The Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), the world’s largest association of professional travel journalists and photographers, recently polled its members to discover the top 10 universal tips on how to save money traveling.
“There’s never been a better time to travel,” states SATW president Bea Broda. “With the economy the way it is, there are deals everywhere – and the Internet has made them easy to discover,” Broda says.
She suggests travelers should register online with airlines, hotels and car rental companies to receive updates and information on their special offers and packages. Comparison search engines such as www.kayak.com and www.bookingbuddy.com are helpful to find the best Internet prices.
Here, from people who travel for a living, are 10 practical ways to save money on vacation travel, with selected comments from SATW members:
1. Travel in the off-season or on the edges of popular seasons.
- “Traveling in the off-season saves big bucks on hotels and transportation, but there are other pluses too, such as fewer crowds and hence shorter lines at museums, churches, restaurants and so on.” Susan Farlow, freelance travel writer
- “Traveling off-season means cab drivers, hoteliers, merchants and locals are more accommodating and welcoming; you’ll have a better experience at a lower cost,” Judy Wells, freelance travel writer, TravelontheLevel.com
2. Get to know local bus/metro transportation for city stays. Ask about multi-day specials and special one-day tourist cards. Some international rail and travel cards must be purchased before you arrive in that country. Look at transportation Web sites for the cities and countries you will visit. For instance, the Visitor Oyster Card, good on all public transport in London, must be purchased before you arrive in London.
- “Public transport allows you to get to know the flavors and nuances of the people in a foreign country, and you have the serendipity of encountering kind gestures and helpful questions,” Roger Toll, freelance travel writer
- “Using public transportation is not only less expensive than car rentals or cabs, but can also be ‘green,’ helping a community keep open streets and clean air,” Martin Hintz, freelance travel writer
3. Picnic instead of eating every meal in restaurants. Visit markets, bakeries, local shops and delis…but avoid uncooked street food and wash fruit with bottled water.
- “Shopping at local markets is not only a less expensive way to eat, it can be healthier (who needs all those sauces?) . You get a local’s view of the area and you can try lots of interesting foods and then eat them in parks and gardens.” Christine Loomis, freelance travel writer/editor
- “My husband and I often picnic in our room. A good bottle of local wine from a liquor store costs a fraction of those on restaurant menus. And take out food from local gourmet shops and markets not only give us quality equal to a fancy restaurant, but it is what the locals eat and take home. And we never buy water in a hotel, which is usually over-priced,” Mary Ann Treger, freelance writer
- “What’s better and cheaper than a baquette in Paris for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Stan Wawer, travel editor
4. Eat your big meal at lunch when prices are cheaper and go light on dinner.
· “Luncheon prices at restaurants are amazingly low compared to dinner prices. You don’t have to make reservations usually, and the food tastes the same, only with reduced prices, you can afford more courses,” Lorraine O’Donnel Williams, travel writer
- “Lunch at the Tour d’Argent in Paris, a wonderful restaurant, is half the dinner price. Same ambience, same service, same duck.” Alan Solomon, freelance travel writer
5. Use public transportation between airports and cities. Don’t rent cars in a city and pay for parking. If traveling to the countryside afterwards, pick up your car at the end of your city stay.
- “Public transportation to and from the airport is the way to go. Even if you’re renting a car, you can do so in the city and save on airport facility charges,” Al Bonowitz, editor, Hawaii Westways Magazine
- “Stay in a big city’s suburbs and use public transportation to save money. You can catch the efficient Metro subway just outside Washington’s Reagan National Airport and ride it to the nearby suburbs for accommodations, then take it downtown to enjoy the museums or the National Zoo.” Robert Jenkins, former travel editor and freelance travel writer
6. Make your first stop the local visitors center and collect coupons, brochures, free maps, etc. Ask the staff about insider tips – free days at museums, matinees, free parking, and money saving programs like City Pass, www.citypass.com
Also, be sure to visit the Web sites of convention bureaus and state tourism offices before your visit. They often offer special rates, coupons and discount information.
- “To my delight, an early stop at the Visitor Center in London coincided with their free continental breakfast AND they had great deals on half-price and last-minute theatre tickets,” Christine Potter, travel journalist
7. Stay in accommodations that offer free breakfast and that have a refrigerator so you can store snacks.
- “If you really load up at breakfast, you can skip lunch altogether, perhaps getting by with a snack if necessary.” Robert Haru Fisher, columnist and contributing editor, frommers.com
8. Go to less well-known destinations.
· “Across the world, less well-known destinations – i.e. getting off the beaten track – is cheaper as well as more fun,” Chris Tree, freelance writer
9. Do a home swap or rent a vacation home rental rather than a hotel.
- “Renting a real home in a small town, or better, village, gives you a chance to feel that you live in the place – you meet more people, find out more about they live and more about their culture,” Catherine Watson, freelance writer/photographer
10. In cities, stay at business hotels on the weekends where there are often better room rates and restaurant deals. Shop for hotels near, not on, the biggest street. When booking your room, ask, “Is this the best rate available? Do you have any specials at the moment?” Also ask if they offer discounts for AAA, AARP or other membership programs.
- “You’ll pay much more for that hotel on the city’s main street. Wander a few blocks in any direction and you’ll have the same neighborhood without the premium price,” Margie Goldsmith, freelance writer
The Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) is a non-profit professional association that works to promote responsible travel journalism and to provide professional support for its members, including travel journalists, photographers, editors, electronic media, film lecturers, television and film producers, and public relations representatives from the travel industry.
For more information on the Society of American Travel Writers, visit www.satw.org