Going on vacation is terrific but once you arrive at that dream destination it is not always easy to decide what exactly there is to do for fun. You can only float in a pool or sun on a beach for so long. If you never leave the hotel room then why did you spend all of the time and effort to travel so far away from home?
Whether it is going to a museum, night club or bungee jumping, excursions are a great way to experience your vacation destination. All of the unplanned for costs add up quickly. Ann and I try to pay $50 or less per person for each adventure.
On our latest trip, the Resort gave us a discount. We paid $60 each to drive mini-subs! Booking a tour through the hotel, resort or cruise ship is the most convenient but normally also the most expensive. What trick you can use to cut the cost will vary depending on where you are and if it is high or low season.
Take a walk and let the opportunities come to you
You can walk along stroll hand in hand down the beach and book a tour with any random salesman that calls to you. Talk to several and feel free to haggle. We have yet to get ripped off. In Barbados I jumped on a boat that took me ten minutes out so I could snorkel on a wreck. It cost me $20. In Costa Rica, a local at the end of beach at the edge of the resort charged us $20 each for horseback riding on the beach. The resort was charging $80. We have a similar experiences in Los Cabos Mexico. We have gotten some good deals on couple's massages in cabanas on many a the tropical beach.
Many excursions cost more because transportation to and from your hotel is included. If you have a car, showing up on your own can cut the price significantly. If there are four of you and you want to do several excursions, the savings might cover the entire cost of the car for your whole vacation! Not to mention, if you arrive by 9:00 AM, you can get in and out before the tour buses disgorge the other tourists in their hundreds.
Walking up Dunns river Fall in Jamaica is about $20 each if you drive yourself. Many great snorkeling locations on countless islands are mere yards from the beach. Most beaches have free or inexpensive parking. The famous observatory on top of Mauna Kea on the Hawaiian big island is free. So is wine tasting at the wineries throughout the Palisades (Colorado) and at least one in Denver proper.
The Smithsonian buildings in Washington DC are free to the public.
Use the Internet
The easiest was to find and compare deals is the internet. This should be part of your trip planning. My wife puts long hours hunting for deals and often books tours weeks in advance. But what if you have to cancel your trip? Can you get a refund? This is an important question to ask.
If your adventure is in the US, Groupon.com and LivingSocial.com can be a great source of deals. I flew a jetpack for half price... And I drove the family to the marina.
On our most recent trip we used the resort's free internet computer to surf to PuntaCanaNow.com to book a couple of last minute tours. We did dune buggies. One of the companies had discounted their price well below the other tour companies. Because the buggies sit two, we rented only one and took turns driving it.
Once in a while you can pay one fee for entry into may places. States do this for their parks. Paris has a museum pass. Bavaria has the castle pass. If you want to go on more than one hike, see more than one museum, or more than one palace, these passes can be a great cost savings.
The time of the week or a holiday can save you money
We were in Paris and discovered that the museums and the Arc de Triomphe was free on a national holiday. The parking around the national monuments in DC is free on the weekends.
Take advantage of the free excursions your resort has to offer
All-inclusive resort should be free activities. In one resort in Punta Cana that we stayed at a couple of years ago, the horseback riding on the beach and a snorkeling tour were free. Non-powered activities such as bicycles, Hobe cats (sail boat), kayaks and wind surfing are the normal free selection. Many resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico offer free scuba diving lessons. They hope you will then buy a scuba excursion.
Perhaps a timeshare presentation?
Timeshare presentations always come with a free gift. What you may not know is that you can tell them what gift you want. Once in Kaua'i, we said that we wanted a helicopter ride for two around the island. The resort agreed. In Los Cabos we got a couple's massage and a book on coupons half priced activities including jet skis and para sailing.
Although my wife own two timeshares, I am not sold on their cost effectiveness. The cost of plane tickets back to the resort can change for the worst at any time. Your family and friends have busy lives and in reality will almost never vacation with you. You health and job situation most likely will change of the years, possibly making it unrealistic to enjoy a vacation far from home every year.
If you do your presentation in the afternoon, you will have blown your entire day.
This is why recommend to doing it first thing in the morning. Maybe they'll throw in a free breakfast!
No matter what they say, expect it to take two or three hours. Some salesmen are very high pressure. Verify with them when the "90" minute presentation starts. That is what you are obligated to sit through to get the present.
The obvious risk here is you going into the presentation not wanting a timeshare and walking out having spend tens of thousands of dollars. As parting advice, should you want to buy a timeshare, is the property deeded? If the resort is outside the US and you get into a legal battle do you trust the local court system to treat you fairly? If you have to fight the resort in court, you have to fly there to appear in court.
My wife is the expert on how to get the most out of your timeshare. Just look at all of the amazing vacations on this blog we have had. Almost every one is a timeshare trade! I hope to eventually write an advice piece on how to get the most out of your timeshare.
If you liked these ideas, you might my my book, "100 Ways to Save a Dollar without Lowering Your Lifestyle", available for Kindle, all other e-book formats, and in paperback.