This year as we get down to setting our resolutions for 2014, why not set aside a resolution to travel more. Most of us like to travel and explore, or get a change of scenery -- with the family, as a couple or even alone.
Some of those trips may seem cost-prohibitive, but with a bit of planning, a sprinkle of luck and a few tricks of the trade we've learned along the way, you'll be able to make that special travel resolution -- and it may be the only one you'll actually stick to. Here are some of the ways you can save money and make the most of your travel dollars.
The Top 7 Travel Tips to help you make 2014 your best travel year yet!
1. Search for Promo Codes -- There are promo codes galore out there and whether you seek out codes from an excursion operator, airline, hotel or travel site, a few extra minutes can lead to hundreds of dollars of savings. Use search words like Promo, Discount, Coupon, and Corporate Code to see what's out there, and what you may qualify for. Explore all your credit card, professional affiliation and alumni associations for special deals and group discounts. Retailmenot.ca is one of our favourite one stop shops for a plethora of options.
2. Check out European and U.K. Discount Sites -- Sites like ratestogo.com or booking.com, among many others, will offer hotel or travel deals that are less expensive than North American sites. It's hit or miss but we've found that a quick search by the resort name itself can sometimes lead to finding different vendors offering a better price or even room availability when all other sites show a location as fully booked. While you're at it, also try the U.K. or European counterparts for popular travel sites and just switch the currency when you pay to CAN or US dollars -- from time to time you'll find reduced rates and even greater savings in the exchange rate.
3. Do Lunch -- Opt to eat out for lunch rather than dinner. The meals are often less money, yet substantial enough to fill you. Do like the Europeans and follow up a heartier lunch with a smaller meal or appetizer for dinner. You'll stretch out your budget and feel better too!
4. Get Happy -- Take advantage of happy hour specials (usually from 4-6 p.m.) especially in touristy towns with lots of restaurant competition (like New Orleans or L.A.). A quick google search or chat with your concierge should lead you in the right direction. We sampled some of the best amuse-bouche and starter meals in New Orleans from the top restaurants for a fraction of the dinner version price. It's great timing for dinner with kids too.
5. Alternative Airlines -- Charter Airlines are often overlooked. When I booked a last-minute surprise get-away to Las Vegas for my husband and I, the cost of flights were quite high. A desperate search of some local charter airlines surprisingly offered better flight times, a direct flight and all for less than half the price! To sweeten the deal they even threw in a hot meal, champagne and hot towels -- can you say SCORE?
6. Shoulder Seasons -- These are the off seasons, usually spring or fall, when tourism is naturally low. If you can afford to take some time off during these seasons you will find much better pricing and great promotional packages, less congestion, more relaxed staff and usually more personalized attention. The weather is usually at its best at that time and you can really focus on taking in the historical and cultural offerings (think PEI, Boston, Kelowna, San Diego, Finger Lakes).
7. Not all star ratings are the same -- Here's where unbiased travel reviews come in most handy. Some 3+ star resorts in certain locales are just as good as 4+ or 5 in others. Reviews are your best bet when funds are limited but options are not. In our opinion the most important features you should base your decision on are: cleanliness, quality and variety of food, and staff. We never use the high tech gym (sorry, we're on vacation) or the spa. An attractive pool, fantastic food and drink, and an expansive, safe beach are enough to keep us happy.
Here's to making 2014 your best travel year yet!
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