You would be surprised how often companies quote an exorbitant rate right out of the gate, hoping that it will be accepted. Sara Langer from Austin, TX experienced just that. "My husband and I needed a last-minute rental car when traveling to Chicago. Every company we went to said they didn't have any cars available. Finally, we were able to find a company that quoted us $800.00 for a five-day rental. We couldn't afford that, and in desperation I asked if there was anything else they could do. Two seconds later I was quoted a rate for $120.00. I couldn't believe how much I almost got cheated out of. Now I know to never trust the first offer."
Almost every major tourist destination has a peak season and an off-season. During peak season, rates on hotels, car rentals and even attractions can skyrocket because the destination has an influx of potential buyers all vying for a spot. During off-season, vacation spots have a hard time filling up, and often drop prices to stay busy. It's a simple case of supply-and-demand – when the demand decreases and the supply increases, sellers have to drop the prices to stay afloat. If you can travel during off-season, you could save a pretty penny.
If you're more concerned with seeing the world rather than seeing a specific location, look for countries with a good exchange ratio. If the dollar's worth more than the currency in question, you'll get more bang for your buck when paying for amenities, food and attractions.
You may have more fun and get a better deal on your vacation if you plan a detailed itinerary and do a little extra research before you book your trip. VJ Sleight of La Quinta, California planned an African safari this way. "We looked at many different African safari tours and decided on an itinerary we liked, then we added in other things we wanted to do. We couldn't afford the $15,000 tour cost, so I went onto the discussion boards of Frommers and found out which travel agency was working with the tour group whose itinerary we liked. We contacted the travel agency and negotiated a three-week private safari that included everything we wanted for $3,200 including $1,800 airfare. Since it was a private tour, we could stay as long as we wanted at one place or move instead of having to stay with a tour."
Most tourist destinations have popular sightseeing locations and restaurants that charge an arm and a leg for their services. You almost never see these spots frequented by the locals, probably because the locals can't afford them! When traveling, try to get off the beaten track and ask community residents where they like to eat, what they like to do and where they like to go. You may save a lot of money while also enhancing your vacation experience.
Don't miss these tips for traveling like a local >>
Start planning your trip well in advance and play with the dates you intend to travel. If you have some flexibility, you may discover that airfares a week before or after your initial timeframe are actually a lot less expensive. Sites like Kayak, Expedia and Orbitz all offer easy comparison shopping and they often allow you to create vacation packages with airfare, car rental and hotel wrapped together for the ultimate travel deal.
You would be surprised how much easier you can stay within your travel budget by taking advantage of online coupons. While you can do an easy online coupon search, Susan Wilson suggests DestinationCoupons.com. She says, "This site offers downloadable coupons for free, which can save a lot of money in pricey cities. Users don't have to register and there's no shopping cart, so there's no real catch."