DealNews Pros Share the Best Secrets to Cheaper Travel

Whether you're checking in for your flight or your hotel, always ask for an upgrade!
save money on travel

The summer vacation season is upon us! Here at DealNews, we pride ourselves in being money-saving experts — and that expertise extends to finding the best travel deals. Read on for the top travel tips and tricks from our team.

How to Save on Amusement Parks and Other Attractions

Buy an annual pass
"I have so many national parks and federal recreation areas around me that I find it best to buy an annual pass that gets you into all of them rather than paying for each individual trip. You can also travel with a senior citizen, and if they're charging by the car, you'll get the senior discount." -Andy Frank, Deals Staff Writer

As long as you plan to spend 10 days a year in the Disney parks, an annual pass is cheaper.

"As long as you plan to spend 10 days a year in the [Disney] parks, an annual pass is cheaper. Plus you get food and merchandise discounts. And if you drink, it's worth it now since they include that." -Leslie Benson, Deals Editor

"There are museum and zoo memberships that you can get. Basically you pay a flat fee and you get into a whole bunch of places with it." -India Irwin, Coupon Writer and Feedback

Take advantage of free admission
"For museums, I think hitting up the free admission days is useful. You may have to be a resident of the city/county/state to get in free, though, so that would probably be good for 'staycations' or trips where you don't travel far." -Katie Roberts, Blog Editorial Assistant

Skip the line
"I have never once regretted buying one of those amusement park passes that lets you skip the line. I have zero desire to stand around in the heat." -Michael Bonebright, Senior Blog Editor

Consider buying a meal package
"The first time I went, years ago, we stayed on property and did a meal package. It was a little more expensive up front, but ended up saving us money over all." -India Irwin, Coupon Writer and Feedback

"The dining plan can be controversial. Most people can save money without it, BUT some people like having all the costs handled up front. I've done the dining plan twice (because it was part of a room special), but all the other times without it." -Leslie Benson, Deals Editor

Staying at Disney has its perks
"If you stay in a Disney hotel, you get free transportation everywhere." -Leslie Benson, Deals Editor

"I am literally at Disney right now. Stay on property. It's worth the money." -Rob Peck, Web Developer R&D

...Or stay off property to save
"I always drive [to Disney]. Annual passholders park at the parks for free, so staying off property is easier for me than someone that flies. There are different resort shuttles that can bring people to the parks, but a lot of them [are more expensive]." -Leslie Benson, Deals Editor

save on flights

Flying Is More Than Plane Tickets

Know your rental car location
"If flying, always, ALWAYS look at the proximity of the rental car offices to the airport. [If it's far away], either rent at the airport, or be prepared to pay for a cab downtown and factor the return time into your plans for getting back to the airport." -Amy Pollick, Deals Staff Writer

Skip the baggage check
"Pack your bag as if you're going to carry on. When the attendant opens the counter at your gate, walk up and ask if they're going to request volunteers to check their bags at the gate. Most flights are full these days. It also saves you a couple bucks on baggage check fees. I'd rather not have to worry about my bag, but I also don't want to pay for checking a bag. When you drop it off, be sure to double-check with them WHERE you'll pick it up when you land — because sometimes it is right at the gate and sometimes it is at baggage claim!" -Jeff Somogyi, UX Researcher

SEE ALSO: Your Hotel Rewards Program Is (Probably) Changing Soon

"I will go a little crazy making sure all of my stuff fits in a carry-on so I don't have to check any bags. Most airlines allow a free carry-on and a personal item. I have no interest in paying for a checked bag, dealing with the crowds at the carousel, or worrying if they are going to lose my luggage!"-Lindsey Terry, Coupons Editor

Upgrade your flight last-minute
"Ask for a flight upgrade at the gate. This is usually the cheapest option, since they are looking to make the most out of last-minute opportunities. [And] booking airport transfers ahead of time is usually cheaper." -Gennady Lager, Senior Director of Search Marketing

Know the airport layout
"Look at airport websites to get an idea of the layout, amenities, etc. If you're changing airlines, or going from a larger plane to a commuter plane (or vice versa), you'll probably change terminals. Having an idea of the layout of the airport will help you get to your gate faster." -Amy Pollick, Deals Staff Writer

save money on hotels

Get More Value From Your Hotel Stay

Book a hotel with a kitchenette
"I look for hotels that are set up like apartments, so that I can cook my own food. When traveling, food adds up quickly." -Keira Wagner, Deals Assistant Editor

"If you're in a resort area (like the beach), and have a room/condo with a kitchenette, cook as much as you can. Eat out once or twice, rather than every night." -Amy Pollick, Deals Staff Writer

"I've found that Airbnb is (usually) the best choice wherever you're going. It's cheaper and you get a kitchen to cook some of your meals to save a buck! I buy a carton of eggs, some bread, and cheese and I am SET!" -Lindsey Terry, Coupons Editor

Skip the booking sites
"I always trawl the sites like to get an idea of what hotels are going for, but I usually go with the hotel site itself to book. Sometimes, you run across deals that the catch-all sites don't have." -Amy Pollick, Deals Staff Writer

We mentioned that it was going to be my birthday and they upgraded us.

