While summer is always the big travel season in the United States, Americans are changing the way they take vacations.
For example, look at the new partnership between Groupon and Expedia. They’re following the increasingly popular deal-of-the-day model and offering significant discounts on travel packages that can include airfare, hotels, activities, car rentals and more.
That’s not the only way to get to your destination for less, though. Try using these 9 thrifty travel tips from consumer savings expert, Andrea Woroch, to save some money on your next vacation.
1. Discover Off-Peak Destinations
With nearly four-million square miles of land area, the U.S. is a big country. This means there are nearly unlimited places to travel. Destinations in California, like Los Angeles and San Francisco, are some of the most popular spots, but they’re also the most expensive. If you think outside the box, you’ll find some really cool locations to have a unique vacation without the crowds.
2. Shop at Auctions
Is your heart set on luxurious accommodations, but your bank account doesn’t match up? The auctions at travel sites like LuxuryLink.com can help you find accommodations, spa credits, meal vouchers and free drinks for as much as 65 percent below the typical retail price. Auction king eBay also offers a variety of discount vacation packages in their travel section.
3. Go Back to Campus
Traveling with a large group? Often, hotels will offer discounts to large groups, but staying a whole week is still very expensive. Many colleges and universities rent out empty dorms during the summer, which can save everyone a bundle. It generates a little extra money for the college and the price is typically significantly less than hotel rates. If you’re traveling with a soccer team or church group, a college campus offers more space and freedom for the kids to play outdoors, instead of running amok around a hotel.
4. Use Discount Gift Cards
Most major travel companies are on board with gift cards. Purchase gift cards at sites like GiftCardGranny.com for serious savings on rental cars and airfare. Discount gift cards for airlines like Southwest usually sell out within minutes, so signing up for email alerts can help put you at the front of the line.
5. Make Your Own Food
Eating out at new restaurants is one of the best parts of traveling, but there’s no need to eat out three meals a day. Instead, plan to eat only one meal out. Many hotels and even hostels offer some sort of free breakfast, typically consisting of fruit, cereal and pastries. Also consider booking a hotel that offers a mini kitchenette so you can prepare meals to enjoy in-room or pack as lunch for a day exploring the city.
6. Enjoy Membership Perks
Membership in clubs like AAA or even credit cards can provide some unexpected travel benefits. AAA members can find discounts at hotels, restaurants and local merchants. They’ll also hook you up with complimentary tour books and travel maps.
Many credit cards will help with affordable travel insurance, baggage protection, rental car protection and even travel-delay protection. Find out what your card covers before you go so you don’t end up shelling out extra cash.
7. Giving Back to Get Away
If rest and relaxation are less of a priority than simply getting out of town, there’s always an abundance of volunteer opportunities. Volunteering is a great way to connect with other people who care about the same causes. It also provides a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Sites like VolunteerGuide.org can help you find opportunities all over the world. Many times, food and lodging are included when you commit to a term of a week or two. All you have to do is get there.
8. Find Secret Savings
Travelocity is taking a new approach to finding great hotel prices with their Top Secret Hotels. Give them a little information about when and where you’re traveling and they’ll give you a list of hotels with ratings and prices. Once you pick one and book your stay — saving up to 50% off the original price — they’ll reveal the name and details of the hotel you selected.
9. Travel With Apps
Smartphones go where you go, meaning they can help you save while you’re on vacation.
If you’re taking an old-fashioned road trip, the GasBuddy app can find the lowest prices on gas for every leg of your journey. After fueling up the car, Meal Ticket will help track down coupons and reviews for nearby restaurants.
When you still have work to do before you relax, don’t bother paying the ridiculous Internet fees at hotels. The Free Wi-Fi Finder app tracks down local hotspots in 144 different countries.
Consumer savings expert, Andrea Woroch, is passionate about helping individuals discover financial freedom. For more information, visit AndreaWoroch.com or follow @AndreaWoroch on Twitter to receive daily savings tips.