You can take fun or exotic vacations with your family and not have to spend a fortune doing it. There are ways to get airfare and accommodations free, or next to nothing if you know the tricks.
Dale and Michelle Bartlett have literally written the book on how to take family vacations on the cheap, and they share some of their ideas.
Five tips to getting cheap or even free Airfare:
1) Frequent flyer miles – This is the best way to get free airfare. There are so many ways to collect miles; in fact most miles are collected on the ground. In Utah we recommend the Delta American Express frequent flyer card directly associated with Delta. www.delta.com/traveling_checkin/baggage/checked/first_bag_free.jsp. Also use any other partners associated with Delta like Netflix, cell phones, eating out, and pet care. Many of these are companies you are already buying items from so you might as well get miles as well. The credit card has the biggest advantage though. Example: Instead of writing a check at the grocery store, use your point’s card then when you get home go online and pay it off. Do this with all your consumables, gas, food, clothing etc. and you will add up thousands of miles, pay it off as you go and you will have 0 interest. The trick is in knowing how to best use your miles and when. Refer to our book for this.
In addition to the benefits of receiving miles with your Delta credit card you can get half priced airfare – Most of the airline-associated credit cards will give you a free companion ticket each year. In addition Delta will allow you to check your bags and up to 8 additional companions flying with you, free if you pay for your tickets with their card which also gives you double miles for every dollar spent. This will save hundreds of dollars on each flight.
2) The cookie trap – All the major search engines use this to create urgency. If you go onto expedia, travelocity etc. and search the site for a flight, let’s say you find one for $200. Then you search additional sites to see if you can find it cheaper but you find the $200 is the cheapest flight. You go back to the same search, only minutes later and the price is now $250, not because it went up but because they “cookie’d” your last search and will not show you the lower price anymore. It is to make you think the fare is going up. Solution: Clear your internet cookies and magically the original price appears.
3) Late at night: Another internet tips is to search late at night, around midnight. This could and usually does save hundreds. Business travelers book during the day. The booking engines are very active and prices are kept high. Late at night, they lower the prices of many flights to entice you to buy.
4) Time of year can save you up to half – Knowing the travel seasons is important especially if you are more flexible in your travel. Time of year is taking advantage of what is known as the shoulder season. The low season is the time when you don’t usually want to go. Winter in England, August in Florida etc. The high season is the time when everyone wants to go, but there are also times right in between, when you can find incredible bargains. March in Paris October in China for example.
5) Fly out of a nearby airport – For example, when looking for a flight from SLC to Dallas in June, beginning July, (high season) for someone who attended our last seminar they found tickets for $434.00 SLC – Dallas. I found flights out of Boise on Delta for $290.00. They got a cheap $50 one way on Southwest Airlines to Boise which still saved them $100 on each of their 12 tickets. The return flight had a layover in SLC so they are only using carry-on baggage and walking off the plane and not using the flight to Boise.
Keep in mind Frontier Airlines is now flying out of Provo!
Save thousands by home exchanges or taking advantage of others hospitality.
1) There are thousands of website that help you find people to exchange homes. Not very many help you find hospitality exchanges. This is why we created, Homespun Hospitality. This is a very unique site; it combines the traditional home exchange, where you swap homes, but we have also added an option for hospitality exchange.
This is great for those who may not feel comfortable with leaving their home to strangers even though home exchange is incredible, a money saver and very safe. The whole concept behind hospitality exchange is to find people who are willing to open their homes and be hosts for a few nights. In return when they are near you, you can offer them the same. It is the couch surfing concept but geared to everyone including families.
The website also provides and option for those who aren’t comfortable with either of the above to find inexpensive vacation rentals. The site is free to join and free to list. We are trying to create the largest travel connection site on the web. An additional feature coming soon is the Humanitarian listing where you will be able to search the database for humanitarian projects in the area you are traveling and pick a project, then go back and search for accommodations nearby.
Example: A family of 6 wants to go to Italy for 3 weeks. Hotels in Europe are very small at the most you can get 4 but usually 2 or 3 to a room. The average price for a good, clean hotel for 4 is around $150.00/night x 2 for 21 nights = $6300.00 plus taxes and the fact you are in a cramped hotel room trying to keep the kids quiet. Solution: Hop onto Homespun Hospitality, www.homespunhospitality.com or Google, home exchange and get on one of thousands of site. (Most however charge to join) Search for a home in the area of Italy you want to go. Be a little flexible if you can. Find several that fit your needs and email the owner. Make sure you have your home up on the site for them to look at as well. Look for other wanting to come to the US, Western US or who even list Utah as their place of interest. Begin by negotiating length of stay, is the car included, (which will save you money on a rental), time of year etc. Finally call them and talk with them and make the final arrangements. People who home exchange are pros at this and will help a newbie through the process.
Assign one of your neighbors to check on things while you are gone. It is very easy and very safe. Hospitality exchanges are harder to find and that is why we started our site, but it is done the same way. Connect with possibilities and then begin the conversation. In addition to the savings on the accommodations, you save on food by cooking at “home” and not at expensive restaurants.
1) Planning to us is second nature now, but for someone who wants to plan a trip to Hawaii you need to begin by looking at all the options. If I use frequent flyer miles, how many will I need? Maybe you buy 3 tickets and you get three through miles, but if you work the system the miles will come. Then you start searching for accommodations. Do I want a beachfront hotel or a beachfront private house, or a house off the beaten path and a bit more quite. Then start looking for them on exchange sites or begin to collect hotel points to stay for free.
We usually stay at the Marriott right on the beach for free using their frequent staying points. Then we look at transportation, attractions and find ways to eliminate those costs or drastically reduce them. Use Groupon for Hawaii, Entertainment books, (1/2 price at attractions and dinners). Too often people don’t plan far enough ahead. They usually start looking one or two months out when airfare is high or hotel space is limited and high because everyone else is going at the same time. So most just pay the high cost, go, have a great time and pay off the credit cards until the next vacations. In our book we have planning sheets, tips on nearly every aspect of a family vacation and ideas on how to save on everything.