All year long you follow commonsense money practices. You avoid outrageous charges. You hunt for the best buys. You expect retailers to please you or you take your business elsewhere.

Then, you go on holiday, and sometimes throw away money.

What happens to otherwise money smart people when they go on vacation?

I think many of us unconsciously believe that, since we have been sensible most of the year in spending and saving, that it is o.k. to spend money like a federal bureaucrat or a New York City government administrator doing his or her best drunken sailor, out on the town, imitation. believes that Moneysense is a 100 percent, 24-hour a day, proposition. That we should never throw away money, even when we are spoiling ourselves, giving ourselves some of the luxuries that we have earned. Indeed, it is precisely because one doesn’t waste money, that one will be able to afford more of the good things in life.

Here a series of commonsense travel saving tips, many of which I have culled from travelling with mi mujer, the ever-comely Suzanne Hall. She is a mechanic for a major airline. She has saved us a small fortune over 29 years of marriage and many viajes. These commonsense practices allowed us to take more trips to Madrid to Paris to Montreal to New Mexico and countless other places. They were all enjoyable trips in part because we knew we were not overpaying. And the latter allowed us to take more trips because we didn’t overpay on the previous trips.

Shop Around

We never book at a hotel directly and pay premium prices. We go to various websites and visit them several times booking a trip. Owing to intense price competition for the travel dollar, there are hotels, good ones, that will give you deals through various third parties. These are websites that look for bargains. Sometimes they make deals with hotels that can payoff big for you. Shop around and devote a fair amount of time to bargain hunting. Don’t stop with

Buy Straw Hats in the Winter

Can you take your dream vacation in the offseason? Can you avoid end of year holiday periods, when inevitably one reads or hears stories about travelers stranded at overcrowded airports for a variety of reasons, often beyond anyone’s control.

Staying home during peak period often means ducking holiday crowds. These crowds often delay flights and cause all sorts of travel snafus. Going in the off-peak season means you could be bidding for a room that a hotel desperately needs to move in the offseason. Consequently, many top hotels are ready to discount. It is only logical. When no one or few people will buy your product, it makes sense to cut its price in half or by a third. For instance, who goes to Montreal and the rest of la belle province of Quebec in the winter? We just did and had a wonderful time. Oh, and we stayed in a first class hotel near St. Catherine Street, a prime shopping street in downtown Montreal. We paid just $500 for four nights. That was some deal. In the high season, we would have paid double or more that rate.

Plan Ahead

The longer you can plan ahead, the more likely you are to get deep discounts from hotels, eager to get their rooms occupied as quickly as possible. Just as we saved 50 percent or better from going in the off-peak period, so, too, some of those discounts are available for those who can make long term commitments.

Access the Benefits of Economies of Scale

Are you a member of an association such as the AARP? Do you work for a big company, with lots of buying power? Are you a member of a professional association? Are you travelling to a conference or some professional event? In all of these cases, discounts could be available. Ask and you might be amazed at how much you can get off.

Don’t Throw Away Money Just Because You’re on Holiday

I see people on vacation or on company trips doing this almost everytime I go to Manhattan: I see otherwise sensible people throwing away money. Maybe they figure it is only company money or because they tell themselves that when they’re on vacation there’s no harm in spending like the United States government outrageously overpaying for screwdrivers and bathroom seats. No matter where the waste is, it stinks. Why throw money away? People take cabs in clogged Manhattan and pay small fortunes for renting a car to get stuck in traffic. They could have walked or, God forbid, used the wretched state run New York City subways and saved a bundle. Avoid 10 cabs on a trip at an average cost of $20 a trip and you have saved $200. That’s not chickenfeed. By the way, walking costs you nothing and, depending on where you walk, probably improves your health. And the egregious New York City subways are about $3 a ride.

Montreal on the Cheap

By the way, on our recent trip to Montreal, we skipped the cabs to and from the airport. We took an express bus into town. But no the bus didn’t let us off at the hotel as the cab would have. The bus let us off two blocks from the hotel. The bus also let us off close to where we wanted to go on our return trip. Savings from not paying for two cab rides and taking the bus? About $50.

Do You Know Someone Who Works for the Airlines?

If you know someone who works for an airline, he or she might get you a buddy pass. And that could allow you to fly standby. Now the standby game has its pluses and minuses—minus, if the flight is full with paying passengers, then you are stranded waiting for the next flight—but there is no debating that, under the right circumstances, going standby can save you a lot of money. Think about it and consider if it is possible to get standby benefits from a friend.

Incidentals and Avoiding Spending Traps

The hotel will deliver or put in your room all sorts of drinks and snacks that almost always are available outside at a fraction of the cost. So why pay $10 for a bottle of water that is available downstairs at a convenience store for a buck and a half?

Once, when we were in Boston many years ago on a wonderful trip, as we were checking out, the clerk pushed me to sign off on our bill. I slowed him and read over the bill. The clerk seemed flustered when I asked about the parking fee. “Well, it’s only $20,” he explained. “Are you sure I have to pay it?” I asked. “Certainly,” he replied. Then I told him, “Well this doesn’t sound right to me since I don’t have a car.” The parking fee was removed. And I went over the bill again, looking for incidental charges.

When on holiday, have a good time but don’t suspend your powers of reasoning. They helped you get the money that allowed you to go on holiday and go on many others.


Gregory Bresiger
Gregory Bresiger

Gregory Bresiger is an independent financial journalist from Queens, New York. His articles have appeared in publications such as Financial Planner Magazine and The New York Post.