In PART ONE, we talked about flights. We were introduced to the “Travel Fool”, who is planning a week-long vacation to Kauai for 2 people in mid-June. He put in his search parameters and booked the cheapest flight he saw…paying $2,256 for 2 round-trip flights.
Which is still WAY TOO MUCH stinkin’ money. Then came the “Travel Savvy Cool Guy” who does a little tap-tap-tapping on the keyboard, and in 10 minutes, saves himself $1,270, a savings of 56%.
And it’s time to confess…for me, it’s not just about the discount, it’s the thrill of the chase…now that we’ve saved a ton of money on our flights, let’s tackle lodging, food and activities, shall we?
Let’s jump right into where you’re going to stay. If I was the “Travel Fool”, I would book a hotel stay in Kauai, paying the average nightly rate for a 3-star property…$220. Which for a week-long stay would put us at $1,320. But we’re not the “Travel Fool”, we’re the “Travel Savvy Cool Guy”, remember? So we keep looking.
5) Where You Stay Is None of My Bid-Ness
If you’re absolutely set on staying at a more traditional hotel/resort/condo, your best bet is likely going to be on sites such as Hotwire.com or Priceline.com. Both of these travel sites contain a function where you can either bid on travel or purchase travel without knowing the hotel name in advance.
But this shouldn’t deter you. This is where significant savings can be had. The reason I mention those websites specifically is because of a place called BetterBidding.com. Never heard of it? It’s a forum where Hotwire and Priceline bidders post their successful wins so you can see what others paid for a given hotel. The site also contains a “Hotel List”, which shows the participating hotels in any given city/neighborhood and star category. That way you can get an idea of what hotel you’ll receive in advance, taking most of the mystery out of the decision. I’ve used both Hotwire and Priceline numerous times, and received stays in high-end hotels (Hyatt, Hilton, etc) for as low as $50 per night in some cases.
6) There’s No Place Like HomeAway
If you’re open to staying somewhere besides a hotel/resort, which I personally prefer, try sites like HomeAway.com, VRBO.com and AirBnB.com. On these sites you can find thousands of people renting out their vacation homes/cottages/condos, usually for much less than you’d pay at a hotel or resort…and it’s much more private.
I found an ocean-view guest house in desirable East Kauai just a short walk from the beach on VRBO.com for $80 / night. A bonus with vacation homes is that they usually have at least a kitchenette, which allows you to cook some meals on your own…but I’ll get more into that later.
We’ve now dropped our lodging from $1,320 to $480…that is $840 in savings to stay in a private vacation home instead of a hotel/resort.
A difference of $840…that’s a 64% savings!
(Last-Minute Update: Just as I was about to publish this post, I scored a great deal on lodging for our Seattle trip next month. For 3 nights, the cheapest ‘decent’ hotel I could find in the area we wanted to stay was $99/night plus taxes/fees, for a total of $359. I went to AirBnB.com, and found a private cabin with a backyard waterfall for $80/night, total $259. That’s nearly a $100 difference, for a weekend trip. It pays to look around!)
7) Get a Deal on Wheels
Some destinations require a set of 4 wheels to get around. If that’s the case, try Orbitz.com and use their car rental comparison tool. It gives you a handy-dandy comparison grid of all vehicle types across nearly all rental agencies. It even highlights the cheapest option in each category. At the minimum, this grid will give you a ballpark figure to work from.
The other place I always check is Budget.com. Promo codes for their website are easy to find and just as easy to use. Just google “Budget coupon code” and hundreds of them will pop up. I’ve received up to 40% off at times using various coupon codes. I also recommend waiting until a few days before travel (unless you’re traveling during a busy holiday), as the rental rates are usually much lower.
So…let’s get into how this works…I found a few coupon codes for Budget, ran the numbers for a weekly rental, and pulled together the total “out-the-door” price quotes for 3 different scenarios. The first price quote is the standard rate someone like the “Travel Fool” would pay without any discounts ($225.55). The second price quote is after I applied the coupon code W852873 that I found from a google search ($199.96). The last price quote is after applying the coupon code W852873 and changing my rental period to next week ($158.14).
The difference between the first and last scenarios is a savings of $67.41. That’s a 30% savings!
8) Find Deals on Meals
We’ve had some mighty fine grub on our travels. Even in notoriously expensive places like Hawaii, we’ve been able to eat on less than $50 a day for both of us, and that INCLUDED splurging on shave ice. We’ve packed picnic lunches from a local deli or ordered a pizza and had dinner on the beach. If the place you’re staying has at least a kitchenette, get a few groceries and make some meals right in your room. You can always dine al fresco on your patio or pack it up and have a picnic in a local park/beach. It’s awesome! Whether you eat in or eat out, just get out of the tourist areas (aka “traps”) and you’ll find a world of delicious, cheap food.
Case in point…have you dined at a shrimp truck in Hawaii? It’s fast, it’s cheap and it’s slap-yo-momma good.
9) Exchange Rates Matter
If your destination is international, and you’re deciding between a few different areas, consider the exchange rate and cost of living. That is, determine where you can get more for your dollar, and you’ll squeeze in more travel fun for less moolah. An example would be Thailand and Argentina. Your dollar will stretch MUCH farther in Thailand than Argentina. For the same price as an average vacation in Buenos Aires, you could enjoy a rather luxurious vacation in Thailand.
10) Get Your Groove On with Groupon
Once you know where you’re headed, check out the local Groupon or LivingSocial offers for restaurants and activities. There’s plenty of discounts, and you may even discover places you’d never have found otherwise. I would advise going on Yelp.com to check them out first though. Getting 50% off of something that sucks, well, still sucks.
Now let’s recap, shall we?
The “Travel Fool” would have paid $2,268 for flights, $1,320 for an average 3-star hotel and $225 for a weekly car rental for a TOTAL of……..$3,813
The “Travel Savvy Cool Guy” would have paid $1,008 for flights, $480 for a private beach house and $158 for a weekly car rental, for a TOTAL of……..$1,646
I’ll do the math for you.
That’s a difference of $2,167. A 57% savings.
In fact, you could extend your vacation in Kauai to almost AN ENTIRE MONTH and STILL PAY LESS than the “Travel Fool” paid for ONE WEEK! It’s madness. Complete madness, I tell you!
So if you love to travel like we do…quit throwing your money away on things that don’t bring you joy, and instead let that cash take you somewhere cool. Once you stop being the “Travel Fool” and start becoming the “Travel Savvy Cool Guy”, you’ll be traveling more often, for much longer, for less cash than you ever thought possible.