Travel Agents Share Their Best Money-Saving Tips

Travel Agents Share Their Best Money-Saving Tips

Travel expenses include a lot more than the plane ticket. Food, drinks, hotels, ATM fees, transportation, clothes – people often ignore or underestimate how much all of these can add up and really make you go over your budgetCreating a budget is not as exhilarating as actually planning what to spend the money on, but it's a necessary evil. You won't have to know what the "where did all the money go?" feeling is like.  

Do you care about the view?

Unless you're going to live in the apartment or room for months, why do you need to see the ocean, the beach, the lake, or the mountain? Tourists usually just sleep in their hotel rooms. So save your money for thrilling adventures and dining instead.

Big chains run more specials

Save yourself some time and search for rooms in hotels with familiar names. Small boutique lodgings don't offer as many deals as big chains, Becky Hypolite, travel agent and owner of Crystal & Clear Travel, says. "They also don't vacuum as often which mean higher chance of bed bugs," she adds. "Make sure you read reviews on rooms."

Don’t fold clothes, roll them

If you want to save money on clothes while you're away or avoid paying baggage fees for overweight luggage, don't fold your garments as you put them in a suitcase, roll them, Hypolite says. There is lots of air between the clothes when you fold them – space in which you can fit two extra pairs of shoes or a week's worth of underwear. Don't take up extra room with toiletries if your hotel provides them.

Don’t book tours in advance

"I personally never book in advance unless it's something very specific like a wine tasting with a 5-course meal," Hypolite says. If it's something general – like a ride on a double-decker bus – buy a ticket when you get there. "This is how you get the most bang for your buck," she adds. There are a lot of options, and booking ahead makes it hard to exchange or cancel without having to pay extra.

You may not have to tip

It depends on the country. Americans find it customary but most Europeans find it offensive if you tip, Hypolite says. Sometimes gratuity is included in the bill, so don't tip more and you'll save extra cash. "A lot of people in all-inclusive resorts think that tipping will get them better food or drinks, but it probably won't because the service is all the same because it's all-inclusive," she adds.

Re-think using a credit card

Unless you fly corporate and all the time, points are not worth the extra money you have to spend on groceries and gas, Hypolite says. "The bill ends up being too big and how many people can really pay it all?" Using your credit card abroad may be a good idea. Some don't charge extra fees and they often provide the best exchange rates, she adds. "Just make sure you call your bank to tell them were you're traveling."

Look for dollar-friendly destinations

The hot spots this year were Iceland, Greenland and Dubai, Hypolite says. "The rate always fluctuates in European countries, especially now after the U.S. presidential election." Do your research and consider the local currency because a vacation abroad can actually be much cheaper than going anywhere in the U.S.

Know what you want to do

"Research ahead of time, get a sense of what you want to do and how much it will cost, and multiply that by 2 and bring cash," Hypolite says. Vacations always turn out to cost more than anticipated because of hidden or unplanned expenses. Keep that in mind when you plan your trip budget. That's how you'll know if you can afford it.

Ask for discounts

Don't be shy; you can save yourself a lot of money. Not finding a good deal online doesn't mean one is not available. "Travel agents do 98 percent of the sales again," Hypolite says. "Between Priceline, Expedia, Kayak, etc., companies have no idea what you really want." Agents aim to price match them and even beat their price, she adds, getting you a good deal.

Look for hotels offering breakfast

Better yet, stay at places offering breakfast until later in the morning, Hypolite says. "This will take you through late lunch and you may need just another meal and a snack during the whole day," she adds. A lot of places in Europe have "cocktail hours" where you buy a single drink and enjoy the "all you can eat" buffet."

Take the bus

Consider public transportation – it'll always be cheaper than taxis and even Uber. It may take you longer to get to a specific place, but you're on vacation. What's the hurry? Also, you get to see more of the city and experience life the way residents do.

Eat like a local

If there is one sure way to save money on your trip, it is by avoiding eating at restaurants in touristy areas. They are everywhere and should be avoided at all costs. The food is not authentic anyway. As is the case with most cities, the best food is located in small eateries. Rome even has a lot of places with big signs that say "No tourist menus."

Book a flight on Tuesdays

"The best time to book a flight is on Tuesday night or Wednesday early morning," Ivy Chou, travel expert at DealsPlus, says. "And the best time to fly is on a Wednesday because it's farthest from the weekend," she adds. "Companies want to push sales." The timing is similar with hotels.

Don’t travel close to holidays

Another way to save money is by considering when you're going to your destination. "Timing is a huge factor in pricing," Chou says. Don't travel around Columbus Day, other holidays, or when there are concerts or even conferences scheduled – no coupon will make the price low enough, she adds. Sometimes, if you travel on the day of the holiday, you can find good deals. No one wants to be on a plane on Christmas Day, after all.

Go on a cruise

Cruises in the fall are another affordable vacation option, Chou says. "You know exactly what you're paying for and you end up spending half what you would if you went to a resort," she adds. The cheapest prices in the fall are for cruises going to Mexico and the Caribbean, because it's hurricane season, and Alaska. Ships will soon stop going out because it will get too cold, Chou says.