How to save money on your next vacation

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Don't want to waste money on your next vacation? Travel expert Heather Greenwood-Davis reveals the savings tips you need to know!

When it comes to booking the flight…
Instead of trying to remember to buy your ticket 47 days in advance on a Tuesday, get an agent. Seriously. If the trip is complicated, risky or non-negotiable, don’t futz around online playing Russian roulette with your travel plans, because when you need the help, you won’t have anyone to turn to. Take some time to find an agent that you like who understands your family’s needs and budget. The benefits – which can include access to deals before they are posted – might be a huge benefit to your wallet. 


When it comes to accommodations…
Opt for a vacation rental instead of a hotel. There are so many options for this now. From private rentals to companies like VRBO.com to booking companies like Air BnB, this is going to save you money in a bunch of ways. You’ll pack less because you may have access to a washer and dryer, you’ll likely get deeper into the community you’re visiting with trips to the local shops and markets and you can often bring your pets! Other options include housesitting (check out trustedhousesitters.com) and home swapping – and if you’ve got your heart set on a fancy hotel experience, do it for a few nights, just not the entire vacation. 


When it comes to dining…
Do your research! Yelp and Google are your friends in finding the must-try spots in your destination. Budget for great meals at restaurants you’re dying to try, then keep your other meals to simple fueling stops. Visit a market or grocery store early in the trip to stock up on fruits, granola bars and other easy last-a-week snacks that can work as breakfast for most mornings, but be realistic about whether you’ll be able to come home for dinner each night or if your planned activities mean you’ll need to eat out. There’s no point in doing a great grocery run to last a week and then not being home to eat it. Also remember that grocery stores aren’t just for groceries! Head to the prepared food aisle and salad bar stations for great, cheap eats then take it to a park and picnic outdoors.


When it comes to activities…
Find the free! The key is to do your research ahead of time. Look for museums and attractions that offer free admission – either all of the time or at certain hours of the day. Want to see a Broadway play? If you’re flexible on what you see and don’t mind waiting in line, you can likely get discount tickets the day of.  And don’t forget the stuff that is always free! In most places getting out into the fresh air, either by visiting a beach or park, doesn’t cost you anything at all. If packages like CITYPASS exist, they can be a great way to challenge yourself to do more while also saving you money, but be realistic and do the math – if time and interest will likely only allow you to use a portion of the pass, consider its value carefully.


When it comes to exchanges rates/fees…
Keep it simple! My favourite hack is to set up a system for the currency you use the most. Always travel to the US? Start a US bank account and get a US Visa. Pay the visa with the account. Voila, no currency exchange fee.  Keep ATM withdrawals to a minimum and understand how fees work.  Ditto with using your debit card/credit card in foreign places. Sometimes the vendor charges a fee to cover their costs for dealing with a certain company. Know before you spend. 


For more from Heather, follow her on Twitter @GreenwoodDavis or visit her website, Globetrottingmama.com
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