I love this topic! For me, it isn’t just about money, but I will get to that. It IS about mileage, points programs and discounts!
These are just a handful of the programs to which I belong! The above are my favorites. When the hubs and I went to Arkansas to be with the girls (my bonus daughters) for ten days over Christmas last year these came in handy! We traveled December 21st through December 30th – peak travel times. The plane tickets, rental car and hotel costs came to a whopping $307.10 – all because of points programs! Here is a cost breakdown:
Converted Membership Rewards Points into Hilton HHonors Points. Total hotel for ten nights: $118.00
Used Delta SKYMILES and a few thousand converted Membership Rewards points. Plane tickets: $20.00 ($10 each – mandatory security fee). We saved over $2,200 – and this was for COACH fare tickets!
Used Enterprise Plus points and converted some Membership Rewards into gift certificate. Renting a Cadillac: $169.10
The car was the most expensive part of the trip!
Before: Over $2,200…After: $20.00! SCORE!
We all know I am a frequent business traveler, so I most definitely rack up the points, miles and corporate credit card benefits. This is a major job perk that may not be necessarily reflect in my paychecks, but still makes a huge difference to my wallet. Still if you travel, even infrequently, you’d be surprised at how quickly you can earn rewards. Sign up for all the rewards programs. I most especially encourage everyone to get a credit card that earns you miles. Disclaimer: Use it responsibly.
We belong to TrustedHouseSitters.com. We have yet to use it, but it is most certainly a way to save money on accommodations if you are willing to water plants, take care of pets and stay in another person’s home while they are away. These opportunities present longer-term stays, too!
As a Navy wife, I also seek out military discounts. I ask for them everywhere. Most times, even if people don’t have a policy in place offering the discount, they’ll extend one anyway. When we took the girls to Maui for our bonus familymoon I emailed the condo management where we stayed ahead of time asking about military discounts. They happily extended one to us.
There are also student discounts, AAA discounts (I do have AAA and take advantage of their pricing from time to time) and AARP discounts. I believe the Bar Association also offers discounts to attorneys and many companies’ healthcare programs offer discounts – check with your HR office.
I’ve also seen the Entertainment Books. I can’t say I’ve ever used them (with the exception of one the condo management in Maui gave us), but some people do swear by them.
Lastly, never underestimate the power of your hotel concierge. They have hook-ups all around town. Don’t be afraid to ask (just kindly tip them before you depart).
I do my research. I definitely comparison shop and if leaving a day earlier or later will save me $400 on travel, so be it! Don’t limit yourself to one website. Sometimes one travel website will say they’ve got the best rate, but the hotel website will beat it. I’ve also gotten amazing deals by bidding at Priceline.com – just be flexible! Check Expedia.com, Travelocity, etc. Give yourself a half-day or so to look around.
Budgeting The hubs and I plan ahead and say, “Okay, we need X amount of dollars,” then put it to the side and do not touch it. When we’re with the girls we usually go a little over budget so we cushion ourselves, too. Moral of the story: BE REALISTIC. If you’re going to Europe for a month and say you’re only going to spend $150.00 US on extras, you might want to re-evaluate your costs and spending.
If it’s a long-term goal, put away a certain amount of money into a CD for a year then cash it out for your trip. If you you have to save little by little, put a percentage of your paycheck straight into a savings account – especially if your employer handles direct deposit for you.
Save big, expensive trips for when your finances can support them – even if you are an instant gratification person (like me). For instance, I want to go around the world with the hubs on a luxury trip for 115 days. That is years away because my bonus daughters are young and we need to financially plan more. We know the cost and it’s high, but we have the goal in mind. When the girls are older and they have their own lives, it will be okay to be gone for that long. In the meantime, we can plan for weeks or a month in other great places.
Don’t feel like you’re settling. You’re building up! A week here, two weeks there, a month…Approach each opportunity like an adventure! If it’s somewhere you never thought you’d want to go, keep an open mind. You might be surprised!
Some people also take odd jobs or do writing on the side. I recently had an article published that will be a nice little spending fund for the girls over our EPIC Summer 2014 Road Trip. My biggest message would be if you take on extra work, don’t compromise your health. It’s the single most important thing you have. You need it to travel. So don’t hurt yourself in the process!
All in all, there are so many ways to save! I am sure I’ve just begun to hit the tip of the iceberg.
I’d love to know how you save and plan. In the comments please share your tricks, ideas or other rewards and discount programs not mentioned!