Okay, so as much as we all dream of staying in a 5 star hotel, having breakfast in a grand dining room and ordering room service after a long day out touring, it isn’t always affordable. Last time we travelled as a family we were travelling for several weeks and had to cut back. It’s not romantic but sometimes saving money in one place means you can spend up somewhere else. So here are some of my tips;
If you can get breakfast included in your package/hotel rate that is a big help. A good breakfast stands you in good stead for the day.
If breakfast isn’t included consider eating breakfast in your room. We travelled last time with a cheap cutlery set and bought cereal and paper bowls and plates when we got to the US. It was quick, easy and definitely cheaper than all of us going out to a café for breakfast. We were focused on seeing as much as possible.
By now you will have gathered I like to shop! (a lot!) I always pack a spare bag into my suitcase. A large sports bag usually can fold flat and doesn’t take up much room in your luggage. (make sure that it can be locked with a padlock though). When your bag is bursting with all your new purchases you’ll be glad to have another bag for the overflow.
The first trip we did to the US we were charged US13 per day extra for a GPS. I understand now with smart phones a lot of people use these for their GPS needs BUT if you are stuck in the dark ages like us and want a GPS my tip is to buy one if you are travelling for long enough. A friend recommended a company on ebay who sold the GPS and you could request which maps you wanted it preloaded with prior to it being shipped. This worked out a lot cheaper than hiring one for our trip and now we have a good GPS we use around Australia and if we go back to the US it is all loaded and ready to go.
Do some shopping online and save time. Particularly books and dvds are easily purchased online. I use Amazon USA as they have a huge range and some bargains can definitely be found. They “ship” things as they are ready for mailing though so if you order 12 items it may come in 4-6 boxes. Check ahead that your hotel are happy to receive your parcels and that they won’t charge for this service. Make sure you allow plenty of time for your purchases to arrive ie send it to the last hotel on your itinerary if you are short on time or pay for faster delivery. Ensure you give your delivery details very clearly so the hotel know who the parcel is for. I address as follows;
Guest: Mr Bean
Arrival Date: 25 December 2012
Double tree Suites by Hilton Santa Monica etc etc.
Make sure you have the hotel’s address correct!
If you are planning to buy DVDs in the US ensure your DVD player can play DVD’s from another region.
When travelling to and from the US it is better to have a TSA padlock on your suitcase. US customs reserves the right to open and check your luggage and will break a lock if you do not have a TSA lock on your luggage and it is selected. These are available at Target, Big W and luggage stores in Australia. We had many of our bags searched on our recent trip. Our padlocks were intact because they were TSA locks that they could open without breaking and a note was inside saying our luggage had been inspected. These locks are much cheaper to buy in the US so buy what you need for your trip over and buy more if needed at a Target or CVS Pharmacy in the US.
We bought a US mobile phone at an AT&T store. It was $10 for the phone and we loaded it with $50 credit. We could make phone calls in the US and send unlimited text messages. We didn’t want phone calls from home while we were travelling so we just gave the new number to a couple of people in case of an emergency at home. It was a basic phone but it worked perfectly for us and was a great, cheap way for us to have a mobile. Check with your Australian mobile provider if you plan to take your mobile with you. Check that you have international roaming activated on your phone and also how much you will be paying for sms and phone calls. Be aware that you usually pay for any messages you RECEIVE on your voice mail and you also pay for text messages you RECEIVE while you are overseas. This may vary from provider to provider but double check. If you plan to use the internet on your phone while you are away be aware and ask how much the charges will be. I have heard of people coming home and being charged over $1000 as they used their phone as they would at home.
I know it is a radical idea but try going cold turkey as we did and not have contact with everyone back home. It is a great way to be present and really be with the family or people you are travelling with without distractions. Everyone will be just as interested when you get home to hear your news.
SHOPPING LOYALTY PROGRAMMES
Join loyalty programmes. The supermarkets, pharmacies, outlets and malls are all keen to get you to sign up. I am ‘loyal’ to lots of US stores and amazed at the savings. ‘Coupons’ are a big part of the US shopping culture for eg. We intended going to the Premium Outlet Centre so I signed up as a VIP on their website. This allowed me to print out coupons the week before we flew out. It gave us discounts at many stores . At pharmacies like CVS and Rite Aid they will offer you a loyalty card at the check out. My advice is to take it, as it will give you discounts that they advertise in their catalogue. Make up products are cheap in these pharmacies as well as Target and Walmart (these chains are harder to get to if you don’t have a car where as the CVS and Rite Aid stores are more central). A loyalty card at CVS for example might give you buy one Loreal lipstick get the second free or ½ price. It all adds up!
GAP, Gymboree, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Premium Outlets, Hollywood and Highland Centre are all stores I’ve signed up to online. They send periodic specials and often when you join their email they will give you a discount coupon for your 1st purchase. Sign up close to departure as the coupon will have a ‘valid to…………..’date. Print and take with you.