2) Travel by air
Now if you must insist on flying, there are things you can do to avoid getting nailed on the many fees and hassles.
- Search for deals. As always, do your research. Airlines want to fill their birds, so look for deals that they are offering. JetBlue, for example, uses their twitter account every Monday to promote deals. Also, depart from smaller airports; some cost less to travel out from
* Fare Compare juxtaposes the price of flights from every major airline from using real-time data allowing you to compare each flight.
* Bing, the Microsoft-owned Search Engine rivalling Google for market share can also predict the price of a future flight. The search engine's travel section has been shown to be about 75% accurate with its predictions and states that "customers will save over $50 on a typical round-trip transaction."
- Hop around and don't fly direct. The Award-winning blog, Lifehacker and it's viewers suggest avoiding purchasing direct flights. Instead, look for trips with layovers. Doing so will save you money, but be warned, it might create some hassle with making the connections.
- Use a mail service to ship bags. Checking a bag on a major airline can cost as low as $15 and as much as $25. Wired Magazine's travel blog, Autopia, suggests that you try shipping it using a mail service. UPS, FedEx and USPS allow you to track your package while also having better shipping costs and a better insurance policy if anything were to happen.
3) Take a cruise
So you want to travel by boat? I suggest taking a five or seven-day trip to maximize your time on vacation. As always, doing your homework can lead to great deals on cruises.
- Sail on the off-season. The tourism industry, in a way, is similar to farming. Every area of the world is ripe for travel during a specific season and during that season, prices hit the roof. During Spring beak for example, Mexico, the Bahamas, South Florida and the islands are popular travel destinations. Avoid these high costs by shoping smart and looking for deals during the off-season.
* Vacations-To-Go is a ticker that lists cruises about to depart. If you're spontaneous, these trips are heavily discounted and will save you money.
- Use "repositioning cruises". The folks over at Cruise Critics explain that periodically, all cruise lines move their boats to new locations because of the season. On their site they say:
"Ships that spend summertime in Alaska have no choice but to relocate come September or October, often offering unique itineraries along the California coast, to Hawaii or through the Panama Canal."
The resultant one-way trips are discounted and can be combined with cheap one-way airfares for a super-discount. Additionally, having someone drop you off at the airport and pick you up at the boat and can save you on parking costs.
- Be selective about your room. Everyone loves having a room with a view, but how long are you realistically going to be in there? the cost of a port-side room is much higher than the inside cabins. They cost significantly less and are often much darker, which can be good for light-sleepers. These rooms also rock less because they sit closer to the boat's center of gravity. Use your room for what its worth, then get out on the deck and enjoy yourself.
- Avoid impulse buys on the ship. Knowing what you want on vacation can lessen the temptation of impulse buying. While on the ship, be selective about what you buy and purchase long-term benefit items.
* Look for cheap food, use the buffets, and plan on eating at weird times. Cruises plan almost every move their customers make and then market around those predictions. Try to outsmart the cruise lines and use your access to buffet wisely. Hit up the breakfast buffet and night-time buffets.
4) Staycation: Don't go anywhere
Added to the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary in 2009, a staycation is "a vacation spent at home or nearby"
- Investigate your town. Have you ever really investigated where you live? I mean, really dug in and looked around? With our busy lives, I would bet that probably haven't. So why not start now? Every city has tons of local things you can do that cost next to nothing. Give yourself and your family time to unwind and de-stress with the convenience of being near your own home.
- Put up the blockades. This is your time, not anyone else's. Tell your co-workers that you won't be back for a bit. Obviously, don't tell them that you're not going anywhere, just notify that you won't be "around." Make this staycation worth every minute. If work calls, ignore it or tell them not to call again. In fact, treat this just like you would a vacation.
- Set dates. Don't let the staycation roll over into real-life. Be strict and plan a specific date that it will start and end.
- Plan extensively. Don't fall into the trap of not having any plans. Make a plan before the staycation starts and have a solid idea of what you're doing each day. It seems like a lot of work, but it will make your life much easier when it comes to coordinating the family.
- Skip the common activities. Remember what I said about digging in and and exploring? Well, now is your chance to do so. Don't waste this precious time by staying at home and watching television. You can do that any day of the week, 365 days of the year. During your staycation, do things that are out of the ordinary.
* If you have kids, build a pillow fort in your living room and go "camping". If you have a fireplace, roast some weenies and marshmallows or go exploring in your town. Almost every city has unique things going on each week. The zoo, a farmers market, anything cool and unusual are great examples.
* Do something exciting! This is your chance to put time into those long dormant hobbies you've been wanting to try. Do something creative, try making a new recipe for dinner, or change your house around. Giving yourself a new environment can help stimulate your senses and give your life a bit of refreshment.
- Research your town. Call the city's chamber of commerce and ask for ideas. Less the bureaucracy, government-run agencies are staffed with people who know what's up in your town, and can really help you out.
- Check with the media. your local television stations, and newspapers have event calendars on their websites that are constantly updated. Once you get exploring, you will not only have fun, but also make a special connection to the place you live.
* If you've about had it with your town, then maybe you should follow the advise of those fellows at the Squawkfox frugality blog. Pick up and go one or two towns over. Explore a little and see what's out there.
- Bring your friends. Remember that old saying: friends don't let other friends vacation alone?...Okay! Maybe it didn't go exactly like that, but I made my point. Get three or four of your best friends, convince them they will save money by skipping the trip to Cancun and travel in a group. Not only will you split the bills, but more people can lead to a quicker and more intuitive solution to problems. Also, the stories will be much, much better.
- Give everyone a job. When I travel, I usually do it with a friend of mine. We have separate jobs that make our lives much simpler. I, being the spontaneous one, drive, deal with people, and handle the day-to-day activities. He, on the other hand is a very organized person and handles the navigation, planning, and money. He also does a lot of the research.
* Follow this system and give everyone some responsibility. Just like the military, a well-organized team looking to achieve a goal functions better than an individual. Giving people responsibility allow them to be a bigger part in their own vacation and encourage teamwork
- Be crafty. Mini-refrigerators and bathroom hair dryers can be lifesavers when it comes to food and leftovers. The mini-fridge usually comes standard in hotel rooms, so if you're staying in one hotel for a few days, consider going to the grocery store to pick up supplies. Lunch meat and bread make for cheap, easy lunches. Heat your leftovers using a microwave (if you have one) or use the bathroom's hair dryer. Put it on the highest setting and be patient. It might not be perfect, but its better than nothing. I did this on a recent trip to Vegas and had hot leftovers almost every day.
The last tip I have for you is so crucial and should never, ever, under any circumstance ever be forgotten.
- ASK. ASK. ASK!!! Whenever you go somewhere unknown, check with the locals. Even if you've done your research, drop into a coffee shop or the local city hall. If you come in with a nice attitude, people will usually respond positively. The local businesses usually have better food and service than many corporate, nation-wide chains and love out-of-town visitors. They survive because of word-of-mouth and will treat you very well. Go in humble and you will usually leave full and happy.
Good luck and travel smart!
Copyright 2010 The E.W. Scripps Co. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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