Whether you are planning to load up the car with the family or fly to a getaway, Better Business Bureau says there are ways to reduce the sting of vacation expenses.
Conventional wisdom used to dictate that booking a flight at the last minute can result in substantial discounts. Not any more. Cruise lines may drop prices for late bookings to fill as many cabins as possible before heading out to sea, however, current thinking is that you will find the best airline prices a couple of weeks ahead of time. Booking further ahead than that won't necessarily snag you a better deal.
BBB offers several tips to help pare down the cost of transportation, lodging, entertainment and meals when you are out of town:
Be flexible with flights - Booking a trip at low season not only saves you from crowds, but also offers lower prices. The same applies to hotels, motels and other seasonal businesses that rely upon tourism. Flights with stopovers are less costly than nonstop flights, and so is booking a mid-week flight.
Start clipping - Start checking for daily coupons at your final destination in the days leading up to your departure. You can find out where locals eat and drink, and look for coupon discounts that can help you save money until you return home.
Lower prices for lodging - If you don't mind a 15-minute drive, consider booking a room in a nearby town. Also, a growing number of hotels and eateries offer family-friendly discounts that allow kids to eat for free. You can save even more by renting a room with a kitchenette and shopping at local grocery stores.
Concentrate on lunch - Americans tend to save their largest meals for dinnertime, which is when menu prices jump. Travel experts recommend having your largest meal at lunch when you eat out. A bartender or barista may be able to point you towards inexpensive restaurants where they and their friends eat out, as opposed to pricey restaurants a concierge may recommend.
Get a travel card to avoid fees - Foreign credit card transaction fees can pile up. An overseas transaction charge is typically 3% on every dollar spent. The charges are waived if you select a travel credit card which has zero foreign transaction fees.
Don't be afraid to ask for an upgrade - You'd be surprised at what you can get if you only ask. If you request the smallest rental car on the lot, they usually are the first to go, so you might get an upgrade.
Where to get cash - Money exchanges have steep fees and rates associated with them. Before leaving town, go online to see where you can get local cash at a good rate and the location of ATMs with the lowest fees.
Watch out for extra hotel fees - They are called "resort fees" and may be tacked on to your bill at checkout, even though you may have booked online. Ask in advance to waive them if you don't plan to use the workout facilities, or to see whether you will get charged for a room safe or access to WiFi. In some cases, fees apply to these services as well.
Ask about discounts - Some discounts may not be advertised, so if you have a AAA card, are a member of the military or a senior, don't be shy about letting the hotel, car rental business or restaurant staff know. It may pay off with discounts.
You will find more consumer tips you can trust at www.bbb.org.