When people ask for my advice about getting travel deals, they usually focus on finding the best airfare. While getting a good fare is important, there are other travel costs to consider, such as how much your hotel stay will cost, how much a car rental will be, and how much you’ll pay for parking.
When looking at hotel rates, remember: The more expensive the hotel, the more incidentals will cost.
Saving on food
Look for room specials with free breakfast; hotel breakfasts can cost $20 per person. When I’m traveling with the family, I usually stop by the local supermarket for soda and snacks on my way to the hotel so we don’t pay for the mini-bar or room service. One soda from the mini-bar can cost $5.
Another way to save on food costs is to look at condo-style hotels and chains that offer kitchenettes. You can save a bundle on food by making your own and having your own snacks available day and night.
If you go somewhere by car, you’ll have to find a parking space once you get to your destination, and it won’t be cheap. You really don’t need a car when you visit cities such as New York, San Francisco, Boston, Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas because of the good public transportation options. For example, if you stay on the Strip in Las Vegas, you can ride the Deuce bus for $8 per day.
Europe has great public transportation systems, so you can see a lot without the expense of a car. If you hate paying $3.50 for a gallon of gasoline in the U.S., you really won’t like paying $9 per gallon in Europe. To save even more on public transportation, get multiday passes and discounts for seniors and students.
If you do need a car for a few days, weekend rates are often much cheaper than weekdays, so keep that in mind when planning your trip.
We looked at the price for a one-week car rental in San Francisco in July; the cheapest rate we found was $331 for a compact car. If you stayed at a hotel downtown, you could pay $53 or more per day for parking, which adds up to another $371, plus tax. You’d be paying more than $700 for that car.
Instead of renting for the week, take the BART train to downtown San Francisco. If you do need a car for the day to go to Sonoma or Napa Valley, see what the rate is at the hotel, or call for a rental.
Choosing an airport
If you are going to take a taxi from the airport, you can save by choosing an airport that is closer to your hotel.
A friend of mine came to Dallas and stayed downtown. He spent $70 each way on a taxi from Dallas/Fort Worth Airport to the hotel. He could have paid less than half that if he had flown into Love Field.
Many of us concentrate on finding the best airfare, which is important, but as you can see, doing a little extra homework on your hotel, car rental and transportation also can shave a lot of money off your travel expenses.
Tom Parsons is CEO of bestfares.com: firstname.lastname@example.org