With spring just around the corner, many of us are beginning to plan for that much needed getaway –preferably on a budget. Below we offer some tips and ideas culled from the Web aimed at keeping your 2017 travel enjoyable and affordable.
Be strategic about airfare. The best time to fly is mid-week, not the weekend – with travel experts like CNBC’s Sharon Epperson advising that by flying mid-week (Monday – Wednesday), travelers can save up to 25%. For higher-priced hotels that avoid publicly discounting rates, Epperson suggests checking out “bundling” (airfare + hotel) opportunities to secure a deal. Flexibility is key, according to Epperson; thrifty travelers should strive to avoid the most popular travel dates. Epperson also notes that with a firm destination in mind, procrastination can be costly – booking within two weeks of actual travel can push up rates by as much as 30%.
Scott Keyes, a reporter and author of “How to Find Cheap Flights,” agrees that flexible travelers stand to stretch vacation dollars the most. For an at-a-glance view of lowest fares, Keyes suggests ITA Matrix, an interactive calendar that shows lowest fares, by carrier, against specified date ranges (any booking[s] you pursue occur offsite). For thrifty travelers in search of often elusive deals, Keyes recommends reversing the typical travel process – that is, do not pre-select a destination, but instead plan against the prevailing deal. For very flexible travelers, Keyes suggests The Flight Deal, a site renowned for spotting “mistake fares” (low fares often taken down minutes after being released) – Keyes once secured a flight from New York to Milan for $65.
Adjust “routine” expenses. Take a quick inventory of the nonessentials that you might adjust that could help to fund your upcoming trip. According to savings site TheSimpleDollar.com, in 2014 the average American spent $232 per month eating meals outside the home. Preparing meals at home can give your vacation account a significant boost. Kim Danger of Mommysavers.com also recommends taking a quick inventory of all the services you receive – cable/satellite, cell phone plans, dance/Pilates classes, housekeeping services, paid lawn care – to secure added vacation funds by downgrading, temporarily suspending or eliminating services you may not need.
Target destination city deals. According to the savings site Money Crashers, a little advance planning combined with onsite app use can add up to real savings for travelers. Whether you score oneoff deals from apps like Foursquare and Scoutmob or use a service like Restaurant.com to identify local meal deals (simply enter a city, state, or zip code), the prepared traveler is the one who saves the most. Money Crashers also recommends researching your destination’s cultural offerings – museums, parks, zoos – to pick up on free or discounted opportunities, along with remembering to bring IDs (military, student, etc.) to secure potential “at the gate” discounts.
David A. Pickler, CFP® is president of Pickler Wealth Advisors in Collierville and specializes in all aspects of the financial planning process.
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