Your dollar now stretches a lot further than it used to—at least as far as travel costs are concerned.
“Right now is the best time to travel,” said Joanel White, regional travel sales consultant for AAA Wisconsin.
Many airlines, rental-car companies, resorts, hotels and restaurants are offering discounts to attract travelers during a time when most people have dismissed vacation as something they can’t afford, she said.
“If you have the disposable income to afford to travel, why not take advantage of those specials?” White said. “Now is the time to seize those offers because when the economy turns around, those offers will go away.”
The Gazette asked White what people should consider if they’re looking to save money on their vacations.
Should you take your own car or should you rent a car?
Should you get a room with few amenities because it’s cheap or should you get a room with the amenities you want?
Should you eat out for every meal or should you pack food to make some meals?
White said it all depends on personal preference.
Let’s say you’ve decided to drive to your destination. Do you take your own car or do you rent a car?
White said most people opt for the rental car because it means they don’t have to put a bunch of miles on their own car.
But there are some things to keep in mind before you sign on the dotted line, she said.
-- Rental fees: Many rental-car companies charge a daily rate with unlimited miles. Some charge a daily rate that includes a limited number of free miles per day. And a few charge a daily rate plus a per-mile rate.
The daily rates with unlimited miles often are the most cost-effective, White said.
-- Additional drivers: Most rental-car companies charge a fee for each additional driver. Ask for ways to waive the extra cost.
Some places won’t charge for spouses, and some won’t charge if you’re a member of a travel club, frequent-renter club or other organization, White said.
-- Insurance: Every rental-car company will ask if you want insurance. It sounds like a good thing to have, but it costs extra.
Check with your insurance company before you rent a car because you might already be covered, White said.
Let’s say you’ve decided to book your lodging ahead of time rather than stop at the first place you find when you get into town. Do you skimp on amenities or not?
Not at all, White said. In fact, you probably could upgrade from a standard room to a luxury suite with the deals that many hotels, bed-and-breakfasts and resorts are offering to fill their empty rooms, she said.
“With all the offers out there right now … you could actually say, ‘What do I feel comfortable paying,’ and ‘What can I get for that?’” she said.
Some other things to consider are:
-- Needs: Do you need kitchen facilities? Do you need a sofa? Do you need a whirlpool tub?
Get a room that fits with what you plan to do while you’re on vacation, White said.
-- Proximity: Staying downtown often is more expensive than staying in an outlying suburb, White said. But if you’re only in town for a weekend, it might be worth your time and money to stay closer to things you want to see and do, she said.
You’ve got to eat, but do you go out for every meal or do you bring some food along?
It’s up to you, White said.
If you’re going to eat out while on vacation, you could adjust your eating schedule to lessen the impact on your wallet, she said. By eating a big breakfast later in the morning and eating a big dinner earlier in the evening, you eliminate the need for lunch, she said.
But if you’re going to alternate between eating out and “eating in,” make sure you’re prepared, White said.
-- How you’ll be traveling: Obviously, bringing food isn’t an option when you’re flying. And you probably can’t pack more than a sandwich, a snack and a bottle of water if you’re taking the train. But you’ve got lots of options if you’re driving.
Just make you’re you pack wisely, White said. Don’t bring too much food because it likely will go to waste, she said.
-- Where you’ll be staying: If you plan to bring food, make sure your hotel room has the appliances you’ll need, such as a refrigerator.