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15 Ways to Save on Your Next Vacation

Whether your vacation budget is big or small, no one likes to spend more than necessary when traveling. Here are some tips that can help you save on your next trip.

Air travel

  • Pick your travel times wisely. Popular wisdom holds that Tuesday and Wednesday are the least expensive days to travel, but this isn't necessarily the case in all markets or at all times of the year. If possible, search for airfares within two or three days of your ideal departure date, and consider off-peak flight times.
  • Search for flights at more than one airport. If you're willing to depart from any airport near you or arrive at any airport relatively close to your destination, you'll have a better chance of snagging a lower-cost flight.
  • Sign up for fare alerts. Online travel agencies, travel websites, or the airlines themselves can notify you when airfare hits a low price point or drops by a certain percentage.
  • Compare baggage charges. Don't settle on a fare before seeing how much extra you'll pay to check your luggage.
  • Save on parking. At many airports you have the option of parking in an economy lot. At larger airports, you may be able to save even more by parking offsite at private lots. Some hotels offer packages that allow you to spend the night before your flight and leave your vehicle there until you return.

Lodging

  • Check hotel websites. Many list their rate calendars on their reservations page so you can see for yourself when rooms are available (and at what price).
  • Look for freebies. For example, does the hotel offer complimentary transportation to the airport, restaurants, or local attractions? Does the rate include breakfast (having a meal included can save you a bundle, especially on longer trips or family vacations).
  • Share amenities. Love the amenities at a luxury resort but not the price tag? Book a room at a lower-priced hotel that allows you to use the facilities of a higher-priced sister property.
  • Watch out for taxes. Though you can't avoid them, lodging taxes vary by location and are based on the room rate, so you can save money on taxes by booking a lower rate or, in some cases, by choosing a different location (a property outside the city, for example).
  • Compare extra person charges. Will your kids stay for free? Hotel chains often allow up to two adults and two children age 17 and younger to stay in one room for the same rate, but policies vary, and smaller properties may require you to pay more or book extra rooms.

Rental cars

  • Look for coupon codes or discounts. These are available through many sources, such as your road and travel plan, your insurance company, and your credit card issuer.
  • Choose the vehicle class that offers the best value. Smaller cars are often less expensive, but not always. Rates vary widely, so check out all rental companies before settling on one. And although you can't count on getting one, it never hurts to ask for a free upgrade at the rental counter.
  • Pay attention to fuel costs. If you're going to be driving long distances, make sure the rental vehicle has good fuel economy. And decide whether you want to pay for a full tank of gas up front, with the option of returning the vehicle on empty. The per-gallon price is usually posted at the rental counter and may be more or less than what you'll pay if you fill it up yourself off-property.
  • Consider insurance before you get to the rental counter. Avoid buying duplicate coverage by checking with your insurer to see how your auto policy covers you in a rental vehicle. Some credit card companies also offer some insurance protection for rentals.
  • Compare extra driver fees. You may pay a surcharge if you add an extra driver, and fees and terms vary by company and location.