Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of the holiday season. But while you're planning your next summer barbeque, you may be imagining a quick -- or not so quick -- trip out of town. Whether you're in the market for a family getaway, a once-in-a-lifetime trip across the world, or even a short road trip, you can take steps to trim your budget -- and relieve some stress. Although saving money will give your holiday a boost, it's not the only way you can make your time away even better. Take advantage of some simple tricks to make flying more pleasant.
Cut Your Costs With a Smart Flight Search
Air travel is normally the biggest part of your vacation budget. But according to Boston.com, you can get great deals if you're flexible and not fussy about carriers. Take the time to compare prices at different times of the summer and on different days of the week. In general, less busy days have more cheaper seats available. Vacation destinations are generally more affordable Tuesday and Wednesdays but business routes will drop in price over the weekend. Sign up for fare alerts and get ready to grab a last-minute flight at a cheap price.
Even if you love your favorite airline, you might save a few dollars if you book one-way flights on different carriers. Try it out for yourself using the airlines' own websites or a booking service. A word of caution, however: you may save $50 between airlines, but you'll lose your savings if the cheaper route charges for baggage and the expensive airlines don't. Plan what you'll need to take with you and make sure you know the full details of your flight fees.
While you're trying out different options, consider booking everyone in your party separately. First determine that there's enough space on the plane to fit everyone -- so you don't end up all taking different flights -- then see if you can book them one at a time. Airlines often only have a few cheap seats available, so you might be able to grab a few if you book people individually. If you book an entire group of six people, for example, you'll probably get the higher price for all six. This only works if you're ok not sitting together during your journey.
Seating can translate to comfort, something you want to think about for a long international flight, according to Travel + Leisure. The magazine recommends looking at your aircraft on websites like SeatGuru or SeatExpert, which provide maps of each model. In economy class, for example, you might get some extra room if your seat is next to an emergency exit. Similarly, you might want to avoid a seat that's near the restrooms or the crew hatch.
Keep to a Budget With Destination Research
Part of the joy of travel is anticipation -- so why not get started early by researching your vacation spot for some great deals? It will get you excited about your trip and save you cash. If you plan to visit museums, make note of the free days or allowable discounts. Often, you can get a price reduction by showing your student or military ID, so carry it along. If you're planning to rent a car, Money Crashers recommends packing your own GPS device. Car rental companies will sell you GPS as an add-on, but you can save money by using your own.
If you'll be spending a lot of time sightseeing, research public transportation ahead of time. You'll not only find out the best route from the airport to your accommodation, but be prepped to save money on bus and train trips in town. Some cities have visitors passes that may be cheaper than individual fares. If you sense the subway stops are short, get out and walk -- it may turn out you're spending money just to ride a few blocks.
Even on vacation, you have to eat. Check out Groupon or other daily deal sites for discount coupons. Better yet, visit grocery stores for snacks and light breakfasts. Your hotel may not have kitchen facilities, but simple items from stores can keep you satiated throughout the day. Best of all, shopping where the locals shop will help you appreciate the destination's unique culture.
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