51 Ways to Cut Vacation Costs
9. Buy a vacation package. When planning a vacation with multiple components—airfare, accommodations, a rental car—a package can save you up to 30 percent versus purchasing each part of your trip separately.
10. Purchase travel insurance from a third party for better coverage and/or a lower rate. Check into MedJet Assist, which offers medical evacuation services if you're hospitalized more than 150 miles from your home. A one-year membership for a single person costs $205, and family memberships cost $325—spare change when you consider that being airlifted, especially from a remote location, can cost you tens of thousands of dollars.
[booking plane tickets]11. Consider an alternate airport. Often cities are near multiple airports, and fares can vary dramatically from one to the next based on location and air carrier service. Washington, D.C., for example, is within driving distance of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Washington Dulles International, and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. But fares are often lower at Baltimore Washington, because it's farther away.
12. Slip an easily compressed duffle bag into your suitcase. If you learn your luggage is too heavy when you check-in with your airline, you can quickly repack—and avoid fines of up to $50.
13. Fly on a small, low-cost air carrier such as JetBlue or Southwest. You may not get luxe leather seats and personal TV screens on every flight, but who can argue with round-trip tickets for less than $100? For a directory of U.S. carriers, try ReidsGuides.com. For European carriers, check out Air-ticket-cheap.com; if going to Asia, log on to Attitude Travel.
14. If making flight connections in Europe, bypass major airport hubs such as Charles de Gaulle in Paris and Heathrow in London. Switch planes in less trafficked Dublin instead.
15. Shop around for the lowest fare. Log on to sites such as Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity to compare fares between major airlines. Once you find the lowest fare, check on the airline's own website before you book it; some offer special discounts only available on their site. And don't forget to log on to the websites of low-cost carriers. Many of them, including Southwest and JetBlue, don't subscribe to third-party search engines. (For a list of low-cost carriers, try ReidsGuides.com.)
16. Turn to consolidators or wholesalers, sometimes called "bucket shops," for savings. These companies buy blocks of tickets from major airlines then sell them to consumers at a deep discount, especially during the off-season. For a list of brokers, visit TFI Tours International or Airbrokers International.
17. Stay overnight on Saturday for a lower weekend fare.
18. Subscribe to an e-mail alert to track dips in airfares. Travelocity's free FareWatcher, for example, allows you to monitor up to five routes by sending you an alert every time there's a change in price. Hotwire will e-mail you when fares drop on routes that you've traveled before.
19. Share miles. Some airlines let their frequent fliers transfer their miles to other members seeking award-level status. With Delta, for instance, you can receive up to 30,000 miles for a processing fee (between $35 and $80). If you're 1,000 miles short of a free ticket, this fee is still a bargain. Note: Policies vary by airline.
20. Choose wisely when it comes to ground transportation. Taxis, which are often required by their organization or local government to charge higher rates within airport boundaries, can be the most expensive option. Many major airports have quick and reliable shuttle or subway services into the city center, where you can catch a cab to your hotel at a fraction of the cost. From JFK International Airport into midtown Manhattan, for example, a cab costs about $40; for less than $2 you can take the subway to Penn Station, then hail a cab to a neighborhood hotel for around $5.
21. Shop around before you book your rental car. Get an estimate from one company then see if a competitor will beat it. You can also save money by renting through agencies away from the airport (but not if you're crossing state lines). If you decide to purchase rental car insurance, which can be pricey, check first to see if you're covered by your company (if on a business trip), credit card, or personal auto insurance.
22. Bike: It's a fun and affordable way to get around. In Copenhagen, for example, more than 125 bike shops offer 1,300 free bike rentals for visitors between May and December. In Amsterdam, bikes are the most popular way to travel, and for $10 per day, cheaper than taxis.