My husband and I both love to travel and come from families that have done a lot of traveling throughout our childhoods and adult lives, so travel has been something of a priority for us from the beginning.
But you also know that I am so ridiculously cheap (my husband would kindly say "frugal"), that I am determined to make our vacations cost as little as possible.
1. Fly Southwest. I wish I was getting paid to say this because I love some free plane tickets, but I'm not. I just really love Southwest. There is no charge to cancel your tickets (even up to the day of), which means you can book your tickets well in advance even if there is a possibility that you'll need to change your dates. When we were going to visit Kayla a few years ago for spring break and her husband suddenly came down with the flu, we canceled our tickets the night before and weren't out a dime.
Also, if the price of the tickets on your flight goes down after you've purchased them, you can get a refund of the difference either by calling in or doing it yourself online.
Not to mention that if they ask for volunteers to be bumped, Southwest offers more money than I've ever seen another airline offer (usually $200-$300 per person, plus the cost of your flight refunded).
Flying Southwest saves me the stress of worrying that something will make us have to cancel our trip and then be out a lot of money or trying to time my purchase at exactly the right moment to get the best price.
2. Plan where you're going to eat. I am always open to changing my plans and going to a great little restaurant we're passing by, but I find few things as stressful as aimlessly searching for somewhere to eat that will be worth my food dollars. Instead, I do my research at home so that I k now where I want to eat in the areas we'll be in during meal times and know what the prices are. Then I'm not shocked by how much our dinners suddenly cost us.
3. Use Priceline to book a hotel. I've talked about Priceline before and how to bid for a hotel. Since hotels are usually one of the biggest expenses of a trip, saving $100 or more a night can really add up. You can stay in a nice hotel in a good area of town and not pay a fortune to do so. When my parents were here a few weeks ago, I got them a hotel on Priceline for $60 a night. At the front desk, they upgraded to a suite for $5 a night. A large daily breakfast was included. They were 8 minutes from my front door.
4. Stay with friends. This is the kind of thing I wouldn't have loved doing before I married my husband. When we went to San Francisco a few years ago, he suggested that I ask a friend from study abroad if we could stay with her and her husband for two nights (we were planning to stay in a hotel the other two nights downtown). Not only did this save us several hundred dollars, but staying with them ended up being perhaps the highlight of our trip - we loved getting to know them better, going to church with them, and enjoying a few meals together. We treated them to breakfast on morning we left (I still remember those pancakes with a watering mouth) and got them a gift certificate for a store in the city, but it was still considerably cheaper and far more fun to stay with them than in a hotel.
5. Ask someone local about discounts. If anyone had called me up in Boston prior to a trip, I would have told them about the library passes that make it free or significantly cheaper to get into local museums, aquariums, parks, and zoos and been happy to reserve them a few. Most cities have some sort of program for reduced pricing that you just might not know about. If you're a student, be sure to take along your ID so that you can take advantage of student admission at various places. Check if there are certain days or nights that are free or discounted. If you are willing to arrange your schedule around times that are less expensive, you can save yourself a considerable amount of money.