This week I had the opportunity to interview travel expert Holly K, who is the travel advisor for Savings.com. I found the interview quite refreshing, as she didn’t just spout off the regular tips I see all the time. I think you all will enjoy the unique tips that Holly shared with me this week:
Crystal (aka The Thrifty Mama): What sites are offering the best travel deals this year?
Holly K: This might differ for each person, because I find different sites have different types of travel deals. A few of my personal favorites:
- Hawaiian Airlines–they have an ongoing 25% off US mainland to Hawaii tickets for two with a new Visa.
- Southwest often offers discounts from $75 to $150 off vacation packages to various cities; since Southwest is already a low-priced airline, these tend to be excellent deals!
- Travelocity, Orbitz, and Expedia also have released several codes and deals this year such as $100 off a Hawaii, Mexico, or Caribbean vacation, or $100 off a trip to Europe.
Crystal: Is it better to rent a car through an online site, or deal directly with a car rental company to get the best discount?
Holly K: Car rentals can add to the cost of a trip significantly. I go to Priceline.com and find the best few branch prices online for my location. Then I call them by phone to see if they’ll give me a better offer. Both online and by phone have gotten me the best deal–it seems to depend more on when I’m reserving.
I would always reserve ahead of time, rather than on-the-spot in person–if the branch doesn’t have the model you wanted, they’ll automatically give you an upgrade or another offer to make up for the error.
Another huge tip: Avoid airport rentals if at all possible. Use a rental near your hotel and take a taxi to and from the airport–a slight pain, true, but I’ve saved over $100 or more on trips just by avoiding the airport rental.
Crystal: How can a family of four or more save the most when planning an extended stay? Hotel, bed and breakfast, etc…
Holly K: A few tips come to mind. Bed and breakfasts (B&Bs) tend to be less expensive than hotels, but if you choose a hotel, aim for one with a free buffet. (Use TripAdvisor.com to find B&Bs or hotels with free buffets, free parking, and other perks).
At hotels, use a discount plan like Triple AAA or an online coupon code (like this Orbitz code) to reduce the price even more. If reserving by phone, always ask for the least expensive room type–two king beds is more expensive than two queens, for example, but many families would prefer slightly less space and more savings.
If you need a portable crib, check whether the hotel provides them and compare that fee with the airline’s baggage fee–you may pay less by using the hotel’s. Aim for a room with a mini refrigerator to help save on meals during travel.
Check out airline discounts for children–often children below age two can sit on a parent’s lap and fly for free or discounted rates.
Crystal: What’s a great vacation spot to visit that most people don’t think about when planning to get away?
Holly K: One place that is a lot of fun for families–as well as couples–to visit is Northern Virginia. This region is part of the Washington DC Metro area and offers plenty of exciting day trips that are inexpensive. In Washington DC, families can spend several days touring museums, monuments, and historical sites like the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, relatively new Franklin Delano Roosevelt Monument, and White House–most walkable from the metro.
For other days, you can get away to places like these–some a longer drive than others. These are my favorites, but there are many other places to choose from:
- Great Falls Park in McLean, Virginia
- National Aquarium in Baltimore
- Shenandoah National Park to visit caverns, waterfalls, and other gorgeous scenery
- Jamestown Settlement in Williamsburg, VA
Another great thing about this area is the airfare. There are two airports to fly into, resulting in reasonably-priced flights from many cities nationwide: Washington National (on the metro line), Dulles International, and you can also use Baltimore-Washington International if you don’t mind a longer drive into town.