Photo: ThinkstockBy Nathalie Gorman
What you thought of: Renting the car far in advance.
What you forgot to save for: The toll pass charge.
How to get a good deal: If you're going to be doing highway driving, getting an electronic toll pass such as E-ZPass, I-PASS or FasTrak from your rental car agency might seem too convenient to be a good deal. It is. "If customers decide that they would like to use the electronic tolls and our devices, there is a fee, and it is a fee of $2.95 per day of the rental, up to a maximum of $14.75 per rental month.That doesn't include the tolls--the customers are still responsible for the incurred tolls," says Paula Rivera, manager of public affairs for Hertz. Additionally, as soon as you use the pass once, you're charged for it every subsequent day of your rental, even if you don't use it again for the rest of the trip. If you're traveling in your home state or a state that uses the same pass as yours, you'll save money by bringing the one you use at home. Out of state, it's best to do things the old-fashioned way and use the cash lanes.
What you thought of: Paper plates, plastic cups, utensils and plenty of ketchup.
What you forgot to save for: Enough meat to feed a crowd-at this year's prices, not last year's.
How to get a good deal: Revisit the London broil, an inexpensive steak that's frequently overlooked but, when cooked correctly, tastes like a pricey top sirloin. "Everybody shies away from a London broil," says Jessica Applestone, co-owner of Fleisher's Grass-Fed & Organic Meats, of Julie Powell fame. "They're like, 'Oh my God, my mother used to make that; it's disgusting; it used to curl up around the edges.'" The trick to ensuring the steak tastes like a fancier cut is to cook it very quickly: "Use a lot of salt, a quick sear on each side, and serve it pretty rare," Applestone says.
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What you thought of: The rates at the all-inclusive resort you picked.
What you forgot to save for: All the activities they're going to charge you for once you're there. "The words 'all inclusive' are deceptive," says Peter Greenberg, the travel editor for CBS News and author of The Best Places for Everything. In fact, there's one clear signal that a whole bunch of things cost extra: "The most dreaded symbol in the English language is the asterisk," Greenberg says.
How to get a good deal: The best time to ask about how that little star will affect the cost of eating, water sports and childcare options is before you get to the hotel. If you don't ask in advance, Greenberg says, start talking to management as soon as you arrive. The resort will be less likely to give you a deal on individual lessons or services (after all, they've still got to pay the tennis instructor or masseuse), but there are places where you'll have more success: "They'll discount activities in which their basic costs aren't going to get killed," says Greenberg. "Individual water skiing lessons, no. On the other hand, the entry fee to a group activity, like a kids' camp, might be discounted."
What you thought of: Sunscreen, water bottles, towels, sand pails and shovels.
What you forgot to save for: A sun umbrella. "People are constantly coming up and saying, 'We didn't prepare for sunshine like this,'" says Wyatt Werneth, a spokesman for the American Lifeguard Association.
How to get a good deal: Buy it at home (Target sells them for as little as $5). If you have arrived without an umbrella and are unsure as to whether buying an umbrella or renting is more costly, Werneth says, "Generally, you're [still] better off if you buy it yourself." The only exception to this rule is windy weather. "If you go and buy a cheap umbrella and it's windy," Werneth explains, "it's going to tear your umbrella up, flip it up and blow it across the beach."
Buying Camp Gear
What you thought of: Tuition for camp.
What you forgot to save for: The equipment to send with your darling camper.
How to get a good deal: Stick to the list. "Sending things beyond the camp list is superfluous," says Jill Tipograph, founder and CEO of Everything Summer, a firm that helps kids and teens find camps and summer programs. "Parents don't realize that most of the camps have pre-configured cubbies or closets, and they don't have a lot of space," says Tipograph. Send a flashlight with extra batteries. The camp catalog will have gear--but at a premium price. If your child desperately wants a camp sweatshirt, go ahead and buy one, but you'll find better deals on everything else, from rain jackets to portable fans, at local stores.
Use the cash you save on gear to buy a hardy trunk, which is the best camp luggage option because, unlike a duffel, it'll keep all your camper's possessions in one place. When you're checking out different models, Tipograph suggests that you find one with "material that is weather (and mold) resistant [and has] strong corners with extra-strength sewing." If the camp has cubbies or shelves, opt for a soft trunk. They're less pricey, fold down when not being used, and still give you enough space to pack everything without loading your child down with a bunch of bags.
There's one exception: "If your child is going to be living out of a trunk, you need a hard trunk," says Tipograph. "This may be the only storage vehicle a camper has. Hard trunks are designed for packing and ongoing accessible storage," whereas soft trunks are designed mostly for packing. While the prices on trunks may seem high, keep in mind that, unlike other camp gear, you can use it for travel and home storage year-round.
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What you thought of: The occasional bottle of wine for friends.
What you forgot to save for: Gifts for all 10 of the cookouts you've been invited to, plus an attractive something for the lovely acquaintances who invited you to their beach house.
How to get a good deal: Skip the last-minute dashes to the liquor store--they always involve spending more than you intended. Instead, check out our recommendations for hostess gifts. Pick the one you like best, stock up on it and give it out at every party. Our selections start at $8, and they're so good, you'll be guaranteed a return invitation.
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Amusement ParksWhat you thought of: Buying tickets for a day at the amusement park.
What you forgot to save for: Food and the inevitable trip to the souvenir shop.
How to get a good deal: Tickets to an amusement park typically cover the entrance fee and all the rides in the park. Funnel cake, Skee-Ball, clown toss, live musical shows, stuffed animals and logo caps all cost an additional fee. You can purchase coupons for the extras when you arrive at the park, but for deeper discounts, purchase them in advance on the park's website. "We offer coupon books that are 20 percent off on games if you buy them in advance," says Greg Morrow, chair of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions Games Committee and games and merchandise manager at Lake Winnepesaukah.
To save on food, Ken Whiting, an amusement parks consultant, who is chair of IAAPA's Food and Beverage Committee and president of Whiting's Foods, which handles food for the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, suggests purchasing pre-sold meal tickets, which give a discount of "up to 10 to 20 percent." For additional savings on games, food and shows, Whiting suggests friending the park on Facebook. "With some regularity, there will be an offer put out on the park's Facebook page. Save 10 percent on a particular item on a particular day," he says.
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