Travel Tips for the SMART consumer

Traveling with family any time of year will cost you a pretty penny. Planning ahead and selecting alternatives to your travels can save your household hundreds, and in some cases even thousands of dollars. The larger your family gets the more important this “strategy” becomes. Here are some of my favorite traveling tips that has proven to be a great benefit to saving money.

Book VIP

 Book VIP is an extremely affordable way to vacation. Not only do they offer down payment options for your trip, but they offer trips to some of your favorite destinations such as Punta Cana, Vegas, and Orlando. In my investigating pricing for my family trips they are my number one way to book travel. When you have a large family like I do, not having to pay for everything up front is always a sure win! To learn more about Book VIP or book your next vacation click here: Book VIP.

EXPEDIA TIPS

Expedia has become my first choice in selecting pricing for hotels, flights and car rental for several reasons:

PROS: Expedia allows the customer to choose from a wide variety of hotels and car rentals across the United States without paying any costs upfront. Book your car or hotel in advance and select pay at hotel at the very end of your purchase. This is a great help for families who may not have access to credit cards or enough money to pay for hotel fees up front. It allows the planner to proceed with checking off their travel “to-do-list.”

CONS: You will have to place a credit or debit card on file, but you can cancel your booking up to one week in advance at most locations. Some of the “high end” hotels require you to pay at least one night in advance. This is a small CON as I have never had any issues with placing my card on file and cancelling.

 

DRIVING VS. AIRPLANE TIPS

If you have a large family like mine, traveling on an airplane can seem like a pricey luxury. More than likely, you will save hundreds and hundreds of dollars travelling by car. As I mentioned before, I always start my planning by searching on Expedia. Although I know my chances could be slim on finding discounted seats for my large family, there are those rare instances there (depending on the location) might be some discounted rates. In comparing the difference in price between driving versus airplane, let’s take a look at some simple math.

A family of five flying to Florida round-trip costs $348 per person bringing your total to $1740.

A family of five renting a van to and from Florida costs $650. Don’t forget to factor in gas (approximately $500) the total comes to $1150 or $230 a person.

So far you have saved about $590!

There may be times that absolutely calls for airplane travel such as traveling oversees or traveling from east coast to west coast. In those instances here are a few tips that could help:

Airfordable  is a fairly new alternative to affording your airline tickets. For a small fee you simply search for your airline tickets on your favorite airline website or search engine. Upon selecting your flight, upload your screenshot to Airfordable during the booking process. Make bi-weekly payments up to your departure date. And no worries, your rates are locked in!

Southwest Airlines has a superb credit card that racks up points towards your airfare. Friends and family alike have raved about receiving airline tickets for free or little to no cost. More info: (put site)

A final tip: Timing when purchasing airline tickets is also super important in getting the best deals. According to Airlines Reporting Corporation,  the best time to purchase airline tickets is at least 7 to 12 weeks out. The only exception would be holiday time travel. Purchase those tickets as soon as possible!!

 

AIR BNB VERSUS HOTEL TIPS

I recently began tweaking some final touches to my family’s summer trip. One factor of the planning that always seems to be an issue is finding a large enough hotel room. This room must be large enough to accommodate everyone (which is really code for: teens MUST have their own room, the kids ages 5 and 7 have their own space, and of course the parents need PRIVACY). Some of my favorite hotels over the road that can accommodate for large sized families are Sonesta Suites , Comfort Suites , and StayBridge Suites.  If you notice a trend the “code word” is : Suites.

Nonetheless, there are times when the city that you are traveling to have no hotel “suites” around. If you are not interested in purchasing two hotel rooms at a time, I highly recommend giving Airbnb a try! Airbnb began back in 2008, but its popularity of allowing travelers to live like a local across the World has risen. The average stay per night at any given time ranges in 500,000 area.

Not long ago as I searched for a hotel large enough to accommodate my family, I booked two rooms on Expedia totaling $350 for one night. Uncomfortable with the price, I decided to try a search on Airbnb. That search not only saved me $150, but my family and I will be staying in a full 3 bedroom house, on a Christmas Tree Farm! Savings and adventure! You can’t beat that!

 

GAS TIPS

Guzzle, guzzle! When traveling by car there is no way to avoid a fill-up. So, what can you possibly do to help ease those high priced fill-ups?

My first suggestion before you hit the road is to check gas prices at GasBuddy.com. You can search by city, zip, and State.

Next, you may luck up and find a bed and breakfast or hotel such as Choice Hotels  that offer a free gas card just for booking with them.

Upon reaching your destination do not forget about good old fashioned local transportation (i.e. bus, train, bike) to get around on. If you are unsure of where to locate alternative transportation try Rome2Rio. The site will actually will help you plan your transportation of choice simply by putting in your destination. It will provide you with cost and travel time no matter what city you live in.  And then there is also good old Uber and Lyft which will provide you with a lower cost, less formal alternative to a taxi. Refer a friend a get a free ride!

Lastly, here is a list of the BEST CREDIT CARDS FOR GAS. Buy the gas and rack up the rewards!

 

FOOD TIPS

A bulk of your trip expenses will come from hungry bellies. Little and big ones alike will want to snack and drink in between breakfast lunch and dinnertime. When traveling by car or plane try these simple money saving options:

Avoid filling up on drinks and snacks at gas stations or airport kiosk’s by stocking up on chips, fruit, juice boxes and water bottles ahead of time. Our favorite places to stock up without going deep into your pockets are Costco, Dollar General and Trader Joe’s.

Cut your fast-food stops in half by prepping sandwiches in the car and storing them in a small cooler. If you are rushing to catch a flight, have the family eat in the car on the way to the airport. That way, they aren’t wanting expensive food stands once they reach the airport.

Here are a few sandwich ideas that have proven to please everyone in my family:

Mama Sophia’s Turkey Bacon Breakfast Biscuits (Makes 8 to 10 sandwiches)

1 to 2 cans of biscuits (large size)

1 pkg of turkey bacon

1 pkg of cheese (we use Colby Jack slices)

Prepare according to the instructions. Wrap in tinfoil. The biscuit’s and meat won’t spoil easily and when the kids awaken from the first break stop, just hand ‘em out the bag. Simple Simple. Add some fruit and a water bottle or orange juice that you packed and there you have it. Breakfast on the go!

Cost to prepare sandwiches: $12 versus Cost at McDonald’s Breakfast $4+ per person for a family of 5 $20

Savings $8+ for Breakfast!!

 

Mama Sophia’s Grilled Spinach Chicken Wraps

Prepared baked, grilled, or fried chicken

1 pkg of Spinach Tortilla Wraps (or Plain/Gluten Free)

1 pkg Spinach leaves or romaine lettuce

Cheese optional

Condiments of herb mayo, mustard or ranch

You can substitute meat with your favorite deli or veggie meat. Or, pack on some extras veggies! Add some chips, fruit and favorite drink.

Your smart planning just saved your family $21 on lunch! Based on $7+ per person for a family of 5

I hope you and your family save some bucks with my tips and spend the leftover savings on something new and adventurous!