Traveling Thursday – Thrifty is nifty.

As travelers, most of us are looking for a bargain. It’s why we use Priceline and Kayak or check flight prices around 3 p.m. on Tuesdays.

During our travels this summer, I’ve been thinking about other “hidden” tricks for keeping the cost of vacations low.

Loyalty = lower gas prices
Consider doing your shopping at a supermarket that allows you to rack up gas discounts through your grocery purchases. You can earn even more by buying gift cards at the same markets. Many outlets offer gas station, restaurant, and/or hotel gift cards. Why not get an extra benefit from money you’re already planning to spend on your vacation?

Membership has its privileges.
We all know that AAA and AARP members can save a lot on travel expenses but consider your other memberships as well. I know some alumni associations and professional groups that offer hotel and rental car discounts. If you are member of a zoo, aquarium, garden, museum or other attraction, find out if you can use reciprocal benefits during your travels. With most reciprocal agreements, you can enjoy at least a 50 percent discount on admission fees.

Pack your snacks.
Whether you are flying or driving, there could be major savings in bringing your own munchies. Airport stores and food marts at hotels and resorts are infamous for over-inflated prices. I can remember a trip to a resort market where the items were selling for more than the manufacturer’s suggested retail price.  By packing your own snacks, you avoid the high prices and make sure you’ve got nutritious options.

On trips to Vegas and Orlando, where we we staying in a unit with a kitchen, we took advantage of Southwest’s generous bag policy and packed staple food items in our extra bag. We were able to bring pasta, peanut butter, oatmeal, cereal, flat-breads, and canned soup. When we arrived, we still had to buy perishable items (at the higher resort-town prices) but we saved a lot of time and money by bringing what we could.  If you go this route, don’t be surprised to find a TSA inspection note in the bag.

Couponing isn’t just for the grocery store.
Be sure to pick up a coupon book found in most hotel lobbies or welcome centers. You can find some good deals while learning about the area you’re visiting.

Buy in advance?
Review the websites of the attractions you plan to visit to find out if you can get a discount by purchasing tickets in advance. I highly recommend buying advanced parking for sporting events and concerts. You can save money and avoid the hassle of lines.

Do you have any tricks for shaving the cost from your vacation? Leave your tips in the comments.