Do you not think about building your ark until it’s been raining for a couple of days? If so you might also not start planning your next vacation until the week before you’re slated to leave. This almost guarantees you won’t have the best possible vacation. Not only that, it increases the chances that you will end up with loads of credit card debt after. But if you follow these tips you can have one of the best ones ever.
#1. Tell your friends and relatives to move to Europe
If you normally vacation with friends or relatives, insist they move to Europe. This is because the US economy now is very strong and your dollars will go further if you spend them in Europe. Our dollar is currently beating up on the euro. In fact, every $10 you exchange will now get you 9.31 euros. A year ago you would’ve only gotten 7.24 euros. What this translates into is that a hotel room that cost you 150 euros last year or $207 US – will cost you just $161 a night this year.
#2. It’s not all about the bass. It’s all about the shoulders
You’re likely to find the best hotel rates and airfares for Europe and even the US (to some degree) in the months leading up to or after the summer (the “shoulder months”). This means that traveling in April, May, September, October or November will mean you won’t have to pay as much and as a plus you won’t be part of the maddening crowds. As a general rule the end-of-summer bargains begin about August 19th or 20th.
#3. Look for hotels that provide kids’ programs
Airbnb has become a real boon for families that need to spread out. However, what this program can’t do is provide structured activities for kids. In order to compete with Airbnb many hotels now provide this. For example San Diego’s Paradise Point Resort offers an Island Adventure Club that sends children out to explore its 44 acres. This includes scavenger hunts, arts and crafts, miniature golf and more. These programs are free at many hotels but in others you will have to pay something like $50 for four hours. But there are times when you just need a little separation from your kids so this could be a good investment.
#4. Don’t be nickeled and dimed
Unfortunately, some hotels have learned a lesson from the airlines and will nickel-and-dime you with extra resort fees, charges for valet parking, in-room Wi-Fi and so forth. If your vacation includes a lengthy hotel stay check with an online site like Trivago so you will know in advance whether or not you will be paying these extra fees before you book.
#5. Book well in advance and we mean well in advance
There was a time when you could book about 30 days in advance in order to get the best price. Today, you’d be smart to book 45 days in advance to get the type of room you want at the best possible price.
#6. Watch out for “nonrefundable”
Hotels have learned another important lesson from the airlines and that’s nonrefundable payments. If you book in advance you can save as much as 15% on a hotel rate but make sure that it’s not marked nonrefundable. If you were to find another hotel you like better, a different destination or if you were to become ill you would want to be able to get your money back. So make sure you book in a hotel where your advance payment would be refundable.
A cruise can be a great way to have fun, see a new part of the world and even make new friends. The cruise lines have learned like airlines that they are selling a commodity that has only a certain shelf life. Cabins that are left unused represent revenue opportunities missed. This means you should be able to score big on a last-minute cruise deal. You could also look for what are called repositioning cruises. For example, a cruise line offering Alaskan cruises will likely be repositioning its ships in September for Caribbean cruises. You might be able to score big on one of these cruises.
#8. Gamble a bit
If you’re willing to gamble you could save money by booking a Caribbean cruise during hurricane season. The good news about a cruise is that a boat can be repositioned unlike a hotel that is pretty much stuck where it is. However, with a cruse ship bad weather can cause cancellations of certain ports of call. So rolling the dice could save you some money. As an example of this a 10-day Princess Cruise in the Eastern Caribbean starts at $909 in September – which is considered to be during hurricane season – versus $1199 in February.
#9. Going to Mexico? Choose your destination carefully
Our State Department has issued warnings about those areas of Mexico you should seriously avoid. Beyond this, you can save money by choosing your destination carefully. One of the darlings of a Mexican vacation is Cancún. But if you were to choose Puerto Vallarta instead you would save on both hotel and airfares. As an example of this, one night at the Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach in Cancún typically costs $258 a night while the Fiesta Americana in Puerto Vallarta currently costs $172 a night. Multiply that difference by seven nights and you’d be saving $602 just on your hotel stay alone.
#10. Take to the road in style
If you’re planning a road trip consider doing it in style. Leave that old clunker at home and rent something like an Audi A4 instead. There’s a new company Silver Car that rents only Audis and only at certain airports. If you think this would be too big a splurge, think again. You could rent from Silver Car in Miami for six days at a cost of $405. In comparison a Nissan Maxima from Hertz for the same number of days would cost you $638. You’d be both cheaper and look cooler.
#11. Don’t always cheap out
When it comes to planning a vacation it always pays to be price-sensitive. But remember the value is also important. If you’re trying to choose between a four- or five-star Mexican hotel don’t rule out the five-star just because that’s what it is. If you shop carefully you might be able to find a really first-class hotel for just a bit more. This is also true of cruise ship cabins, rental cars and more. The trick is to determine where you need to hold the line on your vacation spending but still get the comforts and amenities you need to have a really memorable one.