12 Hot Tips for Summer Family Travel Deals and Steals
● By Sandy Kauten
1. Looking for the perfect vacation hot spot for the family? If you don't have a destination in mind and are open to whatever may be available, sign up for alerts from the airlines, travel websites and AAA. There are often several offers each week and if you have some flexibility with dates, durations, or departure locations and/or times, travel opportunities can be plentiful and savings can be substantial.
2. The computer age is a wonderful thing for travelers. If you have the perfect spot in mind and are looking to save a bit on your accommodations, check out the reviews. Tripadvisor is a personal favorite. You can uncover the best hotels, restaurants, and flights in your ideal area from the reviews from everyday travelers. Not only will you find out the good, but uncover many of the less than stellar features that can cost you money, time and your much deserved good time.
3. After you've uncovered the perfect destination and assembled a short list of accommodations, don't just contact the hotel website and book your reservation. Check out the booking sites like Expedia, Travelocity, and Trivago. Trivago is very interesting because it assembles the best prices from a variety of the booking sites so you can compare with ease. Tingo, a new addition to the booking sites and a Tripadvisor company, offers deal-seekers a best price guarantee with the caveat of an automatic money back guarantee if the price dips below your booking price. Not only will you get your money back, but you won't even have to track it down yourself!
4. If you're looking for great deals on airline flights – fly in the middle of the week. Flying Tuesday through Thursday can reduce your roundtrip flight by over $100 per traveler. Check out the major airlines and do your homework. There can be a disparity in airlines from $20 to over $170 for comparable flights.
5. Anyone say miles? Do you take advantage of credit card or airline travel miles? If not, what are you waiting for? The Disney Rewards credit card lets you accumulate a percentage of your purchase price towards your Disney trip. As an added perk Chase typically offers new members a $100 to $250 gift card after spending a set amount within a specific period of time. Who couldn't use a little gift card spending money for the kids? Besides, if you plan a few weeks or months ahead and make all purchases on the card it could really offset your out-of-pocket expenses. If you don't have a Disney card many other credit card companies offer miles/rewards programs. Take note of what's in YOUR wallet, and make it work for you.
6. Want to spend your cash enjoying your trip and not on a hotel room you don't plan on spending a lot of time in? Contemplate renting a house in the city you're vacationing in. Sites like homeaway.com and vacationrentals.com make it easy to locate your very own home away from home. Simply select the accommodations of your dreams from the available properties that meet your specifications and Voila! You can get your rental often for a mere fraction of the cost of a hotel. The advantages are typically more room, the ability to prepare your own meals, access to laundry facilities, and often a backyard or patio with way more privacy than staying at a hotel or resort. If you like a house and not the rate contact the owner and make an offer that is more to your liking.
7. Ask for what you want. Call the hotel/resort in the city you are visiting and ask what they have to suit your budget. Avoid the 1-800number, if you can. The local hotel will give you the best information about the area, attractions, and any events they may be hosting during your stay. If you're trying to relax, you're not going to want to stay at the same hotel as a team, youth group or boisterous convention goers.
8. Take advantage of hotel rewards cards. If you're an occasional traveler it may take you a while to accumulate enough reward points for a free night or vacation, but a loyal consumer may on occasion find themselves a recipient of a surprise free upgrade. Some upgrades can more than double your space and be worth triple the original cost of your room. Gratis is great!
9. If your child is on a sports team, or you're trying to get the extended family together for a reunion look into group rates. The savings can be huge. Most hotels consider "groups" to need more than 8 rooms, some a minimum of 10. Expedia has an excellent service set up for where hotels in the vicinity of your travel area will bid for your business. You set your desired rate and they try to win your group. Not only do you not have to contact a lengthy list of hotels, but it can all be handled online.
10. All things are not equal when it comes to booking your flights. If you're a night owl you're in business! Ever wonder why your travel shopping cart is empty by morning? They unload carts in the wee hours to make them available for others. So if you're looking for a flight that's full or looking for a web deal, turn into an early bird and visit your favorite airline's website. The savings will make you forget about the lost hours of ZZZ's.
11. Explore other travel options. If you don't have to reach your destination quickly, Amtrak and car travel/rental can be an economical way to travel. Especially if you can't find a primo airline rate. Like the airlines Amtrak offers frequent travel discounts, with special rates for students and seniors.
12. Like any other season, summer has its prime travel times. 4th of July and Labor Day are big booking days for hotels, resorts, and passenger carriers. But if you're willing to put up with the heat and humidity of the southern states in mid-August hotels and resorts often offer enticing incentives. If you don't mind a mini-vacation between a Tuesday and a Friday during certain weeks, depending on the desired destination, there are serious deals to be had.
Many summer vacationers brave the various websites to look for travel deals, but if you're traveling to another country, going on a cruise or to a very expensive destination it never hurts to contact a professional. There of often special rates specific to AAA or local travel agencies. Between discounts, free upgrades, package deals and more you may secure a better deal.
Wherever you plan to travel this summer, be sure to do your research before signing on the dotted line or clicking that "complete" button. Not only can you save a ton of money, but you can also help avoid unnecessary headaches.
By Kim Green-Spangler