- Ask about special seasonal packages that may include food or spa treatments. You can potentially save a considerable amount of money this way, as opposed to paying for every meal, treatment, or service individually. For instance, at the time of this writing, Ojai Valley Inn and Spa, featured in this book, is running a "Holiday Shopping and Relaxation Package" which includes 15% off all purchases at the resort boutique, a complimentary "Kuyam" treatment at the spa, a half-day session at Camp Ojai for your youngster, breakfast for each adult per night per stay, and complimentary gift wrapping in all of their shops. Rates for this package start at $99.50, which is an incredible savings. Many of the resorts highlighted in this site offer such packages.
- Plan off-season trips and book them in advance. Winter is an economical time to vacation in California, as this is considered "off-season" by most resorts. If you can plan a Christmas-time vacation rather than one at peak season (which begins in April when the weather becomes most favorable) you can sometimes book rooms at up to 50% off the regular price. Even though the winter months may be considered "off" time, make no mistake that sometimes these are the most special times to travel with your family. For instance, the Ritz-Carlton resorts (three of them are listed in this site) create a spectacularly festive atmosphere around Christmas time with their enormous gingerbread houses, flamboyant carolers, "teas" for youngsters, and gigantic Christmas trees with basketball-sized ornaments.
- Travel mid-week. If you and your partner can arrange time off during the week, you will not only save money traveling this way, you will achieve a more relaxing vacation sans the weekend crowds. For example, the Monterey Peninsula is my ultimate favorite place to visit, and there are five hotels and inns listed in this site for this area. However, I will not visit this region on the weekends because the whole area (particularly Carmel) is so congested with tourists that just trying to park the car or browse through the shops becomes stressful. Thus, we plan our vacations in this area mid-week when it is quiet and more reminiscent of the way Clint Eastwood depicted the region about thirty years ago in "Play Misty for Me"--as a quaint, sleepy, seaside peninsula. Do we save sometimes up to 50% off the regular rate going this way? Sure, but we would travel this way even if we didn't.
- Inquire about special rates for AAA, Entertainment, and other discount cards. Invest in Entertainment or similar discount books for the areas that you love the most. If, like me, you love the Monterey Peninsula, buy the Entertainment book for this area and you will save money not only on hotel accommodations, but also on restaurants and local attractions. Typically, hotels listed in the Entertainment book offer a 50% discount.
- Ask if the resort is currently running any specials or upgrades. Again, these deals most often occur in the months when tourism is slower, when the hotel is trying to attract more business.
- If you live near the hotel or resort, ask if they offer any specials or discounts for neighbors. Many hotels provide specials for locals, in hopes of gaining their repeat business. You don't have to drive a great distance to have a wonderful vacation time with your family.
- If you are traveling without an Entertainment or other discount book, look in local newsweeklies for restaurant specials. Most of the resorts listed on this site deliver the newspaper to your room. If you plan to venture outside the resort for any meals or activities, it's worth scanning the newspaper for money-saving coupons or discounts at local restaurants and attractions.
- Cut down your food service bill with some strategic planning and packing. If coffee in the morning is important to you, and saving money is of concern, as mentioned in the "What to pack" section, consider bringing a small coffee maker with your favorite roast of ground coffee. A simple room service breakfast of coffee, oatmeal, bagels, and juice for a family of four can easily run up to $60.00 or $70.00. Therefore, I also recommend unobtrusively packing some instant oatmeal, granola bars, bagels, peanut butter, and juice for making similar yet substantially more modestly priced early meals in your room. Also bring your own soda and snacks such as muffins, crackers, cheese (kept refrigerated or in a cooler), fruit, and other simple foods you enjoy. Honor bars and pantry snacks are usually at the same rate as room service, for example, a soda from the honor bar could run $2.50, while the same soda you bring might cost .25 cents. You will obviously want to pack these food items discreetly so they do not attract attention when you walk through the lobby with your luggage! This type of planning however, could save you about $80.00 or more a day by eliminating the resorts' high price trappings for breakfast and snacks. I have observed that breakfast items tend to be fairly standard across the board whether you are visiting a five-star resort or a more modestly priced hotel. Therefore, enjoy the delicacies of the resort's restaurants and in-room dining for lunch or dinner; you will not be missing anything (except overpricing) if you bypass their breakfasts.