that matters. Many all-inclusive resorts offer early bird deals and even better deals on resorts that are still under construction
Tip #7: Go Couponing- If you haven’t used Groupon, you are missing out. I’ve gotten 50% off a Segway tour, 75% off a double-decker bus tour, spent $50 on a $100 Groupon for a restaurant in Denver and another awesome one in NYC. There are so many options. If you catch them when they are offering a sale, there are even more savings. Don’t sleep on the savings of a coupon.
Tip #8: Don't buy that there- Take your own snacks. Ok, I know this sounds cheap but would you rather spend $5 on a bag of Skittles or $1. Plus, depending on where you travel, you may not be able to get the snacks that you want. Corey and I were walking around London at 2 am looking for Doritos. So yes, I will take my own snacks.
Tip #9 Don't forget to tip- Although some all-inclusive resorts say that tipping is not required, tip anyway. You will receive the BEST service no matter where you are-- at the bar, at the pool, on the beach, in your suite...everywhere. Your glass is never empty. Your plates will always remain full. You will get the best seats at dinner. You will have the best service. And, your bartender will have a heavy pour. Tip and you will be taken care of. But wait...You said I should save money. Trust me, you will.
Tip #10 NEGOTIATE!- Stop buying from vendors (street or otherwise) without negotiating. NEVER, EVER pay the first price given. NEVER! Let them give you 2 prices and (be fair) and provide what you're willing to pay. They'll usually come back with the lowest price they are willing to sell for. If it's not close to what you want to pay, walk away. One of 2 things will happen. 1) They will meet you at your price or 2) Another person (selling the exact same item) will come along 5 minutes later. Listen, you're not trying to rip them off (although I'm told that's their goal with you), but you should pay a fair price.
Here a bonus: Check out the city's cultural events and see if any coincide with your travel dates. Some cities offer free events such as free museum admission on certain days. We did that in Vancouver.
Perhaps we will be more spontaneous when we're empty nesters but for now we planners when it comes to our travels. Anything you would like to add? We love money saving tips.