After being invited to your old buddy’s wedding, you’ve bought the happy couple a wonderful gravy boat, got new shoes to match your best wedding duds, and just when your wallet is really starting to feel the pinch, you realize you still have to find a way get to the main event and book a place to stay.
Whether your voyage is across the country or just across state lines, it’s good to plan ahead with your transportation. One of the first places to check for recommendations is on the wedding website or with the bride and groom themselves. The affianced couple may have already thought ahead about transportation budgets and logistics, particularly if their nuptials are off the beaten path. Before you start cashing in all your frequent flier miles, however, there are lots of other opportunities to manage your wedding travel on a shoestring.
COME FLY WITH ME
Now is the time to fly. Most carriers are offering hugely slashed rates, like JetBlue’s recently advertised $14 and $29 flights. Consolidators are a great option for checking out several airlines on one website, and a favorite consolidator site of Shoestring‘s editors is Kayak.com. One of the benefits of Kayak is that it doesn’t sell tickets directly to consumers, allowing it to remain unbiased in its results. The site is designed to show you the best possible deal out there and then links you directly to a third party website for either the airline or a consolidator, where you actually book your flight.
However, Voyij.com, started by a SideStep founder, hopes to improve upon the model of Kayak and its closest competitor, TravelZoo, by focusing mainly on last-minute travel deals.
Recently, certain consolidators like Orbitz have also started offering Flight and Hotel Price Assurance, which guarantees a refund for the difference if another customer books the same hotel or flight as you did but at a cheaper rate. If the airline or website doesn’t offer price assurance guarantees, check out Yapta.com. Yapta lets you plug in your itinerary and then monitors the flights for you.
“It’s no secret that airfare and hotel prices are highly volatile, often rising and falling multiple times a week, making it extremely difficult to find the best deal or the confidence to book early,” explains Jeff Pecor, Yapta’s senior communications director. “Most U.S. airlines have ‘guaranteed airfare’ policies that enable you to claim a travel credit if the price of your flight drops after booking it. Not many people know that the policy even exists—nor do they bother to check the price of their ticket after purchasing it.”
Yapta claims to have saved its users over $170 million. Even when airlines charge a rebooking fee, Yapta calculates and notifies its users when there is a net savings.
DID SOMEONE SAY ROAD TRIP?
Depending on the distance from home to the hotel (and the time you have available), travel by road is often the most affordable. It’s even often more cost effective when you can carpool and pack a few extra bodies in the car. Many people know of the now ubiquitous car sharing rental company ZipCar, which allows you to pick up a local car at your convenience and rent it by either the hour or the day. If you just need a car for the weekend, ZipCar could be a great option for you.
However, if you have a car or would rather ride with another driver, try GoLoco, an online “ride sharing” network that allows you to find coworkers, neighbors, and community members with whom you can carpool. Launched and helmed by Robin Chase, co-founder and former CEO for ZipCar, this program not only cuts costs in half, but also reduces your carbon footprint while building networking opportunities. “People’s desire to share rides reduces the cost of travel, reduces CO2 emissions, and increases time spent with friends,” explains Chase. “It has double the efficiency, half the cost.”
Whether you are renting or driving your own car, finding others with whom you can share the commute is always a good idea. Before you start calling up mutual friends, take a moment to call the happy couple. Turn to the bride and groom to ask about their other confirmed guests in your area. Especially this year, it may be a smaller wedding than you think, so make sure you know who is invited first before asking anyone to share the gas bill. Once you do wrangle a few other guests into the car, make sure you are clear about who is paying for what: if you are driving your own car, are the others splitting gas and snacks? Check out online services like Buxfer to streamline shared expenses and hassle.
HOUSEWARMING: BUDGET WEDDING ACCOMODATIONS
While there may be many reasonable options for lodging, the cheapest is always, well, free. You might be an out-of-town guest, but chances are that’s not the case for everyone, especially if this isn’t a destination wedding in, say, the Maldives. (If it is, then disregard this whole article.)
Two of the best options are couch surfing and house rentals. You can find a great couch to crash on either by asking the affianced couple if any friends in the area have some spare room, or by hitting up anyone you know in the city of choice. People are generally happy to take in guests if those guests know how to behave and reciprocate, read more from Shoestring on couch surfing in this archived article. To get on board, head to CouchSurfing.com and start looking into some great places to stay. For just a little extra cash, you can score a night at someone’s home on Air Bed & Breakfast.
One of the best options for group lodging is a vacation rental, and one of the most user-friendly websites is FlipKey.com, a service recently acquired by TripAdvisor. While you tend to know what you’re getting with a hotel room, house rentals can be a bit more unpredictable. “We started FlipKey to create a more trusted environment,” says TJ Mahony co-founder and CEO of FlipKey. “We’ve collected over 70,000 guest reviews, and 80% of the reviews are positive.”
When staying with a group, you can save between 10 to 60% with a house rental, according to Mahony. Head to TripAdvisor to use its handy Vacation Rentals vs. Hotels price comparison tool. If FlipKey and TripAdvisor don’t have solutions for your destination, check out Roomorama, Vacation Rentals By Owner, Viscape, or Discover Vacation Homes. All of these websites offer similar opportunities to rent out vacation homes by the weekend or the week and bypass the expenses of a hotel.
Before you go off the reservation and find alternative lodging, remember there are other hidden costs to keep in mind. Staying at the wedding locale in the reserved rooms or “block,” while a little pricier, might also provide transportation to and from the main event. Who wants to have to worry about driving after the Champagne toast and open bar (here’s hoping), anyway?
There is also a good chance there are additional benefits to staying at the hotel the couple reserved. While a goodie bag may not cover the higher cost of the room, it may help you get into the festive mood of the occasion. Also, it’s worth calling the hotel to see what extras are provided. Is there breakfast? Is parking included? Can they throw it in just to be nice? All are questions worth asking that may tip the scales in favor of the traditional room block option.
Story: Copyright 2009, Shoestring LLC. Image: iStock.