Itching to explore? We’ve got some hot insider tips and tricks that can reduce hassles and costs while maximizing your travel experience. Here are seven ways that living like a local, price checking like an accountant, and shopping like a foodie can snag you the best vacation ever.
Fly into Alternate Airports
Most major destinations are served by more than one airport. Flying into a less popular one can result in cheaper tickets, says Natalie Bahadur, a Toronto-based frequent flyer. “Expedia.ca offers the option to search for the nearest alternate airports. If you’re heading to Los Angeles, for example, try Burbank and Long Beach,” rather than the city’s hub, LAX, says Bahadur. Another added perk of quieter airports? Shorter check-in and security lines, and less waiting around at the baggage carousel.
Try U.S. Travel Sites
Given recent exchange rates, it may be cheaper to book American. For example, a recent search on Expedia.ca yielded a price of C$1,417 for a one-week flight/hotel/breakfast package* from Toronto to the Caribbean hotspot Roatan, Honduras, while a search on Orbitz.com yielded a comparable deal for US$1,046, which worked out to C$1,101 at the then-current exchange rate. The savings: C$632 per couple! (And less money upfront means more money to spend on the ground, right?)
Don’t Assume All-Inclusive is the Way to Go
Booking a room-only or breakfast-only package-and buying lunch and dinner a la carte-can be better than an American-style, three-meals-daily package. Resort meal plans are marked up and predictable. Yet once you’ve bought in, you may sweat at the idea of dining outside the resort at an additional charge. Avoid that trap and give yourself the freedom to eat at the same restos as locals. This will give you a more authentic travel experience.
Use Public Transportation to Save Time and Money
Most city taxis are ridiculously priced,” says John DiScala, Los Angeles-based blogger of JohnnyJet.com. On average, DiScala takes 20 trips annually and is on the road 200 days a year. When possible, take public transit from the airport to your hotel. For example, the London-Heathrow express train takes just 15 minutes to get from airport to city and costs under 20 pounds. By contrast, “A taxi costs about 70 pounds and takes 40 minutes,” reports DiScala.
Rent a Car for Adventure Travel
When you’re in a gorgeous, expansive destination-such as Baja California Sur, Mexico, which includes Cabo San Lucas, San Jose Del Cabo, Todos Santos, Cabo Pulmo, and La Paz-wheels are essential for intrepid discovery. A rental makes desert ATV tracks, horseback riding, surf breaks and other can’t-miss attractions accessible on your own timeline, with as much gear as you care to tote-and it’s cheaper than what you’d pay for an organized tour on cramped bus.
Eat Smart, Explore and Save
Look for ways to pare down your order in pricey restaurants and you can avoid that dreaded “Are we about to run out of money?” panic attack that typically kicks in on day five of a week-long trip. “Don’t order an appetizer. Don’t drink a lot of booze,” says DiScala. Also, cover more ground by spreading out your refreshment venues. “Have dessert at a café or gelato stand, instead of at the dinner restaurant,” suggests DiScala. You’ll see more of the city and decisions about where to go for dinner will be less fraught.
Hit the Market
Much like perusing the local newspaper, visiting a market gives context to a foreign country. Even the smallest villages tend to have a weekly open-air market (often on Saturday mornings), while in larger towns and cities, expect additional market days, as well as big supermarkets. Markets also yield amazing, wallet-friendly souvenirs. Think artisanal sea salt, local spices or sauces, and regional oils and vinegars. Edible gifts are almost always appreciated, saving you the stress of finding the “perfect” gift for each person on your list. The best part is they cost a fraction of what you’d pay for cheaply made, marked-up tchotchkes at a tourist shop!