Taking a vacation — or even a day trip — can be tough on your monthly budget if you don't prepare ahead of time. I'm a fairly frugal person who really likes quality for less so I take advantage of as many offers and tips as I can to get the most out of my excursions without maxing out the credit card using these awesome tips. Keep reading to see how you can save (and earn!) on your activities, stay and transportation on trips.
I'm including my affiliate links with the mentioned sites so we can both get the referral perks.
Cash Back Sites
I've mentioned Ebates.com in previous posts and it's worth repeating. I love this site because I can go here first to find coupons before doing any online shopping and then get cash back when I purchase. This site is great for saving money on flights, car rentals and using for deal sites like Living Social or Groupon! It also sends me my balance whether it's $2.50 or $40 via check or PayPal so there's no waiting until I reach a certain amount in cash back. I recently discovered a similar site called Coupon Cabin, but a lot of their offers seemed better then ended up not being as good for me. They also have a minimum of $10 cash back earned before they send you money, which I don't care for . . . but I'm including them in case you prefer that site and the retailers listed there that maybe aren't listed on Ebates.
Just remember that you will need to click through to a website from one of these cash back sites to get the cash back, and that if you then click through some other blog or coupon code offer online that site will get the affiliate cookie so you may not earn your cash back from these sites. I look at these two sites and other coupons online then pick which site I'm going to use, click through to Cheap O Air (or whatever) from my Ebates and then enter the coupon code at checkout to be sure I get my discount and cash back.
Before heading to a new destination I usually check out Groupon for local deals. When I went to Chicago a few years ago my itinerary was shaped by the deals I purchased, and when I went to help my mom move my grandma from Ohio to here in California I found a great house cleaner in Ohio on Groupon (plus I got cash back from Ebates on that and the car rental). If you're not a hotel person try Airbnb (use this link to get $35) and stay in a local's home. I did this last time I was in Chicago and saved a ton of money. A lot of cities also have a City Pass or Go Card (this one lets you choose activites and length of time) deal of some sort where you get a huge discount on activities by buying them on the pass.
Local Event Calendars
Another way to save money on your trip is to see what free local family events are happening in the area. Check out the local libraries, book stores, museums, and family websites to see if there's anything of interest. I write all of these down to have as options in case we can make anything or I need more things to do to fill up time. Every city has at least one story time and some sort of activity for families per week — and a lot more during the Summer.
Another really important item to remember is your loyalty card! If you're a AAA member there are fun discounts at restaurants and such. (Ebates is still cheaper for online car rental, but you can show your AAA card when you go to pay and ask for an extra discount). If you're looking for a whole travel package then AA may be an affordable way to go, too. Be sure to use any credit cards that reward you for use with cash back or points while on your trip, too. If you have a card associated with a specific airline it sometimes adds up to free flights! This allows you to see all the money you've spent in one spot and to get money back — Just be sure to pay it off when your card bill comes in.
Whether it's your birthday (check out that post, here) or vacation trip, rewards programs are awesome. Both rental car companies and hotels have programs to encourage customer loyalty which allow you to earn points toward freebies and perks when you choose them. Use any restaurant rewards or coupons you have when eating out, too!
Some clubs offer discounts on different trips, too (I'm not in any that I can recommend). Various amusement parks offer special discounts for locals, too. San Francisco museums have freebie days for certain bank card holders and also SF residents. Disneyland has an affordable ticket option for Southern California residents. In Illinois they even offer free days for teachers, firefighters and police at some attractions. If you or your spouse is in the military check here for Blue Star Museums (museums that allow free entry to military families during the Summer) and here for potential discounts and free entries. Some restaurants and stores also offer a military discount on purchases. Some places also offer off-season discounts if you don't travel at peak times.
How do you save money on trips? Share your savvy travel secrets in the comments below!
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