How to get there?
Okay, so you know where you are going and probably have a rough idea of what you will do, so how will you get there?
There are several options: car, plane, train, bus are the obvious ones, although I suppose you might also be able to share a ride with someone or bike (depending upon the distance). For the average person though it will probably be one of the first four.
Before you decide think about where you are going - how far away it is, and what type of transportation you will need when you are there.
There are advantages (cost and otherwise) to all forms of transportation. You should know based upon your needs and location which is the best form for you, but I'll outline them all:
- Flying: Advantages: quick, great for long distances. Disadvantages: expensive, you are limited on what you can bring along, you'll need transportation when you arrive
- Driving: Advantages: more room, easy (no security lines, parking or ride to the airport, etc.), less expensive than flying. Disadvantages: Will take away from actual vacation time, can be boring for long distances, higher gas prices can hurt, if you visit a city or location where you don't need a car you still may have to pay for parking.
- Train/ Bus: Advantages: less expensive than driving (typically). Disadvantages: at mercy of train/bus schedule, will take more time then flying, you'll still need transportation when you arrive. I rarely take a train or bus, so I don't have a lot of experience for this category.
How I decide whether we drive or fly:
- If we are gone a long time (ex: 24 days in June) and will need transportation we would probably drive - adding the cost of a rental car to plane tickets would be prohibitive. Plus with that long of a vacation a few days of driving are acceptable.
- If it's a quick weekend trip that is more than seven hours away we would probably fly.
- If we are going to a location where we don't need transportation (i.e. large city) we would consider flying (depends upon cost).
- If it's just my husband and myself and it's a quick trip, we might fly - two tickets are a lot less expensive than four and we don't need to take as much stuff.
Some resources to find the best deal:
Flying: I always check at least two websites such as http://www.travelocity.com/<> or http://www.orbitz.com/ Once I get the lowest rate there, I'll go directly to the suggested airline website. Usually you can book the same fare on their website minus the $5 - $10 fee the travel website charges. I also keep a matrix of my airline miles and whenever I have enough for a free ticket I'll look into that option. In week 7 of this series I'll share some ways to get miles without actually ever flying.
Driving: I actually prefer to drive, and I'll usually drive if I can. There are ways to make the trip more fun and we'll talk about that in week 8. If you decide to rent a car (and this will also be useful if you need to rent one after flying somewhere), here is how I get the best rate: First I do a search on one of the travel websites (like Travelocity). I'll check the best rate. Next I go to Priceline and try to name my own price for a MUCH lower price than Travelocity suggested. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't. If it doesn't work then I'll look for coupons - an Entertainment book has typically been my best source. http://www.entertainment.com/ I'll check on rates using the coupons and book the best deal. When renting a car make sure and consider taxes - they can add up quickly.
Here's an example:
Next week we are going to California and need a car. Rates were running about $525 on Travelocity for a full size which is what I like to have to hold the two car seats. I tried Priceline at $20/ day - which would make the price around $200. No luck. So I used my Entertainment coupons and did a bunch of searches on the different companies. At the third company I searched I found the car I wanted for $240. I knew this was a good price based upon my searches on Travelocity/ Expedia/ etc. I went ahead and booked it. Total savings for an hour of my time: $285!!!
Some more great resources for checking rates: