The book The Cheapskate Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of Americans Living Happily Below Their Means says the following about the best way to save on vacation expenses:
When you travel is undoubtedly the biggest factor influencing how much you'll pay. Off-season travel is usually when you'll find the best bargains (and smallest crowds.) But if you're not able to travel off-season, even a day or two difference can save you mucho dinero on airfares, hotels, rental cars, and travel packages.
I have found this to be true time and time again -- that if you can "go against the flow" and travel when no one else is, you'll save a boatload of money and hassle/time.
Now of course many people can't do this because they have work commitments and/or kids in school. This is one advantage of homeschooling your kids (as we do). They can go anytime without "missing" school. We simply double up assignments in preparation for vacations. In addition, we generally start the school year 10 days before the school system and we don't take as many breaks (for instance, the day after Thanksgiving was a school day for us and we don't take a two-week break at Christmas -- just one week.) Anyway, this gives us a lot of flexibility to cash in on some great travel deals. For instance:
- We went to Chicago in September. We went on days where the museums were free. I used hotel points to pay for one day of our stay, the rest was discounted due to the days we were there. And the kids didn't miss school -- they got an extra dose as we visited the Shedd Aquarium and the Museum of Science and Industry (my favorite!).
- When we went to Disney (no school benefit this trip, but here's what we did), we saved a ton on hotels (we got a three-bedroom condo that was fabulous for something like $80 per night) and airfare by going when we did (in September.) We also avoided the notoriously large crowds at Disney. We usually walked onto all the rides (no waiting!). But on one ride we had to wait 15 minutes or so. The kids were complaining, "Why's it taking so long!!!" Ha! If they only knew!!!!
- We're tentatively planning a trip to Hawaii next fall. We were thinking of going in January, February, or March, but we read a book saying that the best time to go to Hawaii was when the weather was at its best there (though it's always "good") which was July through October. So we're now thinking of going in October, which happens to be a non-peak month. That said, we may push it back a bit since October is still nice here and we'd like to go when it's cold. So possibly early December will strike a balance for us.
How about you? Anyone else out there saved a ton of money by traveling at a non-peak time?