Compared to the show-stopping season that includes Christmas and New Year’s Day, the period that follows is a letdown. With dreary weather and a lack of diversion, it has a way of feeling a lot longer than it really is.
Fortunately, Mother Nature is about to liven things up. On top of the nicer weather, a good thing is about to get even better with Spring Break. If you are considering getting away and want to get the most out of it for the least, you have come to the right place! To help your planning, I thought I would offer some recommendations:
• Texas tourism: My first goal for any getaway is to make it as enjoyable as possible. After all, if I simply wanted to save money, I would just stay home. With good information being the key to any great trip, my first step for planning is to get travel guides from state travel agencies. In addition to free references and maps, their travel packets often have coupons to save on attractions and lodging. For Texas, an official travel guide can be ordered from the website www.traveltexas.com/plan-a-trip/travel-guide/ or accessed online: www.traveltexas.com/plan-a-trip/travel-guide/online-travel-guide/. In my opinion, the Texas travel guide is an exceptional book that comes pretty close to leaving no stone unturned.
• AAA TripTik: If you will be driving during your trip, another approach to finding attractions is the AAA Online TripTik. In case you haven’t heard of it, the TripTik will map directions to your destination like Google Maps. However, the TripTik will also map attractions, restaurants, and a wide variety of other services. In addition, you can use this tool to get specific information about an attraction including operating hours and costs. In other words, you can make sure you don’t overlook possibilities. This online service is free to AAA and non-AAA members alike. For more information, go to www.ace.aaa.com/travel/triptik-travel-planner.html.
• Home costs: Even when you hit the road, many costs remain close to home and you can minimize them while away. For example, your water heater runs while you are gone. In addition, since temperatures in a house should stay above a minimum level, you will probably need to keep your central heat and air activated. While I am not recommending turning anything off, be sure to put your water heater on its lowest setting and adjust the thermostat to a lower temperature before you go.
• Home protection: Although pipe leaks and fire hazards are bad enough when you are around, insult turns to injury when a home is unattended. To minimize problems, consider turning your home’s main water valve off to prevent potential water damage. In addition, since many house fires originate with small appliances that are left plugged in, disconnect as many electrical outlets as possible. On top of being safer, unplugging small appliances will actually save a little power as well.
• Fuel: For the sake of simplicity, the two best moves to assure the lowest gas costs are making sure your tires are properly inflated and using gasbuddy.com to get the lowest fuel prices along the way.
• Food: In the past, I would often find out about a great out of town restaurant only after I got home. To prevent missed opportunity, I started consulting the website “TV Food Maps” (www.tvfoodmaps.com/). This page lists restaurants that have profiled by a large variety of television shows like “Man vs. Food” and “Unique Eats”. You can view these lists by program or state.
• Lodging: When you can’t find a friend to stay with, consider couch surfing. With couch surfing, you can stay with people who offer their homes for free to visitors. To find out more about this program, go to (http://about.couchsurfing.com/about/). If camping is more your style, you can find out about free possibilities at freecampsites.net/usa/ for campsites and www.rvtravel.com/free-cheap-rv-camping/ for recreational vehicles. Barring these options, there are also ways to save on motels. The first step to getting the best price is reserving your room ahead of time. If the personal touch is your cup of tea, you can add a lower tech approach if you arrive at your hotel late. If the parking lot has a lot of empty spaces, inquire about room rates at the hotel desk before you check in. If the prices quoted are substantially lower than when you reserved, ask the clerk to lower your rate. More often than not, they will.
• Entertainment: If your car radio is capable of receiving signals from Sirius/XM radio, there a few better times to start a free trial than a long road trip. In addition to getting better entertainment, you get a genuine chance to evaluate the merits of the service. If you like it, you can keep it. Otherwise, cancel it after your trip and owe nothing. To determine your eligibility for a trial, go to www.siriusxm.com/sxm-tryfree and pick the link that most closely matches your situation (e.g. new subscriber, returning subscriber, etc.)
If your car does not receive satellite radio signals, Spotify Premium (www.spotify.com/us/premium/) is an on-demand music service that offers a free 30-day trial and the ability to download songs to your smartphone so you can listen to music when you don’t have internet access.
If you want to rely on AM/FM radio for your amusement, you can use websites like http://radio-locator.com/cgi-bin/locate to greatly reduce the tedium of finding a suitable station. By listing the available frequencies and their genres, you will be able to skip a lot of searching. In addition, there are low-cost apps at https://goo.gl/vZYOX1 to help you do the same thing.
If you haven’t tried some of these tips, this month will be a great time to do so. If you have additional ideas, please visit and "Like" our Facebook site (Click www.facebook.com/LubbockSavvyShopper or log on to Facebook and enter “Lubbock Savvy Shopper” in the search tool) or write us at SavvyShopperLubbock@gmail.com and let us know about it.
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SEAN FIELDS is the A-J’s Savvy Shopper. Read his columns Sundays and Wednesdays. Email him at SavvyShopperLubbock@gmail.com, like his Facebook page at Facebook.com/LubbockSavvyShopper, or see previous columns and deals at lubbockonline.com/savvy-shopper.
This article originally appeared on Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: Savvy Shopper: Some deals, tips to make your spring break more affordable