Travel is my passion. After 12 years in the travel industry, I am STILL always looking for ways to make travel more affordable, because the more I save, the more often I can go! Over the years I have picked up some tips on how to save the most money on vacations – especially at the Disneyland Resort.
Here are my top 13 ways to save money on vacation:
1. Get the best value on your hotel. Check around, and make sure you’re comparing apples to apples. I never automatically go towards the “cheapest” hotel. I want to get a good deal, but I also want to make sure that I’m staying someplace safe, clean, and comfortable. Look for things like free night specials and reduced rates at nice hotels. I know a lot of times at Get Away Today, some of our nicer hotels cost less than some of our value properties because of free night specials. When looking online, I use the “sort by price” feature then check on all amenities before booking anything.
2. Book early. The best specials sell out first, so you’ll always be ahead if you book as soon as you know you’ll be going on vacation. Occasionally a last-minute special will pop-up, but that is becoming more the exception than the norm. Plus, a lot of times if you book something and the cost goes down, you can just call and get the new reduced rate. I think it always pays to book ahead.
3. Watch out for hidden fees. Before you book a hotel check for things like parking fees, resort fees, internet fees, extra occupant fees, and more. If you’re staying at a hotel with a $25/night resort fee, that cost can really add up! At Get Away Today, we’re constantly negotiating with our hotel partners and many of our hotels that charge these types of fees waive them just for our guests.
4. Be flexible with your dates and avoid peak travel times. A lot of hotels, and even some attractions, will charge higher rates during the busy season and offer their best deals when they’re not as busy. A few of our hotels even offer lower rates if you’re traveling during the week instead of staying over the weekend. If you’re flexible with your dates, you are much more likely to get the best rate.
5. Look for a hotel with free breakfast. Meals make up a huge portion of your vacation costs. By having breakfast included, you’re automatically saving a lot of money. Be sure you’re comparing breakfast types as well. There is a big difference between a full breakfast buffet with hot items and a continental breakfast consisting of pastries, coffee and juice. The bigger and better the breakfast, the less likely you’ll need a huge lunch. Plus, a lot of hotels are fine if you grab a piece of fruit to go. Also, look for a hotel with a mini fridge and microwave in the room. Some suites will even offer a full kitchen in the room, which really saves on food costs!
6. Pack snacks for the day. When traveling (especially at a theme park), delicious temptations are everywhere. If you pack some almonds, dried fruit, granola bars, etc., you’ll be less tempted to splurge for churros, cotton candy, ice cream, and other sugary, salty, fatty treats. Your wallet and waistline will thank you.
7. Eat out wisely and use coupons! You’re on vacation, so you don’t want every meal to be a bagged lunch from your hotel room. That doesn’t mean you have to spend a bundle. I always check out sites like Restaurant.com, Groupon, and Living Social for the areas I’m traveling to and purchase discount gift certificates ahead of time, or even while I’m on vacation. Be sure you’re reading the full instructions on the certificates you’re purchasing to see if they require a minimum purchase or expire before your vacation. Get Away Today also offers printable coupons for area shopping and restaurants when you book your vacation with us as an added bonus.
8. Buy souvenirs before you go… or at least wait until you get out of the theme parks. A lot of times you can find similar items (T-shirts, accessories, toys, etc.) at places like Walmart or Target at a fraction of the cost before you go. Present them to your kids on vacation so you still get that “new” feeling. At Get Away Today, we sell princess packages including a dress for just $35. Similar dresses without the extra princess treats sell for $60+ inside Disneyland.
9. Drive. Unless you get a killer deal on airfare (which can happen), if you have more than one or two travelers, you’ll save a lot by driving to your vacation destination. Not only will you not have to purchase airfare, you don’t have to pay for parking at the airport for your car, rent a car or take airport shuttles when you get to your destination. Plus, you can pack everything you need without paying extra for checking your bags.
10. If you are flying, you can save by booking early, flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday, and being flexible. Check multiple airlines and even multiple airports. For example, LAX, John Wayne (aka. Orange County), Ontario, and Long Beach are all gateways to Disneyland. Or, you can easily get to New York City through Newark, JFK, and La Guardia. Southwest allows you to check up to two bags for free and Jet Blue allows you to check one per passenger free of charge, so keep that in mind when booking as well.
11. Pay for most of your vacation before you go. By purchasing your hotel, attraction tickets, and transportation when possible before you travel, you have a much more clear idea of your vacation costs. Spending gets out of control when you don’t realize what you’ve spent or what you’re currently spending. Plus, I always have more fun realizing the bulk of my vacation is already paid for!
12. Bring cash. If you use cash while on vacation, it’s easier to budget. If you stick to using your cash only, and when it’s gone, it’s gone, you’ll be more aware of your spending. I especially do this when travelling internationally, which also helps avoid international purchasing fees some credit cards will charge. As an FYI, you will need a credit card if renting a car and checking-in to hotels for incidentals, but you can usually settle your account by paying with cash at the end of your stay.
13. Get a credit card with points. This may seem like a contradiction to #12, BUT get a credit card that earns points and use it for EVERYTHING in your everyday life(except your spending money while on vacation). For the last 10 years I have always had a credit card that earns points and I’ve cashed in my points for some pretty sweet travel rewards. I have had the American Express Skymiles Card, a Southwest Rapid Rewards Visa Card, and my favorite (I’ve had it since ’05) is my CitiBank Thank You Rewards Mastercard – which can be used for travel on airlines, hotels, etc and has no annual fee. Because I seriously put everything I buy on my card, I have used my points for airfare to Washington DC, Disneyland, Florida, San Francisco, and even Buenos Aires, Argentina. Just make sure you pay your card off at the end of each month, so you’re not paying interest!
I hope these tips are helpful when planning your next vacation! You can also get access to the best deals, sales, and tips by following (or calling) Get Away Today and your favorite airlines on Facebook, Twitter, and even Pinterest.