Money 308: Big Decisions – Vacations

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Money 307: Big Decisions – Holidays

Get your vacation funds unconventionally

Raise funds for a worthy cause

Get a travel scholarship

Take up a challenge and get sponsored for something intense

Enter a contest

Enjoy yourself for less

Track your spending in a small notebook to avoid going over budget

Organize a self-guided tour

  • Look for when monuments and museums have free or discounted days and times
  • Find huge discounts and free offers on attractions and transportation with a tourist card

Keep the whole experience unplanned and wander around

Be courageous when haggling everything, especially when you’re not in the West

Only collect souvenirs you intend to use as decorations when you get home

Save on lodging

Get more affordable hotels

Price shop hotels with a discount room-filling service like Priceline or Hotwire

You can often get promotions or discounts if you use the same hotel or chain frequently

You can save hundreds of dollars by choosing somewhere half a mile away from the city’s central tourist region

Request a corner room to get a more spacious room for the same price

Call the hotel directly

  • The 1-800 booking site often goes to a corporate office with fixed prices
  • Hotels can pay a commission of up to 30% to online booking sites
  • Keep their adjusted price when directly negotiating a price with a hotel
  • Direct negotiation has risks
    • Booking directly with a hotel loses the leverage a good intermediary may give you if something goes wrong
    • Cheap customers are the first people to lose their room if the hotel overbooks

Try to use independently owned hotels

  • Independently owned hotels are the most high-ranking in the world
  • They’re far more likely to give you a discount

Hotel tipping is mostly out of style

  • If you do leave a tip, put it under the pillow and leave a note to be clear who it’s for

Try lodging alternatives

Only get a timeshare if your budget allows you to take a vacation every year

Rent out your home while you’re away

Rent a local guest house instead of a hotel

  • Try renting from a local host through a site like Airbnb

House-swap with someone in the classified ads for where you want to stay

Pack a tent and camp in someone’s garden

Couch-surf through an internet posting through Couchsurfing, Global Freeloaders or Hospitality Club

Look at renting a portion of a monthly classified ad property if you’re staying there for more than two nights or have a large group

Try a work-for-rent arrangement

  • If you have common sense, it’s not as bad as it sounds
  • Go organic farming through WWOOF
  • Crew a yacht or cruise ship
  • Work at a hostel
  • House-sit for someone needing it online

Travel affordably


Research the cheapest way to get anywhere, and be open-minded

  • Night travel is less busy and usually cheaper
  • It’s more affordable to sleep on a sleeper train than get a hotel

Walk or hitchhike, depending on the region

Rent a car if train tickets are expensive

  • Keep track of all of your receipts to dispute any strange fees

Look into whether a country has a weekly or monthly tourist rail pass

Use a ride-sharing service like Uber instead of a cab service

Try an unconventional transportation solution like getting a motorbike and touring overland

When flying with kids

Buy the infant-on-lap ticket

Get a bassinet seat

Ask for a courtesy bag for car seats

Carry your luggage in a stroller

Ask for children’s snack packs

Learn the best ways to travel for less

Save on eating

Eat your most hearty meal at lunch, since that’s when the most specials run

If you ask, you can almost always get a discounted children’s menu

Eat at local places instead of familiar places in foreign countries

  • Boldly ask around for the best places
  • Outdoor vendors often have the most affordable food

Visit anywhere that serves alcohol during happy hour (which varies based on the country)

Depending on the country, you may be able to rent out a kitchen

Next: Money 309: Big Decisions – Family Deaths