1. Wasting Time Getting There
Making the most of your mini-vacation means spending less time in transit and more time relaxing. “You want to get to your destination and enjoy the place,” says Sara D’Allesandro, a consultant at Liberty Travel in Natick. If you’re traveling by car, start your planning at Freemaptools.com. The site’s driving radius tool lets you map out all the destinations within your desired travel time. Depending on traffic, a half-day’s drive can usually get you 200 miles--that’s as far as New York City if you're heading south or Maine’s Acadia National Park if you're driving north.
Not into road trips? Logan offers short, nonstop flights to New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Montreal, and more. You can see Red Sox games on the cheap in Baltimore, D’Allesandro says, and lots of people forget that Bermuda is only a two-hour flight from Boston.
Of course, getting something for free is the best way to save money, and when you choose a hotel with freebies like breakfast, Wi-Fi, and parking, the savings can really add up. Wi-Fi can run you $10 a day or more at some hotels. And even an Egg McMuffin is up to almost $3 these days.
With a little preparation, you can save on restaurants, spas, and other local businesses by taking advantage of deals on sites like Groupon.com and LivingSocial.com. If you’re traveling to a major city, try checking Yipit.com, which aggregates offers from other deal sites. Once you’ve arrived at your destination, grab a local paper to check out the coupons and events.
One of the best ways to save on travel is choosing your dates wisely, advises D’Allesandro. Flexibility is key: Returning home on a Monday or Tuesday can prove cheaper. And airlines often post new prices on Monday nights, so some travel professionals say Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the best times to book.
3. Limiting your overnight options
One place to consider splurging is your accommodations. That discount hotel on the outskirts of town won’t seem like such a bargain when you’re spending hours of your precious vacation time getting to and from your room.
Vacation rentals aren’t just for your big family reunion on the Cape anymore. Websites like the Boston-based FlipKey.com and Texas-based HomeAway.com make it easy to book a house, condo, or cabin — you can even rent an entire island. Many people don’t realize that “places are available for two-to-three-night stays,” says FlipKey spokeswoman Jen Gold. Vacation rentals are often more cost-effective than hotels, especially if you’re traveling in a group. You’ll also have the opportunity to stay in a neighborhood instead of a tourist trap. “Hotels can be a generic experience,” Gold says.
If you wouldn’t consider it a vacation without room service, try an all-inclusive resort. You might find that additional costs are worth it for the convenience of having dining and recreation options just steps from your room. On the New England Inns & Resorts Association website (newenglandinnsandresorts.com) you can find a luxury resort by state or by interest, including skiing, romance, or shopping.
4. Getting caught in a crowd
No one wants to fight crowds on vacation, but it can be especially frustrating when you’re trying to make the most of two or three days away.
Smaller destinations may be more manageable on a weekend excursion. For example, get your degree in smart travel and spend a few days in one of New England’s many college towns, such as Northampton, which has hip restaurants, boutiques, and galleries at student-discount prices.
Another great tip for avoiding crowds is to travel during shoulder seasons. Try the Cape in September after the summer rush has subsided but before businesses close up for the winter. During pick-your-own season, apple orchards can be packed. But the Johnny Appleseed Trail (appleseed.org) of north-central Massachusetts — named for the apple-loving, nomadic nurseryman John Chapman of Leominster — offers other agritourism opportunities, plus quaint inns, country fairs, fine dining, and breweries, such as Wachusett Brewing Co.
After nearly two decades as a flight attendant, JetBlue’s Tracy Christoph has become an expert on “packing light and packing right.” The first recommendation from this Boston-based travel pro is to choose clothes in a single color family to get the most versatility while minimizing the number of accessories (read: unnecessary stuff) you’ll require. Put small items, like socks and undergarments, into baggies and then tuck them into your shoes (that will save room and help your shoes keep their shape). Place shoes in the bottom of your suitcase, with lighter items on top.
With the exception of formalwear, “I roll every piece of clothing,” Christoph says. Reroll your clothes after you wear them, and separate them from the clean clothes with the plastic laundry bag provided by most hotels. Christoph’s must-have item? A pashmina shawl, which can take a simple dress from day to night and also be a blanket or even a beach towel. Surprisingly, she never packs toiletries. “Use the hotel toiletries,” she advises; check ahead if you’re not sure what will be available.
Smart packing begins with the planning. Lay out everything you’re considering, and make final selections based on what you’ll really need for each day of your trip. If you’re on the fence about something, leave it at home, Christoph says. “Don’t pack for maybe, pack for sure.”
Stephanie Tyburski is an Arlington-based writer. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.