Spring Break Budget Tips
The coming of spring means different things to different people. But for my family, spring break always meant one very important thing: Time to travel! Of course, if you're anything like me, your desire to jet off to a new or favorite destination has to be balanced with the realities of your bank account. The good news is you can find tons of ways to travel this coming spring without breaking the bank.
Get a Hotel Room With a Fridge, Microwave
One of the easiest ways to save money during your spring break trip is to cut down on the money spent on food and drinks. There are 2 main ways that my family does this. First, we stay at a hotel with an in-room refrigerator and microwave or, even better, an in-room kitchen. Having some meals prepared in the hotel room can result in substantial savings no matter where your travels take you. When I traveled with my extended family to Disney World in Orlando last year for spring break, we brought a whole bag of cereals, granola bars and boxed juices. That helped keep the cost of breakfast and snacks way down, and easily saved us well over $100.
So whether you stock the hotel fridge with a case of beer or a gallon of milk, purchasing items yourself will be far cheaper than buying them at a restaurant or through room service.
Find Hotels With Complimentary Breakfast, Snacks
I love it when we stay at a hotel that offers both free breakfast and an evening "manager's reception," which may include heavy hors d'oeuvres, such as quesadillas, mini-burgers aka sliders, roasted veggies and chicken satay, as well as free drinks. In a pinch, that can replace dinner altogether!
Some hotels also have what they call "clubs or lounges" that offer food, snacks and drinks throughout the day. You can usually check on the hotel's website to see if they offer a lounge. When in doubt, you can always call the hotel and ask. Many, but not all, Hyatt Regencys, Marriotts and Sheratons have lounges. These lounges can typically be accessed either by having elite status with the hotel or by paying an additional fee. Depending on the fee, that may be another way to save money on food and drinks. (In my family’s case, if the fee is over $30 or $40, it's typically not worth it, though.)
Check Going Rates
If you’ve already reserved your hotel for spring break, make sure you periodically check the going rates for the dates of your reservation. If you have a refundable reservation, you can rebook at a lower rate if you see the rates have dropped for the dates of your stay.
That’s what I found for this upcoming spring break. My toddler and I are headed to Disneyland to meet up with some friends. We originally booked a room at a full-service hotel near Disneyland for about $200 per night, but a few weeks later I noticed the price had dropped by $50 per night. We were able to rebook at the lower rate, and now have more money to go toward requisite Mickey souvenirs -- something a Disney vacation is clearly not complete without!
Last-Minute Hotel & Airline Deals
If you haven’t yet booked your spring break getaway, then you may be able to take advantage of some last-minute specials. One of my favorite websites for eleventh-hour specials is Travelzoo. It has an entire section dedicated soley to last-minute travel deals. However, you will often find that most of those special offers are related to hotel stays instead of airline tickets.
For airline tickets, many of the more affordable tickets often require at least a 14-day advance purchase. So if you haven't yet booked your airline tickets, I would start searching now!
One easy-to-use site for searching low-cost airfare is Kayak. Kayak has a feature called Explore that will let you put in your home city and the month you want to travel. It will then show you the lowest available airline prices to travel to destinations all over the world during that month. If you have a specific destination in mind, Kayak also lets you search specific destinations by "flex month." It will show you the prices to fly between those 2 cities for any day during that month.
We're counting down the days until spring break 2012 -- and still checking the hotel rates daily, just in case they fall even lower. Start doing the same!
Summer Hull is the founder of MommyPoints.com, a site dedicated to helping a community of readers discover how to travel the world at a greatly reduced cost, primarily by taking advantage of current travel promotions and maximizing travel rewards programs. Summer obtained her undergraduate degree from the University of Texas, and her graduate degree from New York University. She is the mother of an equally travel-addicted toddler, and wife to a rather travel-resistant husband.