7 tips for a budget-friendly spring break
When you’re buried under work, there’s nothing more alluring than the dream of taking a vacation. For many, spring break is a natural time to get away — it’s the midway point between the holidays and summer, and therefore a good time to recharge your batteries. Although airfares are slowly rising and hotel fees seem to multiply by the minute, there are ways to keep vacation costs down.
Karen Stevens and Michelle Goodman, both University of Phoenix instructors of hospitality, travel and tourism courses, offer these tips for budget travel:
Check out a vacation hot spot’s neighbors.
When choosing a getaway, “look in a radius around a big, popular destination,” Stevens recommends. “Equally beautiful, less expensive places could be just a short way off.” She points to Daytona Beach, Florida, as an example. “Fifty miles north of Daytona is St. Augustine, a great family-friendly beach. Fifty miles south of Daytona is the Canaveral National Seashore.”
Follow the flowers.
Not a sun worshipper? Slow down to smell the roses — and lilacs and lilies. Several regions have spectacular spring blooms, and those destinations are often less pricey than beach resort areas. You might be able to catch the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C., Goodman notes, or see fields of bluebonnets and other wildflowers in the Texas Hill Country near Austin.
Choose your travel days wisely.
“Generally, the cheapest day to fly is Wednesday or Saturday, since those are the days when the fewest businesspeople travel,” explains Stevens, whose father was an airline pilot. Tuesday is often mentioned as a good day to fly as well. “Wednesday is also a good day to book a flight, because that’s when new fares often post," Stevens adds.
Consider peer-to-peer lodging.
Sites such as Airbnb and Tripping, which provide a network of owner-offered rooms and sublets, advertise reliably comfortable, short-term rentals that are often less expensive than hotels, Goodman says. The range of options is getting more luxurious, too; last spring, onefinestay launched listings for chic “unhotels” in New York City.
Ask about resort fees.
Ask a hotel directly about any hidden costs before booking a room online. The names of these fees vary, but they can add $10 to $30 a night to the total rate. “I’ve seen a resort fee, convenience fee or whatever-we-can-think-of fee being tacked on,” Stevens reports. The Federal Trade Commission began cracking down on such hidden fees in November 2012, but these costs won’t come out of the fine print anytime soon.
Make friends with your hotel.
Once you have your eyes on a specific place to stay or eat, like that locale’s Facebook® page. “Sometimes businesses offer a deal or discount on social media,” Stevens says. “Hotels might offer a third night free after a two-night stay.” Restaurants and even tour operators post coupons for their Facebook friends, too.
Pinpoint the cheapest gas pumps.
Shave a significant amount off your fuel costs by checking a gas-price website or smartphone app, Goodman says. GasBuddy, for example, gives a list and map of gas stations, noting the lowest prices for the past 24 hours.
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