5 Easy Ways To Save Money While Traveling

I bet you like to travel. I know I do.

In all my years, I’ve really only met one person who doesn’t legitimately enjoy getting away from it all for a few days — and that’s my dad. He really hates sleeping in a strange place. In fact, he gets so worked up about it that I like to tell him about my adventures just so he’ll start on a rant about how I’m wasting my money. It never gets old.

If you’re my dad, you’re probably going to want to click the back button. The rest of y’all should stick around though. I think these 5 tips will save you some cash the next time you head out of town.

1. Embrace the Hotwire

I have an irrational love affair with Hotwire. I could spend hours online looking at unknown hotels and trying to guess which ones they are. At least it’s cheap entertainment.

If you have your heart set on a certain hotel with that specific waterslide for the kids, Hotwire isn’t the route to go. But if you’re willing to be a little flexible, Hotwire (or any of its imitators, but I prefer the original) can save you a pretty penny. I’ve used it to score a room for under $100/night in Downtown Toronto, and to get a room at the Tropicana in Las Vegas for less than $30/night.

Guessing what hotel you’re going to get isn’t that difficult. Often it’ll tell you as you look at the amenities of the hotel. It literally says “the last person who booked this hotel got [hotel x]“. But even if you get it wrong and you’re a few blocks away, it probably won’t matter much. Just focus on saving anywhere from $10 to $100 per night compared to a hotel down the street.

2. Coupon codes

Thanks to coupon codes, I just recently got back from a trip to Japan where I was able to keep my hotel bill under $50 per night. How’d I do it?

Two words. Coupon codes.

Here’s what I did. Over the years I’ve ended up with accounts at each of the large travel websites. Once every few days, Expedia, Travelocity, Hotels.com, and a few others send me coupon codes. Each are working really hard at promoting their app, so I was able to score some pretty sweet deals.

Hotels.com gave me $30 off if I spent $200. I used that to turn a $60/night room into a $50/night room. Travelocity gave me $40 off if I spent $100 using its app, turning two nights at $60 per pop into something much more affordable. And so on.

There’s a war going on to get your internet travel business. Take advantage of it.

3. Groupon

I only check Groupon for one reason — to get cheap eats when I’m going on vacation.

During my last trip to Vegas, I found a Groupon for $12 worth of food at Johnny Rocket’s for $6. I got a juicy hamburger, thick steak cut fries, and a chocolate milkshake so thick I almost choked myself with the straw. All that for $6. And since it had multiple locations up and down the Strip, I could visit more than one really easily.

There’s more than just food deals on Groupon. Everything from theater tickets to golf outings are offered at a pretty serious discount. Don’t go nuts on there — you’ll just be tempted to spend — but a little selective browsing can save you some cash.

4. Take the train. Or (gasp!) the bus.

I don’t understand why more people don’t take the train. It’s such a civilized way to travel.

Think about going from Toronto to Montreal, an important Canadian route. If you flew, you’d have to head out to the airport, get there an hour early, go through security, get into Montreal’s airport which is also on the edge of the city, and then make your way back downtown. Suddenly that hour long flight takes 3-4 hours.

Meanwhile, taking the train or bus takes a little while longer, but it’s usually considerably cheaper. But it takes you from downtown to downtown, and once you factor in a cab ride or two to the airport, it usually works out to be a lot cheaper. You’re on vacation, it’s okay to take a little longer to get somewhere. Sit back and read a book or something.

5. Stay off the beaten path

There are a lot of tourist traps out there. Don’t feel the need to visit everything a city has to offer.

When I go to a city, I like to find a few things that really interest me. Rather than trying to visit everything that I think I “should”, I just focus on seeing the stuff that sounds really neat. Sure, I might miss out on some hidden gems, but the internet generally does a pretty good job of filtering these things beforehand.

Plus, there’s plenty of stuff to do for free just about everywhere. Feel free to walk around a bit. A big part of traveling is just soaking up the atmosphere. There’s no need to fill up your days with activity for the sake of activity.

Any other tips for saving cash while traveling? Let us know in the comments.

How to Reduce the Cost of Your Kids’ Extracurricular Activities

Now that school is back in, you’re probably trying to adjust to the new schedule — and the costs associated with attending school. Among the costs of attending school are those related to extracurricular activities.

If your children are involved in activities like music, sports, drama, science olympiad, or other extracurriculars, you know that things can get expensive. I participated in a number of extracurricular activities growing up, and now that my son is starting middle school, and I see the costs, I begin to understand why my parents sometimes limited me.

As you try to navigate the budget associated with extracurricular activities, here are a few things you can do to reduce the costs:

Say No

First of all, you can limit the cost by saying no to some activities. The reality is that you probably can’t afford to have your child do everything. You have to prioritize your life and your budget, and now is the time to teach your child the same lesson. Figure out how many extracurricular activities are reasonable for your schedule and budget, and then tell your child to limit what he or she does. It will bring down costs dramatically.

Rent or Buy Used

Another strategy, when it comes to equipment, is to rent it or buy it used. My parents bought a gently used clarinet for my use through junior high and high school. They also rented the tenor saxophone I played in the jazz band.

There are also programs that allow you to rent sports equipment, or buy it used, so that you don’t have to pay full price. Look around to find quality used equipment, or find out if you can rent it. It costs much less than buying.

Also consider swapping, or using hand-me-downs. You might be able to exchange your old equipment for someone else’s, or you might have a friend or relative whose child has already participated in the activity. Ask around before you pay money for equipment.

Discounts and Sales

Don’t forget to look for discounts and sales. Coupon codes and promo codes are also possibilities. You can usually find what you need at a lower price if you look online. Consider asking a local store to price-match what you find online.

Consider Lower-Cost Alternatives

It’s also possible to consider lower-cost alternatives to some activities. Be realistic about the possibilities. Go through the school or through a community organization, instead of paying top dollar through a private organization. You can also look into programs designed to help those short on cash. If you have budgetary constraints, ask around to see if there are programs through a local charity or foundation that can help you pay.

Look Online for Lessons

In some cases, you might be able to look online for less expensive lessons. There are do-it-yourself lessons that can help your child learn to play instruments, or learn the foundation principles of dance or acting. While your child will eventually have to move on from these lessons, the truth is that it can be a good start — and it can help you gauge how serious your child is about pursuing an activity before you spend even more money.