Save On Your Next Getaway

Planning a trip in the coming months? Here are some tips to help make your travel dollars go farther:

Skip spring break. If you plan to travel to the Caribbean, Mexico or other student and family-friendly destinations, you might want to steer clear in February and March when spring break travellers fill up resorts. Demand for travel and accommodations will be higher, and the atmosphere won’t be as relaxing.

Embrace winter. Who said winter getaways were all about the sun? Think hot tubs, in-room Jacuzzis, fireplaces and spa treatments — not to mention beating the crowds at many top tourist havens like New York, London, Rome and Paris. If you don’t mind braving the weather and the long nights, you can take advantage of shoulder or off-season deals. (See When to snag off-season deals for details.)

Make it a gift. Do you need another box of chocolates or another dinner out? Skip the traditional gifts for Valentine’s Day, birthdays, and anniversaries and opt for a travel gift certificate instead. Etiquette experts might object, but it doesn’t hurt to let your friends and family know what you’re planning — they might just appreciate the tip.

Make a commitment (to your budget). Many of us review our budgets and investments in the new year, so it’s a good time to make your trip a financial priority. Even if you can’t afford to save much, set aside a set amount each month for a trip. It may take a little sacrifice — like cutting back on other entertainment-related expenses like cable and dinners out. Even if this winter isn’t a possibility, it’s never too early to start thinking ahead for the next one.

Raise some money. Would you rather have: stuff or experiences? If your goal is to de-clutter this year, look for ways to sell those unwanted items through like online postings and consignment shops, for instance. (See 10 ways to sell your stuff for more ideas.) A vacation can be great motivation.

Use your rewards. You’ve been saving your points for a “rainy day”, so why not use them for snow? Even if you don’t have enough points saved up for a flight, you can still use them to offset other costs like hotel stays, travel insurance, theatre tickets, museum and attractions or travel accessories.

Another option: use your rewards to pay for things you normally spend on — like groceries or gas — and then transfer the equivalent amount to your travel savings.

Look at the total package. All-inclusive resorts and cruises are still a popular way to go for many travellers, but make sure you know what is included and what isn’t. Spa treatment and day excursions off the resort may not be covered, but there may be some room for negotiation when you book.

If these resorts aren’t of interest, you can still save money by balancing food and accommodation costs with entertainment. For instance, some pricier hotels and restaurants may be worth the cost if they offer cheap transportation options and free activities.

Ditch the hotel. Vacation rentals continue to gain in popularity, and the lower cost is just a part of it. There’s more flexibility for accommodations — from country cottages to urban apartments to full houses you can split with friends — and many argue that “living like a local” is a more authentic experience than a resort or hotel.

However, sometimes you don’t know what you’re getting until you arrive — so take the time to do some research and weigh the pros and cons. (For more ideas, see Think outside the hotel.)

Swap homes. Accommodations don’t come much cheaper than this: you stay in someone’s home while they stay in yours. Thanks to the popularity of this trend, there are dozens of websites like and Global Home Exchange help travellers around the world connect. While your winter wonderland might not be someone’s ideal vacation, it is possible to exchange “for credit”. In other words, you travel now and your guests arrive later (though you may need to be somewhere else — like the cottage).

Rent your own home. You can take advantage of the vacation rental trend if you live in a good location and have some spare space in your home. Rent out a spare room, basement apartment or even your entire home to travellers through listing services like and It doesn’t have to be a long term arrangement — you can rent by the night, week or month.

If you decide to try it, make sure you know what you’re getting into. Find out what fees are involved, what services you’re expected to provide and how to protect your privacy and valuables. Look into services that handle some of these requirements for you — like collecting payments.

Go last minute. If you’re flexible about destination, and you aren’t fussy about finding the perfect airplane seat or hotel room, consider waiting it out. Companies make the most money when tour packages and flights are full so they often offer discounts to “put bums in seats”. While some degree of spontaneity is required, you can still book a week off work and get your vaccinations well in advance (just leave the booking for later). (See Last minute travel deals for tips and resources.)

Invest some time in the search. Don’t expect any quick fixes — finding the right flights, activities and accommodations to suit your budget will take some time and research. Travel companies — and scam artists — know travellers are looking for deals, so don’t assume that prices advertised as discounts are the best prices around. It still pays to comparison shop.

Negotiate. Depending on how the travel market shapes up this year, there’s still some wiggle room when it comes to costs. Even if you can’t talk down the price, you might be able to score some additional perks like meals and spa treatments — or an upgrade to a better room or seat.

A winter getaway doesn’t have to be a daydream, but it shouldn’t land you in debt either. A little creativity and some smart budgeting can a long way to making a vacation more affordable this year.

Do you plan to travel this winter? Share your money-saving tips in the comments.

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