Traveling Tips For The Early Bird Traveler: Plan Your Vacation Well!

by Millie Kay G. on November 17, 2008

If you plan your vacation well using these traveling tips and online resources, you’re bound to save money on the best travel deals out there.

holiday traditions, family
Photo by Grecotel

Each year, millions of us travel (mostly during the holidays) — suffering through the long lines, flight delays, and the crowds at the airports as we go our not-so-merry ways. As an alternative, it might be wiser to do your traveling before the peak season, when the specter of increased fares arrive.

Imagine how much more relaxed your friends or family (or whoever picks you up from the airport) will be because they don’t have to wade their way through the airport parking lot at its fullest. At work, you might find it easier to nab days off before any vacation peak travel periods, when everyone else wants to use up their vacation days. Besides, you have the chance to burn up those airline miles you’ve been accumulating from your credit cards without having to fuss about blackout dates.

Plan Your Vacation With These Traveling Tips and Online Resources

1. Air Travel Tips and Package Deals

Before you book a flight, skim through the offers at sites like Travelocity, where many bargains abound such as these:

The extra planning and research that you do can save you a bundle. Also, to help you narrow down your choices and compare costs, you can also use sites like Expedia or Orbitz. In the past, I’ve also used Yahoo! Travel and Priceline to find flights and hotel rooms with good results. In fact, if you use Priceline’s Name Your Own Price hotel service feature, you may actually save up to half off on your hotel stay.

If you’re just looking to spend time away from home, start with a resource like AAA’s Last Minute Deals; you can often find reasonable rates to locations across the country here. If you’re in the Midwest and want to go to the beach, try visiting a spot like San Diego or a city in Florida. Those of you on the East Coast might want to check out a destination like Chicago or Kansas City.

What if you want to go abroad? The Portland Business Journal sees lots of opportunities for low-cost international travel. Along these lines, check out this convenient table we prepared for details on the cheapest travel rates.

When you travel overseas, make sure you ask about the weather as well as the discount on the rates in the off-season. Spending your time off marooned in your hotel room because it’s the rainy season isn’t a good bargain. In contrast, if you’re headed to the Southern Hemisphere, check a local news site to see if you should pack your warm weather clothes and snazziest sunglasses.

2. Drive On

Traveling by car instead? Scope out the Visitors Bureau for information on your destination. For example, I found a lot of great information about Austin, Texas along with some special offers. I’ve learned that it pays off to plan a few stops along the way, too. Pack some snacks, the camera, and a good sense of humor, because almost any road trip takes unexpected detours. Don’t forget to keep an eye on your oil and tire pressure. To locate gas stations, enlist the help of GasBuddy.com or a similar site.

Another way to keep your travel costs down is by using a ride share board like the one on Craigslist. List your destination, meet with the person sharing your ride, and agree to a few ground rules on expenses before you hit the road. If you want to be extra careful (like I do), you’ll want to get a good feel for the person you’re going to commute with; you don’t want to be complete strangers when you start your ride together.

As an alternative driving adventure, hop on the bus for a bit. It may not be the most convenient way to travel, but if you hate to fly, you can let someone else contend with the highway for you. Visit another city in your state or try a short trip to an out-of-state destination.

3. Bargains by Rail and Sea

When I was younger, I used to enjoy short rail trips. Amtrak has a variety of stops and lots of specials. If you’re planning on multiple stops, do the math to see if a USA Rail Pass is cost-effective for you.

An offshore adventure can be cheaper now, too. Take a look at the Priceline’s cruise offers from Carnival Cruise Lines to see if its worth it to pack your swimwear. Most of the deals I saw were less than $450. Better yet, ask your out-of-state relatives and friends to join you on the cruise and get pampered on the high seas together.

Now contrary to what we’ve been saying here so far, sometimes a little procrastination may save you a good bit of money. Priceline has some last minute cruise deals that allow you to save up to 75%, as these cruises are trying to sell out their remaining slots before they sail away.

4. Hotels: A Place to Hang your Hat, Stockings, Etc.

Rather than impose on family or friends, it might be more convenient for you to find a good price on a hotel. Before you check in, read up at TripAdvisor to see what other travelers thought of their stays.

If you’re traveling for the holidays and need to distribute gifts during your visit, think about shipping them ahead of time to a family member or to your hotel. Or think about making your gift purchases online and opting for your presents to be shipped directly to their recipients. Not only is this more convenient, but with the rising baggage fees on the airlines, this might save you a lot of money.

By traveling early, you’ll miss the hustle and stress of going when everyone else does — and you’re likely to pay less. What are your plans to save on travel?

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Pascale November 19, 2008 at 4:55 pm

Great ideas! And what a beautiful picture!
Pascale

2 blackbv January 1, 2009 at 7:11 am

Thank you for your submission to the December 2008 edition of the advice for women from women blog carnival.

3 Magali January 3, 2009 at 12:35 am

Your information is really timely since 6 months out is ideally the time to start planning. Thanks!

4 Kaye March 17, 2009 at 8:45 pm

I really enjoyed the article. Lots of great tips and links. I, too, like to use mail to help me traveling. In my case I send a lot of my souvenirs, paperwork, and overpacking paraphanalia (I ALWAYS wind up bringing too many books LOL :) ) on ahead of me. Saves me excess baggage costs and backaches. :)

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