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Top 12 vacation money savers

Updated: Wed, August 7th 2013 1:15 pm
© iStockphoto.com / Catherine Yeulet © iStockphoto.com / Catherine Yeulet
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By Karen Cicero

From Ideas That Spark 

Whether you’re hopping in the car with the family for a weekend getaway or flying across the country, you can slash 25 percent or more off your travel budget, says Eileen Ogintz, creator of TakingTheKids.com. Simply follow these simple tips to total vacation bliss.

Get There on a Budget

1. Book on the right day. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are typically the cheapest days to buy plane fare thanks to of airline sales. The weekends are generally the worst. Unless you’re flying last minute, check the fares for a few weeks before you commit. Be sure to sign up for price drop alerts from Tripadvisor, Kayak and Travelzoo.

2. Travel in the off season. If your kids aren’t in school yet, September and October are great months to get away. Not only will you beat the crowds, but you can snag a flight for a fraction of the summer price, says Ogintz. For instance, if you’re flying from New York to Los Angeles, the price drops about $150 between August and September.

3. Optimize your route. Sure, gas prices are lower than they were last year, but they’re still far from cheap. Download apps like Beat The Traffic and Waze, which will help you avoid delays and save on gas money. And pack a bag with activities, snacks and air freshener car vent clips just in case there’s no way around a long delay.

Sleep on the Cheap

4. Consider a vacation rental. “Split the cost of a large condo or home with another family,” suggests Ogintz. You could rent a condo on the beach for a week for as low as $500 per family – half of what you would pay for a hotel.

5. Snag last-minute deals. Apps like Just Book and Hotel Tonight frequently offer big discounts that you won’t find on a hotel’s own website. Check out this review in The New York Times about some of these apps.

6. Look for value. When comparing the prices of hotels, don’t forget to factor in hidden costs, like resort fees, parking and wi-fi charges. And consider value-added perks, such as free breakfast, which can really cut costs when traveling with a big clan.

See More for Less

7. Leverage your memberships. If your family has a membership to your local children’s museum, zoo, aquarium, and/or art museum, you may be able to get free or discounted admission to similar institutions in another city. Call to see if the attraction you want to visit offers reciprocity programs.

8. Consider CityPass. Planning to visit several attractions on your trip? Go to citypass.com to see if there’s a booklet for the area you’re visiting. By purchasing admission to several attractions through CityPass, you can save up to 50 percent. Another perk: In many cases, you have VIP access so you don’t have to wait in lines.

9. Head to the park. Act like a local and allow the kids to let off some steam at the park or playground. Many large parks also offer free family-friendly concerts and other summer events. Look up the info before you go.

Eat Economically

10. Stock the fridge. Most hotel chains will bring a small fridge to your room or let you empty the mini bar. (Just call the front desk to ask.) Stock the fridge with a couple of yogurts, fruit and drinks. “The goal is to eat breakfast in your room instead of having another meal out,” says Ogintz.

11. Visit the farmers market. It’s chock full of local flavor! Pick up lunch at the market and eat it at a nearby park. For a list of farmers markets across the country, go here.

12. Bring water bottles. Do you really want to pay $2 every time someone in your group is thirsty? Invest in bottles with a filter and then refill throughout the day.

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