Travel tips: Some advice on how to save money on vacations

Sean Monaghan, a vice president at WaFd Bank and a branch manager in Vancouver, gives his expert advice on saving money when booking travel for vacations.
Sean Monaghan, a vice president at WaFd Bank and a branch manager in Vancouver, gives his expert advice on saving money when booking travel for vacations.

Sean Monaghan of WaFd Bank in Vancouver has some suggestions

Sean Monaghan
for Clark County Today

Now that warm weather has arrived it is time to start thinking about your summer vacation. To be fair, you’ve probably been thinking about your summer vacation long before this week. But while it is easy to dream about vacationing on tropical beaches or in the mountains or at Disneyland, it is a lot harder to figure out how to pay for those trips.

Sean Monaghan, a vice president at WaFd Bank in Vancouver, offers tips on saving money for vacation travel. Photo courtesy WaFd Bank

Everyone loves a good vacation even if you’re playing tourist in your own town and taking time to see the sights. Rest and rejuvenation are important. Although a free vacation might not be possible, you can still have a great time on a budget.

Plan ahead

As with many things in life, a little preparation can go a long way. Meals, activities, and accommodations are usually more expensive when thrown together last minute. By coming up with a list of activities ahead of time, you’ll be ready when boredom (or the rain) strikes.

Planning ahead means you also have more time to hunt for a great deal! Sites such as Groupon or Ebates let you search for activities or items and will help you either save money or give you a rebate on part of your total purchase price for select companies. Be sure to read the fine print, as there are often time limits or other restrictions to keep in mind.

Be flexible

If you’re open to new destinations and types of vacationing (versus restricting yourself to the same hotel at the same destination every year), then you are more likely to save some money on your bookings. If you want to travel to another country, find out where your home currency can take you further. This way, you can feel like you are splurging without going over budget. If you have a place in mind you really want to go but it is expensive to vacation there, maybe a place nearby could give you a similar experience.

Think off-season

If your schedule allows, aim to avoid peak seasons. This changes depending on where you want to go, but generally means summer, spring break, and holidays. If that is not an option, then try looking for mid-week flights, which can be significantly cheaper than flying on the weekends. For example, Europe still has beautiful weather in September, but with much cheaper flights and less crowded streets than June or July.

Buy your flights strategically

  • Follow the six-week rule. While there are exceptions, generally the best time to buy airline tickets is 42 days before you plan to fly.
  • Buy mid-week. Surprisingly, tickets are cheapest to buy on Tuesdays. Even better? Buy first thing in the morning. Going somewhere for a week? While most people take Monday through Friday off, flying mid-week may be your best bet to save money on both airfare and hotels.
  • Take off early. It might go without saying, but the less convenient a flight time is, the cheaper the flight. Red eyes are often the cheapest. 
  • If you fly often, stay loyal. Many airlines offer free checked bags, bonus miles or no-fee date changes if you sign up for their credit card or loyalty/rewards program.

Save money on accommodations

  • Stay midweek. If you can’t get away January through April, or September through November, then try to book your accommodations midweek.
  • Shop around. Like airline companies, many hotels or resorts offer tiered pricing, so a listing on Expedia could cost a different amount than booking that same reservation through another site or directly through the property itself.
  • Think beyond hotels. AirBnB, VRBO, or if you’re traveling abroad, hostels, can offer more variety and some unique options. You won’t get some hotel amenities — like daily cleaning or room service — but you could save money in return. As a bonus, renting a vacation home or apartment will likely come with a kitchen, so you’ll be able to cook meals or keep food at home to save you even more.
  • Group your vacation package. If you’re staying for a week or more in a vacation hot spot, then you may be able to get a package deal by bundling airfare and/or rental car fees all in one. Just be sure to price it out separately as well to ensure you are getting a good deal.
  • Sign up for a loyalty program. Hotel loyalty programs are usually free to enroll in and will allow you to accrue points and other perks by staying loyal to one brand.
  • Check for a club membership rate. Many accommodation sites offer discounts for certain membership groups, like AARP or AAA. If you are a member, then be sure to ask before you book. Even better, consider joining hotel memberships, as many offer some great perks for staying loyal to their brand.

And finally, just have fun. Enjoy some relaxation and the time away from home and work.

Note: Sean Monaghan is a WaFd Bank vice president and the branch manager at the Washington Street location in Vancouver.

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