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Best Travel Trips when Traveling on a Budget

Updated on July 2, 2013

Airplanes at the Airport

Airplanes waiting at the gates at San Francisco International SFO
Airplanes waiting at the gates at San Francisco International SFO | Source

Traveling Cheap

Millions of people love to travel. It doesn’t matter if it is a quick trip for the weekend, a week-long vacation with the family or the trip you have always dreamed of taking to some exotic island; traveling is enjoyed by many. Sure there are drawbacks to traveling like dealing with airport crowds, gas prices or reservation mistakes at a hotel but to me there is one big negative to traveling, the overall cost.

Unless you have concocted some master plan on how to use credit card miles or travel vouchers to offset your travel costs you are going to have to pay for your travel. Fortunately there are some relatively easy tricks to creating a trip getting the best deals available.

Online Travel Sites

Everyone has seen at least one commercial for the travel websites available. It doesn’t matter if it is one that features a retired Star Trek Captain or a talking garden gnome; we have all been subjected to their claims of reservations being guaranteed or negotiating for the best deals. I have no problems with using any of these websites for researching a pending trip. I would caution against only using them for your inquires though.

I’m certainly not a global traveler but I have put together enough trips to have learned a few tricks to get the best possible deals available and using these online sites, to your advantage, is a big part of getting the best for your travel budget.

Remember that not all airlines and even a few hotels do not have any partnerships with the big travel websites. What this means is you have to go to the actual website for the airline or hotel to see what they are offering for the dates that you are looking to travel on. For example Southwest Airlines fares are only available on their website; you will not find them anywhere else. If you only look at a travel website you have the potential to miss a cheaper fare and to save you some money on your trip.

Travel Suggestions

Best Travel Deals

Vacation packages can be really good deals but you usually need to meet some kind of criteria to get the deals advertised. That fare might only be from a certain originating airport or destination. It might only include a few hotels, if you want to use your favorite chain there might be an increase in costs, don’t forget to read the fine print on these deals.

Reading through the terms of the deal is a very important step that shouldn’t be ignored, ever. These terms will state and cancellation stipulations or if the cost of the deal will be charged to your credit card as soon as you book it. Make sure you understand the entire deal before hitting that submit or purchase button on your computer.

Even though some deals available online are really good and might work for a bunch of people I actually have found out that I would rather build my whole itinerary myself. It’s not that I don’t trust the folks who put the deals together but I would rather put the trip together myself for the flexibility and the money it saves me.

Build a Trip

A great example of putting your own deal together is when my family flew from California to the southeast US back in the spring of 2009 to see my brother-in-law graduate from basic training at an Army base called Fort Benning in Georgia.

When I was looking into flying us down there I found a great fare from Sacramento, California to Atlanta, Georgia and then connecting to Birmingham, Alabama. The fare was with Delta and it is was for $99 without the taxes, fees, etc. so the total cost was about $120. The problem I was running into was the costs of return flights; they were all well over $200, some closer to $300. Since I couldn’t get a round-trip deal I went out on my own to assemble the lights.

I went to Southwest’s website to see what they offered and found a return flight from Birmingham to Phoenix, Arizona and then back to Sacramento, the cost was $99 plus taxes and fees just like the first leg of our trip.

I would also strongly recommend searching the actual airlines website. Sometimes the travel sites add a convenience fee to their prices; if you purchase the ticket from the actual airline you will avoid these convenience fees.

Don’t forget to include any baggage fees to your overall airfare numbers, with these fees getting bigger they simply cannot be ignored when you are trying to get the best deal out there.

Stay vigilant when looking for deals on flights because the airlines do some odd things with their routes. We took the flight we did through Atlanta because the direct flight from Sacramento to Birmingham was double what we paid. It made no sense to me at the time and it still doesn’t.

Save on Hotels

Getting a deal on a room can be found too, if you just take some time to look. Rates can vary substantially if you stay a few miles away from a big amusement park or other popular destination.

When we went to Disneyland in the fall of 2010 it was a surprise that my wife and I were keeping from our kids so getting a hotel right across the street from the park was not going to work. We were looking for a specific brand of hotels and they had one right across the street but had another property about two miles away. The rate for the one not across the street was $15 cheaper and, according to the pictures on their website, looked way nicer. I’ll drive two miles away to save $30 on two nights of a hotel.

I would also suggest looking at hotels with breakfast included, I’m referring to a hotel with a little more of an offering for breakfast than muffins and toast. Don’t underestimate a hotel that might charge an extra $10 or so over their competition if they include a decent breakfast, it is way cheaper than going out for breakfast and allows you to start your morning relaxed since breakfast is waiting for you without you having to even leave the grounds.

I know a few people that will only stay in some of the more upscale hotels when they travel; I don’t understand this at all. You aren’t traveling to stay in a hotel room are you (unless it is your honeymoon but I’m not going there) so why pay for the nicest room around? Save your money, stay at a perfectly average hotel and buy yourself a neat souvenir or have a nice dinner. I’m not suggesting you stay in a dump with ten locks on the door but be smart about how much room you really need to be paying for. For me I just need a place to shower and sleep, the rest is a bonus.

How you Save Money

How do you save money on travel?

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Car Rental Reservations

Rental cars can be a potential money saver too. You need to ask yourself how big of a vehicle do you really need. If you can get by with a compact or mid-size vehicle go for it. It is cheaper and takes less gas too. We went to Chicago in October of 2011 and we knew we would be downtown the whole time so I got a compact car for my wife and me. Two people fit comfortably in this little thing with our luggage for the weekend. As crazy as traffic was downtown I couldn’t have dreamed driving a bigger vehicle around, surely I would have been run over at least once by the out of control cab drivers.

Car Rental Lot

Typical airport car rental paring lot
Typical airport car rental paring lot | Source

Save Money on Travel

The great thing about saving money on travel is it allows you to do more fun stuff on the trip. If you allow too much of your budget to be consumed by a plane ticket, hotels and rental cars you might not have the flexibility to try that great restaurant or something the locals just swear you have to try nearby.

Do yourself a favor and spend a little bit of time getting the best travel deal you can get for your money. The time spent upfront will be well worth it and you can have blast on your trip knowing you saved a bunch of money and still got the trip you wanted.


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    • adjkp25 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Idaho

      Marcy - thanks. We are planning on heading to New York and DC in October so these were some of my tricks that I plan on using.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 

      7 years ago from Planet Earth

      This is a very timely hub! So many families are headed for vacations, and the cost of travel has increased so greatly. Terrific information - voted up and up!

    • adjkp25 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Idaho

      teaches12345 - With an over six foot tall teenage son breakfast is something we usually look for at a hotel. Thanks

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      Great post and one worth saving for those trips ahead. I do love those hotels that include breakfast with your stay. Thanks for sharing.


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