There are other ways to cut costs with your hotel selection. “When traveling with family stay at hotels where kids stay free and/or include breakfast,” Jordan says. “Consider staying in a hotel that offers a kitchenette giving you the option of cooking instead of eating out every night. If your hotel room doesn’t have a kitchenette, ask for a small refrigerator in your room.”
There’s even a way get free accommodations. Do a home swap instead of staying in a hotel. With home swaps, you literally swap homes with another traveler based in your desired destination. You can find homes within the U.S. and internationally. In most cases you will have to join a home exchange organization (for a fee averaging about $100 annually) to receive a listing of available homes and to have your own home listed.
Before swapping, do some research. “Work with a reputable firm. Understand what risks are involved and who is responsible for missing or broken items. Ask for references from families who have used the company,” Jordan says. Among the most popular home swapping organizations are: CHECtravel, INTERVac, HomeLink, and Homeaway.com. Also consider a hospitality exchange in which someone hosts you in their home, and in return, you host them in yours later.
“These exchanges are usually free. For small fees ($25-$100) you can join networks to locate prospective swappers. Other networks like Couchsurfing.com are free of charge,” says Lee. According to her, you can even trade your talent for a free vacation. “There are agencies, such as Toseawithz.com, that book lecturers and presenters for cruise lines,” she explains. “You can also contact the cruise line directly and offer your services in exchange for a free trip.”
Summer on the Sea
Speaking of cruises, this summer many lines charging up to 40 percent less this year than last. Visit websites such as Cruisecritic.com, Cruisemaven.com or Cruise.com for deals. “For an unconventional boating vacation, consider working as a crew member on a yacht in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, Mexico and other exotic locales. Or take a cargo/freight ship to your destination,” says Lee. Check out Crewseekers.net and Freighterworld.com.
When arranging your trip, consider traveling during the slow seasons–spring and fall. Or during the summer, August offers the most deals. When booking online, says Lee, “the best times to shop online for travel bargains are midweek days after midnight.”
Even with a tight budget, you can still have a great vacation. “Many don’t believe they can afford to take a vacation this year,” says Jones-Carswell. “But with planning and putting yourself on a budget, you can get away.”