Everybody loves luxuriating in a five-star hotel and flying first class. But if you want to save money, you don’t do either, right?
For instance, you probably check several online-travel sites to book flights, hotel rooms and car rentals. Great ideas.
What else can you do?
Here are 25 tips:
1. Use airfare alerts
For all flights, know that you might get a superior deal by using Airfarewatchdog.
The company monitors flights and checks rates for low airfares.
They’re often helpful for your location and for other city-t0-city flights.
Then you’ll get emails that might be useful for saving money.
2. Decide among the most-economical travel flights
Before scheduling your fight, search flexible-date airfares on multiple travel sites. Evaluate the various flights and make your decision.
You might also contact the people at your destination with whom you’re meeting to see if they can be flexible on when to meet if you alter your flight plans.
3. Check all applicable airline sites
The travel sites don’t include all airlines and their flights. The excluded airline schedules sometimes list cheaper flights than the travel sites.
Don’t forget to check the most-annoying cheap airlines with records of poor customer service.
If you’re flexible: Don’t choose your seats, print your boarding passes before leaving home and pay luggage fees online.
An important caution: Always read the small print.
4. Consider airfare/car/hotel rental packages
Online-travel sites provide options that include car rental prices, airfares and hotels.
But separately, always check individual sites for car rentals and hotels. (Scroll down for tips on car rentals, taxis and hotels).
In this way, you’ll know for sure whether you can save dollars in bundling airfare, car rentals and hotels or by booking everything à la carte.
5. Pack smarter
Especially if you’re planning a short or overnight trip, pack your bag so you can avoid checking your baggage to avoid extra charges.
Some airlines allow you a carry-on bag up to 22 by 14 by 9 inches or 18 by 14 by 8 inches, and a smaller personal item such as a bag for your laptop or large purse and a jacket.
6. Leave your car at an off-site lot
Decide what’s best – whether to take a shuttle to the airport or to drive your car.
For instance on overnight trips and depending on the distance to the airport, you’ll save plenty by not taking a shuttle and by parking off-site as opposed to using the airport parking lots.
The best off-site lots will allow you to reserve space, pay in advance and will shuttle you to the airport.
7. Think twice about a shuttle
If you’re like me, you’ll think twice about taking a shuttle from home.
Once, a shuttle contacted me at the last-minute to cancel my early-morning shuttle ride because they didn’t have enough scheduled passengers in my city. It was an annoying inconvenience I never forgot as I had to scramble for an alternative.
8. Consider FlightCar.com
If you’re comfortable-enough to try a free-parking option, consider an online source, angel.co/flightcar. FlightCar won’t bill you for parking as they’ll rent out your car while you’re away.
The company points out you could save $100 in parking charges and could earn rental earnings of $30.
Personally, I wouldn’t do it to avoid damage to my cars and because of the extra wear-and-tear on my vehicles by a stranger. But apparently a lot of fliers do.
9. Choose the right credit card
Many credit cards provide insurance for rental cars. So use the right one to rent a car and remember to decline the car-rental company’s collision-waiver coverage.
You’ll save as much as $20 a day.
10. Don’t prepay for gas
Practically guaranteed to save you money, don’t accept the rental-car companies’ offers to fill the gas tank after you drop off the car.
By taking a few extra minutes, you can fill up the tank just before returning the car to avoid the excessive markup on gas.
11. Decide if Uber is right for you
Uber is usually less expensive than taxis. However, it will necessitate learning how to use the Uber site.
12. Stay at a hotel that provides airport shuttles
If you don’t rent a car or grab a taxi, you’ll save money by staying at the right hotels.
True, you might pay a little extra for room because it finances the hotels’ built-in shuttle costs but it’s less than you’d pay for a taxi or car rental.
13. Search for hotel stays
When you search for a hotel add the keyword for your destination. Read the myriad of reviews of the various hotels and compare their prices.
The cheapest hotel isn’t the best if you can’t get a good night’s sleep.
14. Consider coupon sites
For many hotels, you can download coupons from HotelCoupons.com.
But also check the hotels’ sites for rates to see what they normally charge. This is to make sure you’re getting the lowest rates.
15. Try traveler discount books for hotel coupons
Traveler discount books can be found at various gas-stations along major freeways and highways in your destination cities.
To avoid possible dissatisfaction with a hotel, before you book a room use your smartphone to check the hotels’ reviews.
16. Use AAA
AAA offers an excellent roadside service plan as well as travel-related discounts. AAA’s hotel discounts can reach 10 percent off.
17. Consider leveraging tactics to negotiate room rates
When you book a room, check the requirements for cancellations. Many hotels allow canceling reservations with as little as 24 or 48 hours advance notice.
Before the cancellation deadline, call other hotels and inform the persons that you made a reservation at another hotel and inquire whether they want to beat the original hotel’s price.
If you’re offered a better deal, take it.
Some travelers have been known to try the same approach with the original hotel to see if they’ll drop the initial price even lower than the second hotel.
18. Take advantage of hotel breakfasts
Consider hotels that provide breakfasts. Sometimes they’re really great buffet-style breakfasts.
But sometimes it’s only coffee, orange juice and rolls. Either way, such hotels are worth considering.
Each morning you’ll save as much as $20 per person in your party.
19. For business-meal entertaining, check out restaurant menus online
You can usually pick the right venue for entertaining on a budget by using the Internet.
Before selecting a restaurant for business entertaining, research the menus for pricing. Of course, check reviews, too.
20. Consider lunch as your main meal
No doubt you know that restaurants typically charge less for lunch than dinner even though it’s the same meal.
If you can eat a later lunch, a snack might suffice for your dinner.
21. Try online-meal coupons
Pick restaurants near your hotel and search the restaurant online using the keyword “coupon.”
Then, you can either print the coupon in your hotel’s lobby or you might even take your smartphone to the restaurant to ask the cashier to scan the coupon.
22. Buy grocery-store deli food
A good grocery store near your hotel will likely have a deli with prepared salads, hot meals and ingredients for quick sandwiches.
23. Make your trip business-related
Did you ever notice professional organizations hold their conventions at favorite tourist destinations?
The reason? An opportunity for a vacation using some tax write-offs.
To deduct expenses from your trips, the Internal Revenue Service wants documentation.
Even if you’re combing a vacation with business, it’s possible for you to take business tax deductions.
24. Write off business meals
You can expense the real cost of meals or take the “standard meal allowance.” The IRS publishes per diem rates for “meals and incidental expenses.”
If spend more than the IRS allowance, take deductions for your actual expenses.
25. Tax deductions, if you drive your car
You have two options: Either writing off the actual business-car expense or taking the deduction for the standard IRS mileage rate.
Assuming you drive a car for business use and you adhere to the IRS requirements for taking advantage of the standard mileage rate, it could be more advantageous than declaring the actual expenses.
The IRS rate varies from year to year, so be sure to check the standard IRS rate for the applicable year of your tax return at www.IRS.gov.
To determine what’s best for you, track your expenses and mileage. Then decide whether deducting your actual expenses or taking the standard mileage rate is best for you.
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“The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it in your back pocket.”