Whether you go by car or plane, a money saving strategist for your family vacation is key. Work the Web and try these tactics to get the best deal.
1. Score the cheapest airfare by buying domestic tickets six weeks before your trip. Check prices at the beginning of the week: Competing airlines usually list their sales on Tuesdays.. Prices generally rise during the weekends, when more people are searching.
2. Follow your favorite airlines on Twitter for last-minute and limited-time sales. Or sign up to receive a daily e-mail from TripTwit — it tracks Tweets for popular deal alerts.
3. A seemingly cheap flight may not be such a great deal once you add on luggage fees. Be familiar with an airline’s policy in advance: Websites like Airfarewatchdog.com and Farecompare.com list many of the most common charges by carrier. For example, Spirit charges for carry-on bags (up to $50 at the counter and $100 if you gate-check) while Southwest and JetBlue allow at least one free checked item per passenger.
4. Cashing in miles isn’t always the best bet. Sites like PointHub and MileWise help you calculate whether a free flight is the smart choice or if prices are so low that you’re better off saving your miles.
5. When you’re considering a particular destination, follow the cost of flying there with alerts from Airfarewatchdog.com, Farecompare.com or Yapta.com. Yapta also lets you know if your fare drops after you book and whether you’re eligible for a refund, says budgeting expert Andrea Woroch.
6. Reserve your hotel through Tingo.com and your reservation will automatically get rebooked at the lower rate if the hotel drops its prices, plus you’ll be refunded the difference. Enter your hotel reservation on Backbid.com and comparable hotels will e-mail you competing deals.
7. Vacation rentals can save you up to 30% in total trip costs. You also get more space as well as amenities, like a kitchen. Search on VRBO.com and Homeaway.com.
8. The cheapest option of all is a home swap — all you pay is the membership fee to a website like Homeexchange.com ($120 per year). Just keep in mind that you’ll have to open up your home to guests in return.
9. Bid for a vehicle through Priceline or Hotwire; both use major car rental companies. Or browse at Breezenet.com, which also includes local companies. And don’t forget to check AAA.com and your warehouse club store, such as Costco, for additional member savings.
10. Instead of booking directly with a cruise line, consider using an agency, such as Vacationstogo.com or Cruisesonly.com. These companies get money-saving perks from cruise lines, including free upgrades and onboard ship credits, then pass them on to their clients.