We know, you’re broke. Or if you’re not quite broke yet, you will be when the credit-card bills arrive. But that doesn’t mean you can’t start planning your 2009 travel right now. There are scores of ways to cut the cost of your next trip. Here are 10 that may have you plotting your getaway after all.
First, choose your destination wisely. A week in Malaysia is much better value than a week in Switzerland. You simply get more for less: a budget hotel room for under $30 per night instead of over $100, a good meal for $10 rather than $50. Spend less, stay longer—or just bank the savings.
Travelling in your destination’s off-season or shoulder season can make a huge difference to your bottom line. Just be sure you know what to expect at your destination when it’s less popular. January’s chill in Paris may not matter if you’re museum-hopping, but November in Bermuda could carry a hurricane risk.
To find the best airfare, be flexible on your travel days. Like the stock market, fares fluctuate wildly over the course of months, and even day by day. You, of course, want to buy low. Kayak.com is a great tool for helping you find that point. Its search engine returns broad results for many airlines, and charts the rise and fall of average prices over the preceding three months.
That said, chances are that now is a good time to book. The travel industry knows that people cling to their wallets in January, so it offers extra-enticing deals. Keep your eyes open, and sign up for airline seat-sale alerts.
To save on accommodation, get together with a group of friends or extended family and split the cost of a large vacation rental. Check out organizations like Vacation Rentals By Owner. Being able to cook (and make your own cocktails) at home compounds the savings.
Or, consider doing a house swap with a family in another city. Organizations like Intervac and HomeLink International charge a membership fee of about $100, but accommodation is free and participants usually trade vehicles as well.
Young people who can’t afford straight travel have a great option with SWAP working holidays. With destinations from Britain to Brazil, you can do anything from teaching English to bartending to picking fruit, and the cash you make funds the trip. There are age requirements, and for some countries you need to be a full-time student.
For those of any age willing to forgo luxuries, hostels are an easy way to save money. A dorm bed can go for under $20 per night, and most hostels have kitchens, so you can economize further by preparing your own meals.
For savings on traditional hotel accommodation, try bidding on travel Web sites like Priceline.com. On this site, you name the area of town you want to stay in, the desired star level of the hotel, and the price per night you’re willing to pay. The risk? If Priceline finds a taker, the room is automatically billed to your credit card, without you getting a chance to approve the hotel first. The reward? Extraordinarily good deals: I’ve gotten four-star accommodation near Seattle for US$76 a night.
Last-minute deals can also pay off. I’ve had success with exitnow.ca for sun destinations, but there are plenty of last-minute discounters. Who knows? You may just be on a plane sooner than you think.