Tuesday, September 28, 2010

How to Plan a Run-cation on a Shoestring Budget

I love to travel and explore new places. It's fun to get away from the daily grind every once in a while and running a race in a new place is the perfect excuse to plan a vacation. With great races held all over the world, you can most likely find a race to run in any place you'd like to go.

I just registered for the Rock N Roll Half Marathon in New Orleans as an excuse to take a vacation to a place I've never been.



But since race entry fees and travel start to add up, I'm definitely planning this vacation on a shoestring budget. Here's how I did it:

Coupons for entry fee discounts
Several races offer coupon codes for $10 to $15 dollars off registration fees. I tend to target those races. Since I ran the Philly RnR Half, the race directors mailed me a $10 code for either the Las Vegas race or the New Orleans race. It's not a huge savings, but it's better than paying full price.

Consider smaller, more local races
Local races in general tend to be cheaper than big race events. So if you don't mind missing out on the fan-fare of a big event, a local race might be the way to go.

Pick a city that's walkable
It will save money on cab fees, renting a car or paying to park your car anytime you drive somewhere. Since I'm not 25 and neither is the BF, renting a car would cost us a ton of money because of extra fees. But I picked a place where we could walk to just about everything other than the airport.

If you're flying, hit up the discount airlines or cheapair.com
Cheapair.com is a great tool that pulls price data from several airlines and lets you select the lowest prices. So you could fly to your destination on Delta but fly back on US Air. There is a processing fee if you buy your tickets through them, so I usually research there and then book through the airline.
 
Fly on less popular days
Plane tickets on the weekends tend to be more expensive. If you can swing it, fly out on a Thursday and spend some time in the city and then fly back the following Monday. And look for flights at off-peak hours. The 10 a.m. flight might be cheaper than a 6 a.m. flight.

Check Hotwire for bargain hotels
I've used Hotwire numerous times in numerous cities and it has never let me down. I've paid Super 8 prices for Marriot-quality hotels. The catch with Hotwire is that you don't know exactly which hotel you'll be in until after you pay. They'll tell you the general area, the number of stars and what amenities it has, but you can't the hotel name and address until after you book. Once you pay, the stay is non-refundable. It's a gamble, but I've never had a bad experience, and I've saved tons of money. For New Orleans, I have a four-star hotel for $89 per night, way cheaper than the hotel discounts offered through the race.

Using all the tips above, I was able to plan a five day trip to New Orleans for less than $350 per person. (That price doesn't include my race fee, which was about $87.)

What's your best tip for traveling to a race on a budget? Where would you love to go on a run-cation?

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