Friday, April 15, 2011

Two of my favorite things...

Montage of a family's summer vacation activities
...spending less money on something and spending more time travelling.
Several times a year someone asks me for a recommendation to combine those two things.  It seems like we are all getting a little stir crazy these days because the vacation topic has already come up several times recently! I am finally going to try and share all my links and websites here that have been helpful to me, I know there are many many more out there! You might just use these ideas as a starting point and keep searching out more deals! (share them with me if you find any doozies, OK?) This is just a summary of my experiences.

Woman taking a picture while in a taxi cabSeveral years ago I began keeping an eye on Skyauction.com for good travel deals. This is an auction type of site that you need to win your bid in order to actually purchase the certificate.  We have stayed in hotel rooms all over the country, including one between LA and San Fran for $13 a night including breakfast and free WIFI. We have rented condo units several times for a few hundred dollars in the Williamsburg VA area. I have not been successful at finding a good beach rental....yet! Places that have a high amount of timeshares are often a great place to find a deal on Skyauction. I usually proceed as follows:
*Search out the area of our destination on the website map.
*If I find a condo or hotel or tickets that match what I need, I cut and paste the location on Tripadvisor.com to see if it is a reputable and desired place.
*If I am OK with it I also check how much it is going for on Expedia.com and Travelocity.com and other travel websites. Kayak.com and other sites can compare from multiple listings! Now I have an idea of how much I can be willing to bid!
*Once I know how I high I am willing to pay, I subtract the taxes, processing charge, and the service fees that Skyauction will add to the total...now I know my limit for a bid.
Processing Fee — Unless otherwise specified, all auctions are charged a $20 processing fee, which includes applicable shipping costs to US addresses.
*I have found that the best way to win a bid is to wait to bid until just before closing. I write myself a note and when it gets closer I set an alarm to give myself time to log in and be ready to submit my bid.
Be sure you have your dates and locations correct because once you win a bid, it's yours!

With a family of six, condos are the lodging of choice for us.  I often scan the timeshare rental listings that owners post to find good deals for summer vacations. This is usually only practical for a week or more at a time because of the cleaning fee.  VRBO.com and homeaway.com are just a couple of sites to search.  When we went to Orlando a few springs back, we stayed in a house in Kissimmee that slept 10 with 4 bedrooms and baths for $100 a night. Nice to have that room, kitchen and bathrooms to spread out it!

If I am only trying to find a hotel for a short stay I will stick to the links I mentioned in my paragraph about setting a price for an auction bid. However, before I go ahead and reserve a room through Expedia, Travelocity or another site, I first search for a coupon code. In other words, I literally google " Expedia Coupon code" and link up to a coupon site like Couponcabin.com or Retailmenot.com . This way I am almost always fortunate enough to find a code to add in at check out to take another percentage of the price off. Every little bit helps.

I hope someone is able to find this helpful and save a few bucks on a fabulous vacation. When we ask the kids about favorite times or memories so many of them are from vacations that we have had together!

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