Dream Big, Save Bigger: 4 Ways to Score Huge Savings for Your Next Vacation
Dream Big, Save Bigger: 4 Ways to Score Huge Savings for Your Next Vacation - Be Flexible with Dates and Destinations
One of the best ways to score huge savings on your next vacation is to remain flexible with your dates and destinations. While it's tempting to lock into specific travel plans, staying open enables you to capitalize on last-minute deals and tap into savings you won't find otherwise.
Being flexible with dates means not adhering strictly to school vacations, holidays, or traditional peak seasons for travel. Sure, it's nice to join the masses and enjoy the energy of a popular destination during high season. But you'll also pay a premium. Opting for shoulder seasons—the periods just before or after peak times—can yield big savings. Airlines and hotels lower rates to attract customers during slower periods. You may not experience the frenzied excitement of peak season, but you'll often enjoy pleasant weather, thinner crowds, and more availability for activities.
Consider destinations beyond your original list as well. Maybe you've always dreamed of Italy but flights are outside your budget this year. Look at other European hotspots like Croatia, Greece, or Portugal where your dollar may go further. Don't limit yourself to the trendiest or most obvious places. Branch out and discover destinations you may not have previously considered.
Remaining flexible with dates and locations requires letting go of preconceived notions. But travelers who stay open find that incredible experiences await in unexpected places. And they delight in the extra money saved to fund future adventures. Here are some real-world examples:
- Amy longed to visit Scandinavia but found prices daunting. Rather than Norway, she chose the Baltic nation of Estonia. Its medieval Old Town charmed her for a fraction of the cost.
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- Dream Big, Save Bigger: 4 Ways to Score Huge Savings for Your Next Vacation - Be Flexible with Dates and Destinations
- Dream Big, Save Bigger: 4 Ways to Score Huge Savings for Your Next Vacation - Use Airline and Hotel Points
- Dream Big, Save Bigger: 4 Ways to Score Huge Savings for Your Next Vacation - Travel During Off-Peak Times
- Dream Big, Save Bigger: 4 Ways to Score Huge Savings for Your Next Vacation - Look for Package Deals
Dream Big, Save Bigger: 4 Ways to Score Huge Savings for Your Next Vacation - Use Airline and Hotel Points
Frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs offer a goldmine of savings for savvy travelers. While it takes effort to maximize points, the rewards are well worth it. Not only can you slash travel costs, you can indulge in flights and hotels normally out of reach.
Where to start? Every major airline and hotel chain offers points programs. Enrollment is free so sign up for those aligned to your typical brands. Then get strategic earning and redeeming points.
Many credit cards award signup bonuses of tens of thousands of points—sometimes enough for a free flight or hotel night. Charging everyday and travel purchases to these cards also racks up points over time. Look for cards that boost earning potential on flights, hotels, groceries, commuting or other routine expenses.
Take advantage of special promotions where actions like renting cars, shopping online, or dining out earn bumps in points too. Mileage runs—inexpensive flights taken solely to earn miles—are another trick frequent flyers use. Points can also be purchased outright, often at discounted rates.
Once you’ve built a healthy balance, strategically redeem points for maximum value. Use airline miles for expensive long-haul flights in premium cabins rather than short hops in economy. Save cash fares for bargain airlines without loyalty programs. Check point valuations across programs as sometimes transferring miles between partners yields a better deal.
Similarly, use hotel points for high-end properties rather than budget rooms. Compare cash and point redemption rates as using points isn’t always the better value. Consider saving points for unique experiences like safari lodges or overwater bungalows rather than a chain brand downtown.
Dream Big, Save Bigger: 4 Ways to Score Huge Savings for Your Next Vacation - Travel During Off-Peak Times
Savvy travelers know that visiting destinations during off-peak seasons equates to big savings. While summer, holidays and weekends spell high prices and packed crowds, opting for off-peak periods means thinner visitor numbers, sales, and incentives you won’t find other times of year.
The most obvious off-peak time? Winter. In warm weather destinations like Hawaii, the Caribbean, Mexico and parts of Europe, winter brings dramatic drops in hotel rates, airfares, and activity prices. Lodging prices in particular can plummet 40-60%. Airfare deals pop up too as airlines lure customers during slow months.
Even ski destinations offer winter deals pre- and post-peak ski weeks. December, January, March and April see fewer crowds and prices up to 30% lower on lodging and lift tickets. Some resorts offer multi-day lift ticket packages at a fraction of peak season costs.
Shoulder seasons – the periods just before and after peak summer or winter times – also promise savings. Kids are in school reducing family travel. Weather is often still pleasant, though cooler, making for comfortable sightseeing.
Hawaii sees excellent shoulder season deals in April-May and September-October. Airfare and hotel rates sink up to 30%, vacation rentals offer weekly discounts, and free night offers abound. Europe’s shoulder spans October-November and April-June with airfare up to 40% lower.
Keep an eye out for off-peak deals tied to holidays and events too. While prices spike on the holiday itself, traveling just before or after means thinner crowds and lower costs. Hotels and tour operators offer sales to retain business between surges.
Contrarian travelers specifically seek out destinations plagued by bad press that scares others away. Zika fears kept many from the Caribbean and Latin America for a time. But those visiting found pleasant weather with rock bottom rates, incentives and no crowds.
Other off-putting events like elections, protests, or financial crises also depress visitor numbers. But these passing events often leave the actual travel experience wonderfully unscathed. Savvy travelers capitalize on the downturn knowing life for tourists goes on as normal.
Dream Big, Save Bigger: 4 Ways to Score Huge Savings for Your Next Vacation - Look for Package Deals
Bundling flights, hotels, activities, and other components into a package deal unlocks huge savings that aren’t possible when booking individually. Savvy travelers utilize packages to enjoy an enhanced trip for less.
Package perks like discounted bulk rates negotiated with suppliers or complimentary inclusions lower the total price. Consolidating bookings into a single transaction also saves time and locks in pricing early. And packages simplify planning by pre-arranging details like transfers, sightseeing, and meals.
Online travel agencies like Expedia or Priceline offer expansive package offerings. But also check out deals from tour operators, resorts, cruise lines, and even airlines. Dynamic packages let you build customized bundles. Opting for packages over piecing together a trip à la carte can mean 30% or higher savings.
Jenna dreamed of an African safari but assumed packaged deals meant big groups and rigid schedules. Research revealed small-group options at 30% off solo bookings. She customized activities while enjoying private lodges for less.
Brian longed to visit Patagonia but panicked over complex logistics. Booking a package handled all transport, trekking and rooms. “Not having to coordinate everything myself meant I could just show up and enjoy Patagonia’s majesty,” he said.
“I’d always thought all-inclusives were subpar,” Mark admitted. “But the high-end package I booked was first-class. For what I’d pay just for a basic hotel and meals elsewhere, this included watersports, spa treatments - everything.”
“Rather than spending hours researching Paris museum passes and Metro tickets,” said Lauren, “my package had it all covered. The time and money I saved let me enjoy more sights and cafes.”
Don’t limit yourself to location-based packages. Experience packages like culinary tours, yoga retreats or photography workshops incorporate shared interests for based savings. Cruise packages bundle transport, lodging and ports. Event packages include sought-after concert or game tickets along with surrounding experiences.