Cabin fever has begun to wrap us in a claustrophobic embrace. Just last week a sight smacked me literally in the forehead at Target – a full rack of bikinis. Already??!! But I am wearing 14 layers to combat the negative five degree wind chill out there! Yep, soon kids will be on spring break, beautiful green scenery will be blooming, and awesome deals for primo vacation spots will pop up online!
Vacation do not need to be grand, glorious, or breaking your wallet. By jumping on the planning now, you are guaranteed to save a ton of cash on that trip. So grab your shades, put on some Beach Boy’s music, and take OUR FAVORITE VACATION SHOPPING TIPS below out for a spin!
First, decide on WHERE! Don’t have a place in mind but just want to get away? Browse the online travel sites for their great last-minute deals. Expedia’s “find your spontaneity” last-minute deal sections offer travel+hotel packages that can take place up to two months from now. I could be toasting St. Patty’s Day while aboard a three-day cruise sailing around the Bahamas for only $229 per person. Or through Orbitz we could be trying our luck at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas for only $59 a night! But if you already have a dream vacation in mind, these same travel sites will also allow you to limit these last-minute deals to your designation.
Another favorite site of ours is VRBO (vacation rental by owner) site to locate our lodgings. Absolutely hands down this has been the best means to find spacious lodging when our whole family travels. We scored a two-bedroom, two-bathroom fully furnished condo with a full kitchen, dining room, living room, and patio overlooking the lake on the edge of Branson (Missouri) for only $79.00 a night!! This condo was not only comfortable for a family of five, but also allowed us to save even more by cooking our own meals. VRBO advanced search filters allowed us to limit the displayed listings to show only those without stairs or entry steps, which assured our 80 year old mother was able to join our trip within her physical limitations.
Now that we know where you are going and where you are staying, what about what will you be doing there?
When it comes to these vacations, it is usually Diane’s job to get us there and my job to find something for us to do while we are there. Believe you me…there is no reason to spend the money going someplace just to wander aimlessly around the streets, hoping to find something to do. There needs to be a plan! At least, this has been told to me over and over again, at various levels of volume and emotion, by the ever-loving and forgiving Diane in at least three different cities (New York, Chicago and Las Vegas).
Okay, so I am a play-it-by-ear kind of guy. Diane is a more plan-every-minute-to-ensure-the-most-fun-is-had-by-everyone-involved type of person. And, we all know who wins in these types of debates. So, how do you plan activities while you are at your destination? Let me make it simple.
In the past, we would go to our local Barnes and Noble and drop $30-40 on destination books so we could learn more about where we are going and what to do when we get there. As always, we have to do things the hard way first before we learn our lesson. The problem is, these books are great reference materials, but quickly outdated by these rapidly-changing cities. So, we started going to the library and checking them out. Yes, it was a revelation for us to get books for free from the library. Of course, this is outdated now that publishers like Fodors have their information online and easily accessible thru mobile apps.
We have used this information to find some of the greatest places to visit, along with some very cheap
or reasonable activities. Last time we were in Chicago, we took the train out to see Hemingway’s birthplace and Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio. They were a little outside of the beaten path, but still easy to get to, cheap to visit and so great to see and learn about. Also, we have utilized this to find the places where you can get the best $5 cheeseburger in New York City and when the museums and art galleries offer their free or discounted admission times. Now, I did use this information to find President Obama’s neighborhood in Chicago, which brought a very interesting conversation with either a finely dressed stranger or member of the Secret Service on how I was “too close”. Playing the dumb tourist will only get you so far.
Over and over again, we have used information like this to control expenses on vacations while still having fun and making the most out of our time while we are there. (Yes, aimlessly wandering the streets looking around is also cheap, but not as much fun)
Last tip is that vacation tip is to check your credit cards for special deals they are having. We got amazing seats on Broadway due to a special on Diane’s Visa card a few years ago. We were so close to Mary Poppins during the performance that our daughter could have literally reached out and touched her umbrella. Another trip to Disney World, we were able to see a special reading of Alice in Wonderland by Alice herself followed up by tea and crumpets. The offers on their websites that you usually ignore on the side of the page are definitely worth the look. It’s about time those frickin’ cards did something for you, right?
So, what are your tips for traveling? How many different websites do you compare before finally buying airline tickets? What other ways do you find things to do while on vacation?
We have partnered with Rather-Be-Shopping with several other blogs to offer the best online tips for shopping that we have. We have used this site numerous times finding online coupons and feel this is a good way for us to give back to the blogging community. This is the first time we have attempted a giveway post, but it’s a topic that we have our favorite tips and sites that we use to get the best deals possible. The contest runs February 7 – 25, with the lucky winner taking home $500 cash. Use the widget below to get your name in the draw!