'Centsable' Travel: Vacation on the Cheap

Saving gurus come up with creative ways to keep travel costs down.

ByABC News via logo
May 3, 2010, 7:09 PM

May 14, 2010— -- If you're thinking of taking a vacation this summer -- a real, honest to goodness "away-cation" rather than a staycation -- it may be more affordable than you think.

Two moms who first made a name for themselves by cutting their grocery bills in half, have figured out how to use many of those same strategies -- plus some surprising new ones -- to save big bucks on travel.

We first introduced you to Chrissy Pate and Kristin McKee last year. They were the first to throw coupon parties --kind of like tupperware parties-- only they taught guests all about saving money instead of spending money. Kristin and Chrissy were such a hit on GMA that they were asked to write a book. And now it's out: Be CentsAble: How to Cut Your Household Budget in Half.

The book contains all their great grocery advice, but also unique ways to save on entertaining, gift giving --and, yes, travel! So let's look at travel.

Before you head out on your trip, click here to learn about a free grocery savings workshop Kristin and Chrissy are putting on only for "GMA's" audience.

Travel Tip #1: Investigate the Off Season

It can be as easy as Googling the name of your destination and the words "off season." By doing just that Chrissy, discovered that Disney World has a low season just after Thanksgiving, even though its high season begins the week before Christmas. By scheduling her family vacation for that three-week window, she was able to get $100 airline tickets and a hotel room for $27 per night.

"It makes a big difference," Chrissy said. "By just a couple of weeks you can save a ton of money."

Travel Tip #2: Buy Tickets at Wholesale Clubs

If you're heading for a popular attraction, see if you can buy tickets at wholesale clubs like Sam's or Costco. If the tickets you want aren't available at your local warehouse, check the club's website.

Kristin noticed that Costco sold tickets to Legoland in San Diego, California at a $20 discount per ticket. That was cheaper than buying them from Legoland itself -- and her kids had a great time.

"The fact that just buying tickets for vacation could cover the cost of our annual membership, we were like, 'That's great, we can do that all the time,'" she said.

Additional Web resources:

Travel Tip #3: Rent Vacation Club or Time Share Points

Vacation Club points are good for rooms at resorts and sometimes members can't use up all the points they've paid for. So they're willing to sell them to you for less than face value just to recoup some of their cost.

Chrissy searched for points in online forums and discovered she could get a $250 room at the Disney Animal Kingdom lodge for just $90.

"It's like you have a timeshare, but you're not paying all of the fees associated with a timeshare," Chrissy said.

Additional Web resources:

Travel Tip #5: Rent Vacation Homes Directly

Websites like Vacation Rental By Owner make it easy. Renting vacation homes directly can provide a hefty savings because leasing companies mark up the rental price, often even doubling it. Chrissy and friends once stayed in a 7-bedroom, million-dollar house with every swanky amenity for just $70 a night per family.

"That's nice to know that we're staying in a really nice place but we're paying less than the people who are staying right next door," she said.

Additional Web resources:

Offer less than half of that price for a ticket on Priceline or similar sites.

Don't accept the first counteroffer unless it is about half the lowest fare you saw elsewhere online.

Instead, bid just under the counteroffer.

Repeat this process until you see the lowest fare offered. You'll know you've seen it when you get the same counteroffer more than once.

Throughout the process, note whether taxes and fees are included or not. Sometimes an initial counteroffer doesn't include them but a later one will.

Travel Mid-Week

According to Chrissy and Kristin, airline tickets are often cheaper midweek when leisure travelers are less likely to fly. If you're flexible, experiment with moving your trip dates a few days earlier or later and see what happens price-wise.

Hint: Tuesday and Wednesday seem to be cheapest!

Embrace Airline E-Mails

Set up an extra junk e-mail account just for travel and sign up with every airline you're interested in, Chrissy and Kristin said. Airlines send all sorts of low fare offers and this way they won't clog up your main inbox. Check the travel e-mail account when you're ready to book a trip and see what's there.

Join Hotel Rewards Programs

Lots of leisure travelers make good use of frequent flyer miles, but not as many participate in hotel rewards programs. If you find a chain you like, sticking with it can reap great rewards. Another alternative, websites like Hotels.com offer request guest rewards too, good for any hotel in their portfolio, Chrissy and Kristin said.

Multi-Attraction Passes

According to Kristin and Chrissy, it's often cheaper -- as much as 50 percent off -- to buy passes that get you into multiple attractions in your destination city rather than buying individual tickets for each.

Two websites that sell these passes are:

Free Hotel Shuttles

To avoid the expense of renting a car, you can take public transit in many places. But often the less expensive hotels aren't near a transit station. Solution? Often there is public transportation to the airport. Use the free hotel airport shuttle to get to the airport and jump on the public transportation system from there, Chrissy and Kristen said.