Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My Jewish Mother Recommends: Great Money Saving Travel Tips

How appropriate to travel with my Jewish mother from suburban Long Island, NY to god's waiting room, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. for a week of sun and tasks to help renovate my late grandfather's condo.  We turned this chore into a vacation and, a cheap vacation, at that. Want to know how? At every step of the way, from flights to meals to accommodations, my mother recommends awesome tips to help save money. So don't think you can't travel because of the downward economy. You can still bask in sunny environments and eat like gods with these money saving hints.

1. Fly into a different city. Our destination was Ft. Lauderdale but my mother discovered we would save $30 on each of our tickets if we flew into W. Palm Beach, an airport merely 40 minutes away. We had to rent a car anyway and my mother doesn't mind driving in different states so the quick drive was worth the extra money in our pockets. 

2. Avoid weekend and holiday air travel. Prices are always higher for flights when you travel on weekends or popular holiday times (Warning: Think December and February for Florida, when all the teachers from NY are itching for a break from winter and have time off.) If you're flexible with when you can vacation, leave on a Monday! You'll feel great mid week knowing everyone else is at work. 

3. Bargain with your rental car company. Rental car companies constantly change their prices from day to day or as little as from hour to hour. If you book a car two weeks before your trip, check back online a few days later to see if they're offering any new discounts. Then let your inner Jewish mother out and call them to ask for the current rate. My mother managed to save $32 (From $215 to $183) by simply calling and asking for the best rate. 

4. Zipcar. Forget taxis and drive yourself.  If you're in an area where public transportation is outstanding and you don't need to drive every day all day then consider a local car sharing company in your vacation city or join Zipcar. You become a member and then can have access to cars in 13 major cities- including Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and even London. Gas and insurance is included and the going rate is about $11/hr or $70/day. 

5. Pre-select your restaurants: Obviously a lot of the fun of vacationing comes from trying the various restaurants and cuisines in your new spot. With web sites like you can choose restaurants in the area you'll be visiting and buy gift certificates that will save you money. For $10, you receive a $25 gift certificate. Want to save even more? Sign up and the web site will send you emails with discount codes. We spent $12 for $75 in food certificates for upscale, quality establishments in Coral Springs and Miami Beach. 

6. Visit long lost friends: You'll stalk people you haven't seen in years on social networking sites but when it comes to real life, there's nothing like seeing your old friend from summer camp or high school live and in person. Forget spending ridiculous amounts of money on fancy hotels and trying activities you would never do at home. Save money by staying with friends and family you haven't seen in a while and doing activities the locals recommend. You'll have a richer, authentic experience without spending more. 

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