Here's how closely tracking a snowstorm can help you spend less -- plus two more surprising tips to keep costs down, wherever you're going this winter.
By Lynn Andriani
1. Make The First Move When There's A Storm Coming.
If you're in, say, Phoenix, and realize your upcoming flight is probably going to be delayed because of a blizzard that's headed toward Minneapolis, your airline may let you depart early (thus avoiding the snow, sleet or ice) without paying the change fee, which is usually about $200. Wendy Perrin, TripAdvisor's first-ever Travel Advocate, has done this herself, and says the trick is to go to the airline's website as soon as you hear about a storm and scan the homepage for any news or weather alerts. Then, she says, check FlightStats, which will show you which flights to your destination have available seats. Call your airline with this information, and you just might beat the storm and save yourself a few hundred dollars.
Amount you could save: $200
2. Figure Out Ground Transportation Before You Land.
Finding cheap airfare is only the first hurdle to keeping travel costs reasonable; forgetting to research how you'll get from the airport to your hotel (or your aunt's house) once you land can make your trip even more costly, especially since taking a taxi, most people's default, is often the most expensive option. If you're going to a city, the RideScout app can help you find the least expensive route between two points, whether that's public transportation, taxi, ride-sharing or other means (they currently cover more than 60 urban areas). Another option is Rome2rio, a site that will show you exactly how to get from point A (e.g., your home in Omaha) to point B (your friend's house in Miami), anywhere in the world, with the cost of each leg. When we priced out options from Miami Airport to North Miami Beach, Rome2rio suggested a commuter train/bus route for $8, versus $40 for a taxi.
Amount you could save: $32
3. Don't Spend Extra Money On Parking, Laundry And Wifi.
If you haven't yet tried renting a home or apartment instead of staying at a hotel, you probably know someone who has; between 2007 through 2014, the amount of leisure travelers choosing a vacation rental over traditional lodging options doubled, according to Vacation Rental Managers Association. There are many reasons to try it, from the variety (rustic cabin! beach cottage!) to the extra space (especially good for families) to the cost effectiveness (according to the online marketplace HomeAway, which owns VRBO, rentals typically cost 50 to 80 percent less per square foot than the average hotel room). However, one perk of renting that many people don't realize is all of the included amenities. Rentals often have driveways or garages (hotels charge anywhere from $40 to $60 per day for parking), a washer/dryer (either not available or ridiculously expensive at hotels) and WiFi (often $15 to $20 at hotels).
Amount you could save: $325