If there’s one thing that I can’t compromise on in this life, it’s the love for travel, but grownup responsibilities mean grownup expenses. The Budget Travel Tips series from First Choice Power examine how you can travel while finding a way to save money. Whether you’re in school, have a family, or just don’t have the income you wish to support your travel dreams, we share tips on how you can still see the world – without going into debt!
Living that Hotel Life
In the first installment of our Budget Travel Tips series, we profiled camping as a super-cheap way to travel. But we know that waking up with the birds isn’t for everyone.
Whether you’re traveling alone, as a couple, with a group of friends, or with your family, thrifty travel in a decent hotel is possible if you know how to keep to the basics and find deals with no frills. We’re going to help you get a good night’s sleep in a comfortable bed, while staying within your comfortable budget.
Stay Focused on the Basics
What do we mean? You’re on a budget, so staying at a 5-star hotel in the hottest part of the city is most likely going to eat into your lunch money. We also wouldn’t recommend staying at a Bed and Breakfast, since these often include lavish breakfasts and fancy rooms to create special ambiance (along with that good night’s sleep).
Look for a simple hotel chain offering a comfortable bed, fresh linens, and a place to shower in the morning. Don’t get hooked into a deal offering breakfast if it’s more costly than a regular hotel room without breakfast. Besides, you can grab a breakfast taco and a juice for only a few bucks, which is far cheaper than the additional $20+ hotels often add to hook you into the “comes with breakfast” add-on.
Shop for Deals
The Internet makes it easy these days to search for the best deals. Site like Expedia, Hotels.com, Trivago, Travelocity, or Hipmunk can help you locate the best hotel available for your travel window and budgetary requirements.
Some major credit cards are synced with hotel chains, so look for opportunities to use your points. Also for AAA members, hotels often offer a small discount. You will also find discounts for senior citizens, veterans, and active members of the military.
Value and Authentic Flair
We are huge fans of the concept of homeowners renting out their properties and apartments to give out-of-towners a unique experience that differs from a chain hotel. Folks across the world are renting out rooms, tiny houses, and other fun and funky locations, many of which are both affordable and comfortable for your hotel stay.
At sites like HomeAway, Airbnb, and VRBO, simply enter your destination and how many beds you need to find something truly incredible, far from the normal highways and byways. By renting one of these personal spaces, you get the feel of what it might be like to actually live in the location you’re visiting. We recommend looking for spots in neighborhoods with plenty of activity within walking distance (which will help you not get lost in an unfamiliar area).
Having access to a kitchen makes budget travel even easier to save money. Bringing your own food, ingredients, and beverages means you’ll spend less because you’re not eating out for every meal.
Consider a Package
If you’re committed to a destination attraction like Disney World, you can still travel on budget by booking a hotel bundled with tickets. You can save further with a bundle that incorporates coupons and certificates for dining.
Check hotels in the area near your attractions, paying specific attention to ways you can shuttle over to them each day (instead of renting a car or using a taxi). Find some price options, do the appropriate comparisons, and then see what the amusement park itself can offer you. Often when you book all of your needs together, it makes accommodation cheaper.
Travel without Reservations
Sure, we won’t recommend finding a hotel on a whim in West Yellowstone, the only town just outside of Yellowstone National Park, in the height of July or August travel. But if you’re heading to a city outside of the major travel times (Summer, Spring Break, Thanksgiving, and Winter Break), chances are good you can find really great deals by booking last-minute. The hotels will want to fill every room possible, so they’re open to negotiation.
It can be a risky move, but my personal experience leads me to believe you can find really good deals on a hotel room for a couple of nights. Besides – travel involves a bit of spontaneity anyway, right?
Up next in the Budget Travel Tips series: Travel by Plane!