"I have quite often been able to get a 5% to 10% discount on room rates by making an actual call to the exact hotel I want to book. By booking directly, not through their website or a booking agent, you can often obtain a cheaper rate." -Kim Booth, Coupons Data Assistant

Notify staff of special occasions
"In Vegas last October, we mentioned in the comments whilst booking the hotel that it was [going to be] my birthday and they upgraded us. Then while checking in to the hotel, we gave a $20 tip and they upgraded us again to a corner room, which was more spacious." -Chloe Kilmartin, Dublin Office Manager/HR Rep

When booking a resort for my wedding anniversary, I chose an off-season location that had only recently opened. Clearly the staff were looking to make a good impression, because they went above and beyond to help us celebrate. We were greeted with a bottle of champagne when we checked in, upgraded to a bigger suite, and there were even fresh roses in the room. -Michael Bonebright, Senior Blog Editor

Make use of hotel rewards
"Join hotel rewards programs if you travel a lot. You can earn discounts and free stays." -India Irwin, Coupon Writer and Feedback

Ask for a room upgrade
"Not sure about anywhere else, but in Vegas hotel room upgrades are almost always available and are at the discretion of the check-in desk person. You can usually hand them $20 and ask if there are better rooms available." -Gennady Lager, Senior Director of Search Marketing

save on travel

Make International Travel a Breeze

Know the best travel websites
"Skyscanner is a great website for booking flights for those who aren't familiar with airlines that fly to Europe. is a great site to use for hotels in Ireland and Europe, and when you become a member they'll send you secret deals and offer further discounts. -Chloe Kilmartin, Dublin Office Manager/HR Rep

SEE ALSO: 8 Smart Money Moves to Make While Traveling

Travel in the fall
"I like to do international travel in September. Once the summer has wound down, prices drop. Especially since I travel mid-week, I can always count on low prices going abroad. It's generally a great time of year for weather and sights, too, [because of the] changing colors. I went to Dublin last year in September, and even with all the fees and taxes, the roundtrip ticket was still under $1,000." -Keira Wagner, Deals Assistant Editor

Get familiar with the weather
"I would suggest asking for a room that isn't on the ground floor whilst in Ireland, as the weather can be miserable here and the top floors offer more natural light." -Chloe Kilmartin, Dublin Office Manager/HR Rep

Skip the all-inclusive packages
"For countries like Spain and Portugal, [there's] no need to go all-inclusive unless you get an amazing deal. Food and wine is so cheap out there anyway." -Chloe Kilmartin, Dublin Office Manager/HR Rep

save on travel

General Tips

Travel in the off season
"Go in the off-season if you can. Prices might be as much as half of what you'd pay in high season." -Amy Pollick, Deals Staff Writer

Stay in a central location
"I visited Rome recently, and would suggest staying very central in these big cities. Transport can be confusing when you don't speak the language. You tend to do a lot of walking, which may not suit [some] people." -Chloe Kilmartin, Dublin Office Manager/HR Rep

ALWAYS print a hard copy of ALL your reservations! It's difficult to argue with a hard copy.

Enjoy the local flavors earlier
"If you want to eat at one of the restaurants, eat there at lunch time. They almost always have the [same] menu, but cheaper prices for a smaller portion." -Kim Booth, Coupons Data Assistant

"Breakfast and lunch tends to be cheaper than dinner. So I would have the complimentary hotel breakfast, have lunch at a nice restaurant, and then eat snacks in my room for dinner. Or I would switch: Have a nice breakfast at a restaurant, have a quick cheap lunch, and snack for dinner. Sometimes I would make coffee pot meals, too. I saved quite a bit of cash during my longer trips." -Brittani Banks, Blog Editorial Assistant

Keep a copy of your reservations
"ALWAYS print a hard copy of ALL your reservations! It's difficult to argue with a hard copy." -Amy Pollick, Deals Staff Writer

Utilize compression sacks when packing
"When I went to Africa last year to hike Kilimanjaro, my boyfriend and I had A TON of stuff for 2 weeks. But, with compression sacks, sweat, and a couple of tears we loaded it all in a carry-on and a backpack for each of us. So, no excuses for anyone who goes away for a week!" -Lindsey Terry, Coupons Editor

Readers, what are your favorite travel tips? Let us know in the comments below.

Julie Ramhold
Senior Staff Writer/Consumer Analyst

Julie's work has been featured on CNBC, GoBankingRates, Kiplinger, Marketwatch, Money, The New York Times, Real Simple, US News, WaPo, WSJ, Yahoo!, and more. She's extolled the virtues of DealNews in interviews with Cheddar TV, GMA, various podcasts, and affiliates across the United States, plus one in Canada.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).


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