We long for travel, but we long even more deeply for affordable travel.
Type the word “cheap” in an Internet search, and the terms that automatically pop up, based on the popularity of previous searches, pertain largely to travel: “cheap tickets,” “cheap flights,” “cheap hotels.”
To that end, we asked industry experts to weigh in on budget travel: from getting there to eating there to staying there.
• Who: Chen is online editor for frommers.com
• Getting there: Set up fare alerts using sites such as airfarewatchdog.com or tripadvisor.com. For example, I had alerts set up from New York City to Oakland or San Francisco. I received emails from airfarewatchdog notifying me of fall sales from Southwest ($280) and Delta ($284). These fare alerts gave me a sense of what prices to look for when ready to book.
• Staying there: Flash-sale sites like Groupon Getaways (groupon.com/getaways), SniqueAway (sniqueaway.com) and Jetsetter (jetsetter.com) constantly have tempting hotel deals, but make sure you understand the fine print. Can the travel dates be changed, or is it nonrefundable? Would you be better off booking directly with the hotel? Most hotels still let you cancel 24 to 72 hours before arriving.
• Eating there: Hotel breakfasts that are included in the room rate can be a good value for families. Many hotels now go beyond the basic cereal and bagel options with made-to-order omelet stations and do-it-yourself waffle-makers. Buying bottled water adds up so I usually buy a liter (or a gallon if I’m staying in one place for a few nights) to keep in the hotel room. I refill a smaller bottle as I go. I once paid about $16 for an in-room bottle of FIJI water — never again!
• Doing things and getting around: Look into weekly transit passes and tourist passes. For example, CityPASS cards (available in nearly a dozen cities; citypass.com) can be an easy way to cover a lot of ground if you plan to sightsee. But be realistic and consider whether you will see all the museums and attractions included in the card, otherwise you won’t save a ton of money. If you need to rent a car, check for online promo codes (try a quick Internet search) or use a site like autoslash.com to find the lowest rental rates.
• Who: Purcell is a travel advisor for cheapair.com
• Getting there: Choosing a regional location or going somewhere in the off-season keeps flights more affordable and can reward you with savings beyond just flights (tours, hotels, things to do). Websites like ours can save you as much as 40 percent due to searching thousands of fares across multiple airlines.
• Staying there: We recommend looking beyond just the flat price of a hotel but rather the entire package: What are the amenities? Where is the hotel located? If you can, stay out of city centers and busy downtown areas where demand is likely to spike — staying 20-30 minutes away can save big bucks.
• Eating there: Saving money on dining and food is one of the easiest things to do on a trip if you keep an open mind. If you’re staying in a hotel with a refrigerator, pack simple lunches and eat them in a park. Food doesn’t have to be expensive to be excellent; for $5 to $10 a meal, gourmet experiences can be had with food trucks. Ask locals where to find good grub at a decent price; they know better than anyone.