Zero in on a place
So, where are you going for a holiday this year? Might seem like a casual question but choosing the right destination is the first and the most important step to ensure that your vacation does not break your bank. The holiday destination you pick and the duration of the stay decide the cost of your vacation. You can start by deciding on what you and your family would like to do on this vacation. Say you wish for some sun and sand for this year's summer break, work out a list of beach destinations and then settle on a place that the family would like to visit.
Your next task is to find who is offering the best packages to this destination at the lowest prices. Trawl the Internet and call up travel agencies to do an extensive comparative study before you seal the deal. Online travel data repositories such as Wego.com, Expedia.co.in and Kayak.co.in can give you a fair idea about the best bargains . An old, but unbeaten, strategy to cut down on your travel cost is avoiding a trip during the peak seasons. So, if possible, travel during the low season and you will be able to enjoy the same vacation at a cut rate and catch a quiet and cozy getaway.
For those who are flexible about the place they holiday in or are not able to make up their mind, a good way to get the best bargain is to approach the local travel agents and get some idea of what type of packages they are promoting this season. Pick a package that suits your mood and is well with your time frame and you will be able to lock in an excellent deal with relatively less trouble.
If you do not mind some company, another great way to see more at a lesser price is booking a group tour rather than a regular holiday package. "Though a customised package lets you holiday at your own pace, group tours are much more cost-effective. They cover more places in less time and take care of all expenses like accommodation, food, transfers and transportation at a lesser cost," Karan Anand, head-relationships, Cox and Kings Ltd.
There is also the option of a 'staycation' if you do not wish to travel at all and yet have a nice respite from your daily life. Book an accommodation closer to home and visit some local attractions over the weekend and spend some time in a different environment, but without spending a lot of money.
Research the destination
Taking a holiday package is convenient, but might be costlier in some cases. Instead, if you have time and are ready for some research, building your own trip can be both fun and frugal. Even if you are availing of a tour package, knowing about the place you are travelling to is a must, especially, when you are in a foreign land and don't have a travel agent at your service.
With most of the airlines offering online services, booking an air ticket should not be a difficult task. The next thing on your list should be accommodation. When looking for a hotel in a popular tourist place, extend your search area and look at the lesser popular locales and suburbs. You will find more options that will save a few bucks from your budget as well. However, do read the reviews before checking-in. If you are travelling alone and are not picky about room service, staying in a hostel can also be a good way to bring down your accommodation costs. Also, try to find a hotel room with kitchenettes and services like complementary breakfasts, happy-hour buffet lunches, free spa and gym facility, etc., to save on these expenses. Invest in a good travel guidebook or try Wikitravel.org to research about such places.
Another advantage of knowing about the place you are visiting is that you can give the expensive sight-seeing tours a miss and make your own itinerary. One of the best ways of going about it is visiting the country's official tourism website and read their recommendations. One more way to save a few a bucks is buying multi-day or multiple passes/coupons to places of tourist attractions.
Stretch your buck a bit more
Search travel discount sites for offers on holiday destinations and packages. Book your air tickets and make hotel reservations early to get a price cut.
Look for hotels closer to the airport or railway station to eliminate taxi expenses. Avoid renting a car where you have a good public transportation system.
Download discount coupons of eateries and entertainment hubs and buy multi-day or multiple passes to places of tourist attraction to get a price concession.
Travel with family and friends, avail group discounts and share the cost. Do not be persuaded to spend on special sight-seeing tours. Make your own itinerary.
Manage your money
If you were lucky to snap a good deal on the holiday package, you can be sure that most of your trip expenses are now fixed and settled and you won't be bankrupt when back from the jaunt. However, there are 'additional' expenses which form the exclusions list and still pose a threat to burn a hole in your pocket, that is, unless you plan your tour wisely.
A package tour usually takes care of the key expenses such as accommodation, airfares, sight-seeing and airport transfers. Other than these, food is the only major cost for which you would have to reach for your pocket. Avoid downtown dining and explore areas outside the main tourist spots. These are comparatively cheaper and will give you a chance to explore the local cuisines as well. Google maps and sites such as Tripadvisor.com can provide you with links of such restaurants. Many of these places would also have their menus available on the net for you to plan out a meal which isn't pricey.
Have a backup plan in case you do not find a suitable place or the local food does not suit your taste buds. Pay a visit to the grocery store and pick up items like bread, butter, marmalade, snacks, etc., for some quick-fixes.
Another significant expense which most likely won't be a part of the deal offered by your travel agent is the transportation cost when traveling within your holiday destination and visiting different tourist spots. Avoid renting a car or using a taxi where you have a good public transportation system. Though a guide book can be handy, ask the hotel staff or take help of the locals to know the routes and the most economical way of traveling within the city.
Now that you are through with the bookings and reservations and have a nicely planned itinerary in place, its time to pack your bags. Before you head towards your wardrobe or wrap the toiletries, make sure you have a list of all essential items. If you have planned for a foreign trip, apart from a valid passport, you will also require a tourist visa. Though some countries like Singapore and Mauritius provide a visa on arrival, many will ask you to have it before you board the flight. Do not forget to check if there are some country guidelines on specific vaccinations you might have to take before your visit and keep some common drugs like painkillers and paracetamol pills in your first-aid kit.
Another important thing you might skip or tend to miss intentionally, given that on a budget, is the travel insurance. But there are times when it can actually save you from a loss and a lot of trouble (read 'Travel with a Safety Net', pg 72). You may also want to invest in a phrase book and try speaking a few lines in the native language. However, do not worry even if you fail in your attempt, that is, as long as you have some currency notes in your pocket. Money is a common language which is understood by all, so ensure that you have access to it all the time.
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