Some people find it exciting to take road trips in their cars with their friends and family, and others choose to take the 3 day bus ride simply because it's cheaper than flying. (Maybe they're in no rush to get where they're going).
For the rest of the people who plan to take vacation time from work and spend time with their family in Hawaii or France, there is a desire to to get there as soon as possible and sometimes flying really is the only option like when going overseas.
They say that planning ahead is a great way to save money on plane tickets. What commercial airlines leave out is that there are actually ways to save even more money. I think they do this on purpose (keep you out of the loop) so you end up spending an extra hundred dollars for a ticket.
I've done a lot of traveling in the past 7 years and I have never paid more than $400 for a flight. I've never come back home from vacation with an empty wallet because I learned how to budget even while on vacation.
Use Price Comparison Sites
This is the first method I use when I'm about to purchase a ticket. Sites such as CheapOair for great prices on plane tickets and Travelocity or HotWire for discounts on hotel rooms. These sites are great because they allow you to compare rates from multiple companies all in one place instead of having to hop from site to site to figure out which company can offer you the best deal.
You'll need to include information about your travel plans on the site like where you'll be leaving from, where you want to go, when you're planning to leave and how long you want to stay. It literally takes me less than 5 minutes to do this.
This is about the only thing the commercial airlines will tell you to do. Even after finding a good price compariston website, you're going to need to plan ahead. If you know you'll have vacation time that you plan to take, then you're going to want to start looking at the prices and perhaps even booking your flight as soon as you know where you're going.
Don't forget to book your hotel stay at the same time you make arrangements for the airport. Otherwise you could end up getting to your destination and not having a place to stay or having to pay more for a room because you forgot to make reservations.
As the date of your departure gets closer and closer, the money you're going to need to spend is going to be more and more. There's really no way around that as far as I see.
This is because there may not be enough seats on board and flying really is on a first come first serve basis. This also applies to hotel stays. If possible, plan your vacation at least a month in advance.
Planning ahead doesn't just refer to choosing when booking flight tickets. It also means you're going to want to make sure you've packed everything at least a month ahead of time, expecially if this is going to be a long vacation. Double and triple check your bags and make a list if you have to. Do the same for everyone that is coming with you or remind them to do the same.
Know that delays can happen. Bad weather conditions or minor repairs can leave everyone sitting in the terminal for hours and in some more extreme cases, days. Be sure to have some entertainment with you like an ipod, a nice long novel or your laptop.
Also realize that if delays or cancellations do occur, you're likely going to get cold. Bring a blanket and some pillows to not only ensure you're as comfortable as possible while in a terminal, but also to avoid having to purchase a pillow and blanket once you're on your flight. That's more money for you to spend during vacation instead of spending it before you even get where you're going.
I know this sounds like I'm taking the fun out of vacation time, but it really does suck to come home realizing you have no money left in your bank account. Only spend enough money to enjoy yourselves. You don't need to stay cooped up in a hotel the whole time but moderation is key.
Bring some snacks and microwave dinners if the hotel room has them available in your room. This way you can still go out to dinner when you want to explore and add an experience but you're not relying solely on restaurants to stay alive.
Enjoy outdoor activities if the weather permits. There are plenty of vacation spots that offer free outdoor concerts or site seeing tours. It's fun, you'll learn something new and you won't even have to spend any money doing it!
You're going to thank yourself when you get home and you don't have to borrow money from family and friends in order to pay the rent or mortgage.
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