You’re all packed and ready to go. And the only thing holding you back is the mental image of travel bills piling up on your desk. Well, worry no more! Experts give their tried-and-tested tips for that worry-free vacation you and your family deserve! Here are our top 16 tips to keep your vacation on budget.
1. Weekday warriors. Sunday schedules are usually the priciest when it comes to domestic flights, while Saturdays are the highest for international travel. Flying out on a Tuesday or Wednesday, for example, can save you on airfare, as can departing very early or very late in the day. What’s more, flights between 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. are proven more likely to arrive on time.
2. Opt for “shoulder season.” “A destination’s shoulder season is that time of the year between its peak season and off season,” says Celine Roque, a columnist for FrugalPinoy.com, a personal finance Web site dedicated to the average Pinoy. “Peak seasons tend to be crowded and prices tend to be higher.” Going during the off-season isn’t always advisable because she adds, “This usually means it is typhoon season or something equally unpleasant.”
3. Installments. “Set aside P500 to P1,000 a month for your travel fund, and you’ll be able to visit a different province or city every year,” says Roque. “Remember, the farther your destination is from your home, the more money you’ll need to save.” Check out the “Travel Now, Pay Later” schemes offered by banks. “Find out how much the monthly installments would be, then fit it in your budget and calendar. This scheme is easy on the pocket, enabling you to enjoy your vacation without taxing your bank account,” says Aneth Ng-Lim, vice-president for Consumer Education at Citibank.
4. Go online. Most hotels and airlines maintain Web sites that let you book on the spot; some even have online-only promotions. You can also compare rates and book everything from flights to city tours at Expedia.com, Orbitz.com, and Travelocity.com. Hotwire.com offers unsold inventory—empty flight seats, hotel rooms, and unrented cars, while Farecast.com keeps track of airfares and room rates.
5. Research! Spend some time online looking into your destination. Research where to go, how to go around. Visit Virtualtourist.com and Tripadvisor.com for insider tips. “Ask friends who’ve already visited the place as they might be privy to better deals,” says Anton Diaz, the food and travel blogger behind OurAwesomePlanet.com . The Philippine Travel and Tour Expo also offers a treasure trove of deals, he adds. Check out www.ptaatraveltourexpo.com.ph .
6. Get your free perks! Make sure you’re not missing out on any free travel perks. Every affiliation, gym, or club you’re a part of probably offers some kind of deal or promotion. Other service perks, such as flight and hotel upgrades, may be given for free if there is room to spare. Be mindful as well of discounts for seniors, students, and children.
7. Foreign exchange. In all your anticipation and excitement, don’t forget to factor in the foreign exchange rates. It’s a good idea to overestimate your budget by 20 to 30 percent; you never know what unforeseen expenses you’ll incur along the way.
8. Travel via bus or ferry. Traveling via bus or ferry tends to be cheaper than riding an airplane. It’s also the perfect way to enjoy the scenic route and get your mind in vacation mode. Check out group packages that offer more bang for your buck. These packages also take care of transfers and daily tours, allowing you to just sit back and enjoy the ride.
9. Book early. No matter when or where you plan to go, book early! You’ll have your pick of still-vacant flights and hotel rooms, the time to explore sightseeing options, and the luxury of actually enjoying your vacation from the get-go.
10. Reward yourself. Make the most of your accumulated frequent flyer miles by keeping your card on hand and your contact details updated. “Even before you swipe your credit card, check for freebies,” advises Ng-Lim. Some credit cards earn air-miles on all purchases.
11. Go to a professional. Sometimes, it’s best to leave it to the pros. Travel agents can get you the best deals; they often make their commission off the establishments they book. Plus, they are abreast of new deals and promotions, and can offer you a variety of discounts.
12. Credit card. Not only is carrying a credit card safer than rolls of cash, using it to pay for purchases can yield a number of benefits! Some offer zero percent installment plans for travel packages, discounts on hotel rates, and free dishes with a minimum food bill, says Ng-Lim.
13. Avoid unnecessary expense. A lot of people end up paying for things that could’ve been avoided. Make sure to pack your camera batteries and mobile phone charger—the worst buy is something you already have. As for paring down your expenses, “You need to think about what matters the most to you,” says Roque. Do you actually need free Wi-Fi or the room with a view? Are you the type to sleep straight through the breakfast buffet? “If you know what you’re looking for, it’ll make the search easier.” Just avoid unnecessary expenses.
14. No room service. Hotel meals are oftentimes more expensive. If you’re set on eating in, check the local phonebook for affordable restaurants that deliver take-out. Or stop by a grocery store and stock up on bottled water, drinks, and snacks. Save more with no room service.
15. Commute. “If you didn’t bring a car with you, it’s more affordable to walk or commute to get around instead of taking a cab or renting a car. It’s a good way to become immersed in your surroundings. You’ll get to know your destination more intimately this way,” says Roque.
16. Excess baggage. Local airlines often award discounts for those who travel without any check-in baggage. For instance, Cebu Pacific’s Go Lite deducts P200 off your fare. If you can’t do with just one carry-on, weigh your luggage carefully flying to and from your destination.
These top 16 tips to keep your vacation on budget are just a start. Make sure you don’t miss out on better travel deals or other perks. Spend some time online or ask friends who have already visited your destination.
Sources Aneth Ng-Lim, vice-president for Consumer Education, CitibankCeline Roque, columnist, FrugalPinoy.comAnton Diaz, food and travel blogger, OurAwesomePlanet.com