Travel

Five Money-Saving Travel Resolutions to Make

Vow to take these steps to get more bang for your travel buck.

Traveling can be expensive -- but it doesn't have to be. There are a multitude of ways to keep costs down when you're on the road, in the air or on the high seas. So if you plan to travel this year, here are five resolutions you should make to make your getaways more affordable.

Never pay full price for a hotel. There are a slew of Web sites and mobile apps devoted to helping travelers score discounted rooms. These sites also make it easy to compare rates at several hotels. So start your search for a room at sites such as GetaRoom, Hipmunk, Hotels.com, Last Minute Travel or Priceline. Then go directly to hotels' sites to see if they're offering discounts of their own -- such as advanced-booking discounts for rooms booked at least two weeks in advance of a stay. If you're booking a room at the last minute, take advantage of flash sales at sites such as Expedia and EveryLodge.com, which shows deals from several flash sale sites. See How to Get the Best Deal on a Hotel for more tips. You also can join hotels' loyalty programs to earn points every time you stay at their properties that can be redeemed for free nights. All of the major hotel chains have programs, and Stash Hotel Rewards offers members who stay at any of the nearly 200 participating independent inns, resorts and boutique hotels the ability to earn points for free nights. Or sign up for a hotel-branded rewards credit card to earn points when you make everyday purchases that can be redeemed for free stays. See our picks for hotel rewards cards that pay.

Earn free flights. Think only the most-frequent of fliers earn enough miles for free flights? Think again. You can quickly rack up points for free flights without even hopping on a plane if you take advantage of a travel rewards credit card that offers thousands of miles when you sign up for an account and use that card for everyday purchases to rack up more miles. You’ll earn points toward free flights faster through a travel rewards cards that isn’t tied to a particular airline, according to a study by MileCards.com. That’s because travel rewards cards attach a higher point value to most purchases than the airline-branded cards do. A few to consider are the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Amex EveryDay Card and Capital One Venture Rewards. The CardFinder tool at MileCards.com can help you find the best travel rewards card based on your spending habits and where you want to travel. See How to Earn Airline Miles Without Flying for strategies to earn points for free flights.

Keep costs down on cruises. Timing is everything when it comes to getting a deal on a cruise. For example, by booking a Caribbean cruise for January, February or March, you can take advantage of lower fares, avoid the holiday crowds and beat the spring break rush. The industry's “wave season” also takes place during that time, when cruise lines offer added discounts that may help you save even more on your trip. You also can score some of the best cruise deals if you book at the last minute -- just don't expect the really cheap tickets to get you a stateroom with a view. For more ways to keep costs down, see 5 Steps to Get the Best Deal on a Cruise.

Avoid fees. Your savings from getting a good deal on a flight or accommodations can quickly be wiped out if you don't watch out for the multitude of fees airlines and hotels charge. You're probably well aware that most airlines charge $25 or more per checked bag -- Southwest is the only major airline that lets you check two bags for free. And some airlines, including Spirit Airlines, charge a fee for carry-on bags. There are a multitude of other fees, and, often, the best way to increase your chances of avoiding them is by being aware that they exist. Here are six costly airline fees and eight pesky hotel fees you may be able to dodge.

Take advantage of freebies. One of the best ways to save money on trips is to take advantage of all the free products and services available to travelers. For example, several hotel chains including Country Inn & Suites, Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express offer free breakfast and some even offer free light dinners. You can take free tours through the Global Greeter Network. And you can get free admission to national parks several days throughout the year. For more, see Fabulous Travel Freebies.

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