Cheap Flights, Expensive Destinations: How to Cut Costs on Future Trips

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Cheap Flights, Expensive Destinations

There are still two things would-be adventurers can do during the Great Travel Pause of the coronavirus era: 1.) Dream, and 2.) Plan for future trips. Say you’re dreaming of London but you run into the classic ‘cheap flights, expensive destinations’ problem: You found a great deal to New York City or London, but you know hotels and restaurants in those cities will be pricy. Here’s how to cut overall costs on any vacation trip in big ways and small.

Find a cheap flight

To find a cheap flight, you must use a multi-airline airfare search site because no single carrier always has the best deal. If you are open to flying during a certain month or season, and are flexible enough to that, use a selective search tool like FareCompare Deals to see the very cheapest fares of the year.

Find a cheap destination

Now, pick the right destination and if you have your heart set on a particular city or region, fine, that’s where you should go. But if you’d like travel someplace cheap – but still wonderful – some suggestions: Boston, Denver, Ft. Lauderdale Puerto Rico, Cancun, Dublin, London, Madrid and Paris. The FareCompare Deals tool is also great for locating cheap destinations from departure cities all over the world. Note: What’s cheap one year, may go up in price the next, and vice versa.

Tip: Don’t miss these previous “World’s Most Popular Destinations”

Find a cheap alternate destination

What if your heart is set on visiting a city that doesn’t have super-cheap airfare? For example, you want to see Florence, Italy; so fly into the bigger city of Rome which is generally cheaper, then head to your real destination on one of Europe’s many cheap airlines (such as Easyjet and Ryanair) or travel on one of Europe’s cheap trains. And as long as you’re going to Rome and Florence, might as well see Venice, too, right? Bottom line: Save money by flying to the largest city with a big airport near your final destination, then drive, fly or get on a bus or train to your ultimate destination.

Tip: More alternative vacation destinations

Save on hotels

If it’s expensive to stay in many of the hotels at your destination, try these savings tips:

Compare hotel prices: Just as you do with airfare, go to a hotel/motel comparison search site and look for deals (you can compare both airfares and hotel room rates on FareCompare).
Sign up with favorite chain: Hotel/motel membership associations often offer discounts.
Credit card offers: Some cards give points for flights and hotels. If yours doesn’t, it might be worth switching or adding a card, but watch out for annual membership fees.
Alternative lodgings: Hotels aren’t the only places to stay and Airbnb isn’t the only alternative lodging; this list of vacation rentals including Flipkey, Homestay and more. Note: FareCompare provides this information solely as a convenience and does not endorse any products.
Airline package deals: Some airlines offer discounts on flight+hotel deals; find these on airline websites and hear about them on social media.
Friends and family: Never hurts to ask if friends or family can put you up, right? But ask early in case others are thinking of doing the same thing!

Save on dining

These tips can help you save on dining whether your destination is cheap or expensive.
Free breakfast: If the price of your room includes a morning buffet, take advantage of it. Have a big breakfast, and see if you’re allowed to walk out with a piece of fruit or two (many dining places are fine with this). That might be all you’ll need for lunch, so all you’ll pay for is dinner.
Other ways to save: Put together your own meals; stop at a store for cheese, crackers and deli meat to eat in a pretty park or at the beach. If your hotel or B&B has a small refrigerator and/or kitchenette, make a quick grocery run for simple breakfast, lunch and dinner items when you arrive.

Save on attractions

Don’t pay full price for attractions without checking for savings, first.

Official tourism websites: Go to the official tourism site for your destination; these sometimes offer deals and coupons for big attractions.
National Park deals: Many visitors can get discounts on entry fees to U.S. national parks; look here to see if you qualify.
Theme parks: Follow parks on social media and check park websites and fan-sites (Disney has several), which can sometimes give a heads-up on special offers. Local residents should keep an eye out for deals just for them, such as Disneyland’s SoCal Residents discount.

Anne McDermott
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