by Carmel L. Mooney
I often get asked the same questions both on my radio show and on TV, about the best ways to save money when traveling.
Here are a few of my most common, recent questions and what I tell my listeners and viewers.
Q: What are some tricks to finding the best family travel deals?
A: Be resourceful. Look at different media and use a combination of sources:
- Guidebooks, internet, newspapers.
- If you are cruising or traveling to an exceptionally popular destination, consider traveling in the fall or on the cusp of a season, when rates tend to be lower.
- Be willing to cruise at the last minute, when fares are sometimes the lowest, and from a drivable embarkation port.
- Consider shorter, less expensive cruise itineraries of under a week where you can travel for less per day than it costs to stay home. Also, Carnival offers a new pricing promotion called Early Saver with a price protection feature so if the price drops, you are provided a cruise credit.
Q: What are some ways families can travel on a shoestring or even for free?
A: We enjoy taking in local events which tend to be very inexpensive – things like local fundraising dinners, local fairs, crab feeds, swap meets or flea markets, free outdoor concerts, and festivals. These are great places to pick up local art for pennies on the dollar, an opportunity to eat local food, and to meet and mingle with locals who offer great tips and suggestions. You really get a feeling for an area by doing what the locals do and it tends to cost a lot less than the typical packaged tourist activities.
From a shoestring perspective, consider hiking, camping, bicycling, and kayaking for sightseeing. Also, get away from the big cities. For example, when visiting San Antonio or Austin many tourists might miss magical Sequin, Texas about an hour away and far more affordable. Or visitors to Montana might make the mistake of staying in the bigger cities and miss the true gem of Red Lodge or some of the real historic working guest ranches like the Runamuk in Roundup. The real gems are often outside of the cities and are usually less expensive than big-city destinations.
On a separate note, individuals or families can literally travel for free to Europe by teaching conversational English to the locals for one week, through VaughanTown.
Q: What are some tips for planning the perfect family vacation?
A: Much like writing a book or a story, create a theme for your trip. Plan your trip around one or two preferred activities or interests that will be the main thread or theme of your trips – such as golfing, tennis, theme parks, museums, sailing, and kayaking. Make those activities the focal point for planning your trip or destination and then build from there.
Let your children have an active role or contribution to the planning process.
Q: Is there a best time to lock in cheap airfare?
A: The sooner the better; more than two months in advance if possible. But some carriers offer services where you can sign up for alerts (even last minute) on specials from your home airport
Q: What are some of the top destinations for US travel?
A: For domestic travel, familiar places like Southern California, Lake Tahoe, Orlando, Las Vegas, the Canyonlands of Utah and Arizona, New Orleans, Alaska, Washington DC, Hawaii, New York, The Florida Keys, still tend to be hot destinations. But it’s so important to remember the less commercialized yet spectacular spots like Sedona, San Antonio, Galveston, Golden Islands of Georgia, Carolina Low Country, The Badlands and Dakotas, Wyoming and Montana and their outstanding guest ranches, and the Creole Nature Trail of Louisiana, just to name a few.
Q: What are some of the top destinations for international family travel?
A: Outside of the continental US, the Caribbean, The West Indies, The Bahamas, Mexico, Spain, and Italy continue to be very popular.
Q: What are some of the travel trends emerging that you have noticed?
A: Airlines seem to be expanding and lots of new flights and non-stops are being added. Cruise prices are rock bottom and most major cruise lines are adding new ships and new itineraries. Multi-generational travel and cruising are hotter than ever.
Due to the stresses of the economy and the growing trend towards health consciousness, more destinations are adding full spas, and restaurants, hotels, and resorts at major destinations are making a move toward healthy, local, and sustainable food choices.
Carmel L. Mooney is a mom, travel columnist, author and radio talk show host. She is the editor of Road Trips for Couples.