BIG VACATIONS START WITH SMALL SAVINGS
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Vacation - as defined by The American Heritage Dictionary is a period of time devoted to pleasure, rest, or relaxation. With today's busy schedules it can be difficult to find any extra time to get away for a vacation. Doing so without racking up hefty bills is regarded as impossible to many hopeful travelers. With proper planning your vacation can be pleasurable, relaxing and affordable.
Getting there is half the battle. One of the most significant cost factors in any vacation is the transportation expense. By planning ahead you can often save as much as 50% over last minute purchases. Purchasing plane tickets well in advance is a must. Comparison shopping is also recommended. Competition between airlines is fierce, so it's not uncommon for an airline to advertise a very low fare and their competitor to counter-offer with even lower rates. Keep your schedule flexible when it comes to departure and arrival times and days. Traveling off-peak times can add up to substantial savings.
Getting around once you arrive is the other half of the transportation battle. Car rental is a popular and comfortable way to get around on your voyage. Again by taking care of things in advance you can avoid last minute hassles and fees. Many rental agencies will require you to sign a collision damage waiver. The waiver is a form of insurance and can be costly - even more so than the cost of your rental. Check with your car insurance agency and see if it covers rental cars. If you find that you are not currently covered, expand your policy. For only pennies a day you'll be protected whenever you need to rent a car.
Don't think that you are limited to renting a car. Public transportation is an excellent way to see the city and save big. An average bus fare is around $1, compared to a $10 taxi fare. By contacting the visitor's bureau in your destination location you can usually receive a schedule and map of the various routes.
The visitor's bureau can also assist you with lodging and dining facilities that will meet both your needs and your budget.
The next stop on your vacation planning tour is lodging. Remember that luxury is in the eyes of the beholder. Decide what amenities you need and the ones you can live without. A hotel health club with spa and masseuse may be exactly what you've been daydreaming about. However, a traveling family may be more concerned with making sure an indoor pool and in-room refrigerator are available. Travel off season (or even on the weekdays); the money you save can be put towards other areas of your vacation.
Don't forget about entertainment coupon books or various club memberships. Typically there are coupons and discounts available at national hotel chains with savings up to 50%.
By calling the hotels directly and speaking with the reservations department you can often find out about additional packages and savings available. The hotel chain's toll-free 800 number may not offer as much detail.
One luxury I would recommend when choosing your hotel is the continental breakfast. While it may seem small it is one extra that is typically well worth it. Other meals will rapidly eat up your spending money. If you are traveling with a family, hotels frequently offer free children's meals with an adult purchase; this works out well for dinner. Also, a small refrigerator in your hotel room is perfect for sandwiches, fruit and beverages to be eaten throughout the rest of the day.
If you are eating outside of the hotel, ask the bellman instead of the concierge for recommendations. You're likely to receive more economical and less touristy suggestions.
Now for the fun part! There is no end to the tourist attractions that you can partake of. I recommend that you bypass the concierge for the local paper, which lists local events, museums, concerts and shows. Many local events are free and you get a true feel for the local flair.
If you plan to golf keep in mind that tee-times after 4:00 p.m. are reduced significantly. Mid-week theatrical performances can also be discounted. Often times amusement parks offer twilight times. Two-day passes to larger attractions offer big discounts and allow you to move at a slower pace and really enjoy the sites.
Pleasure, rest and relaxation don't come without a little planning. The time you devote to your vacation before you leave will payoff with extra time and enjoyment when your vacation officially begins.