Travel

4 ways to keep your travel budget in check

Photography by ©iStockphoto.com/Yuri_Arcurs Author: Canadian Living Credits: Photography by ©iStockphoto.com/Yuri_Arcurs

Travel

4 ways to keep your travel budget in check

After more than 30 years of driving, flying and taking the train between Toronto and Halifax, I've learned some tricks for trimming travel costs.

I've also realized that saving a few dollars isn't always worth the trade-off of time, convenience and comfort. I'll never again book a kids-travel-free economy train trip, for example, if it means sitting up for two days straight with a six-year-old sprawled across my lap.

If you're planning a family holiday this March break, these tips will keep more money in your pocket without dampening your travel spirit.

1. Join the club
A one-year basic Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) membership ($67 plus HST) lets you save on hotels, rental cars, dining, attractions, gas and shopping. It has bought me peace of mind on long road trips in iffy cars and iffier weather.

My favourite feature, TripTik, lets you map out your route ahead of time, either online or at a CAA store, to save time and money. (You can even find out how to steer around construction sites!) Visit caasco.com.

2. Ease of the gas
Give your vehicle the once-over and take it in for a tune-up before a road trip to ensure everything is running efficiently and to prevent any unexpected – and costly – breakdowns. Adjusting your driving style can also pay off in considerable fuel savings, says Silvana Aceto, spokesperson for CAA South Central Ontario.

Fuel consumption increases once you reach 90 kilometres per hour. Go easy on the accelerator and brakes, and you'll improve your fuel economy by up to 30 percent. To find the cheapest gas while you're on the go, get a free app for your smartphone (I like GasBuddy).

3. Be flexible
Inconvenient flights (think red-eyes and nondirect ones) are almost always cheaper than the more popular mid-afternoon and direct flights. According to a study by FareCompare, the cheapest days to fly are usually Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, since most people book Friday and Sunday flights to squeeze more time out of their vacations.

You might also want to consider flying out of a smaller, less conveniently located airport (such as Hamilton or Buffalo, N.Y., if you live in Toronto; or Bellingham, Wash., if you live in Vancouver), says Hank Oostveen, vice-president of Uniglobe Travel (Western Canada).

4. Use a travel agent
While it's easier than ever to book vacations online, there are still advantages to using an agent. With the inside scoop on unadvertised deals offered by airlines and cruise ships, an agent can get you a better price than you'll find surfing on your own.

"We pick up on cost-saving trends – booking prices are lower on Thursdays, for example, as seats held from earlier in the week get released – because we're always looking in the system," says Christine Turner, a travel agent in Vancouver and owner of thefrugaltravelers.com.



This story was originally titled "Save On Holiday Travel" in the March 2013 issue.

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4 ways to keep your travel budget in check

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