Traveling on a budget doesn’t mean you have to compromise on comfortable accommodations and decent flight times. In fact, savvy travelers already know how to maximize their travel budget and take advantage of low prices on travel packages, airline tickets, and other travel-related expenses. Planning ahead will usually give you the upper hand when it comes to playing the vacation-booking game, and there are several tricks and tactics you can use to slash those costs even further. Whether you’re dreaming of a trip to the Bahamas or looking to book an overseas adventure, make sure you’re aware of all of the different deals, discounts, and specials available to your destination of choice.
Here are 11 tips to help you slash travel costs with ease:
1. Fly in to Alternate Airports
Don’t overlook the opportunity to fly in to an alternate airport when you are heading to a major city or other hub with multiple airports. Flights to alternate airports can end up being slightly less expensive than flying into a larger, international airport in the same city. In some cases, you might also be closer to your final destination and be able to skirt traffic. Just make sure to calculate taxi fares from all airports, so you aren’t paying extra for ground transportation when flying in to an alternate airport.
2. Book and Fly on the Right Day of the Week
Shop for airfare on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, says Travelzoo’s Senior Editor Gabe Saglie. Most airlines publish their sale fares on Tuesday—this is when competition to match those fares begins each week. You’re also likely to find a better deal when you fly on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday. This might mean you have to wait a few days to secure that vacation package, but you could end up saving a significant amount of money on those airline tickets.
3. Book Group Travel with a Rewards Card
Earn bonus miles when booking a group trip by paying for travel expenses using a travel rewards credit card. The best travel rewards card program will allow you to earn extra miles under your own account, and you can have the group members pay you directly in cash for their portion of the trip. Buying airline tickets with a rewards credit card is a smart move for most—especially if you travel frequently and are planning on taking another trip in the near future.
4. Plan Ahead for Holiday Weekends
Holiday weekends will be among the priciest times to fly, so unless you’re heading to a destination specifically to celebrate the holiday, steer clear of those long weekend trips to save some money. The weekend before or after a major holiday weekend usually commands lower rates and fares.
5. Seek Out Off-Peak Deals
Do your homework to find out which destinations are currently in their off-peak season. You’ll find that many destinations around Europe have very attractive package deals during the spring and early summer months. Traveling during the off-peak season could save you up to 50 percent or more off your entire vacation package.
6. Keep Your Passport Up-to-Date
Don’t wait until the last minute to update your passport information if it’s expired. The application process can take up to six weeks and you’ll need to pay a set of fees for the service. If you’re an avid traveler, make sure your passport never gets too close to the expiry date before you request a renewal.
7. Subscribe to Deal Sites
Groupon Getaways, Travelzoo, and LivingSocial Escapes are just three of the leading travel deal sites that will keep you in the know about the latest deals and discounts. You can also sign up for free membership-only sites like Jetsetter or Spire to get exclusive, pre-negotiated rates at many luxury hotels and travel packages around the country.
8. Learn to Pack Properly
Overpacking can lead to extra checked baggage fees, so make sure you’re packing only what you really need. If you’re planning an extended stay trip, get quotes from shipping service providers that will be able to ship and pick up your items at your destination of choice. In some cases, shipping your belongings instead of carrying them in a suitcase will end up being less expensive.
9. Negotiate Hotel Rates
If you can’t find great deal on a hotel and flight package through a third-party travel site, consider calling the hotel or resort directly and inquiring about the best available deals. Sometimes the rates extended by the hotel end up being lower than rates published online. Hotels may need to fill rooms at the last minute and some will be open to negotiating a rate or package deal.
10. Research Ground Transportation Options
Don’t wait until you arrive at the airport to figure out how you are going to get from the airport to your hotel or resort. Research taxi service providers and rental car companies before you leave so you can negotiate a rate or book a great deal. Waiting until you arrive won’t give you any time to compare prices, so you’ll end up just paying any price as you go.
11. Look for Freebies and Deals at Your Final Destination
Search like a local for free attractions in the area, free events you could participate in, and free guided tours that may be available at different venues throughout the town or city you’re visiting. Keeping activity costs low means you can spend more on a great meal and splurge on other travel expenses if you want to. You could also check out the daily deal sites at the city you’re visiting to see what types of discounts may be available for local activities, events, and dining destinations. Consider buying a “city pass” or similar activity card that lets you visit several attractions for one low price. Save even more with a discount that reduces the ticket prices of some of the most popular attractions in the city.
Sabah Karimi is a travel deals expert for Wise Bread and a regular contributor for Yahoo!.