I personally believe that there is no better place to vacation than Israel. There is so much natural beauty and so much to experience. But vacations can get expensive and sometimes so much so that it seems impossible to arrange within a budget. Here are some tips to save on the various expenses that are part of a vacation:
#1 –Bargain on the price of the hotel room. As westerners, we are averse to bargaining, but Israelis are not. Ask for a discount, tell them your budget and see what they’ll do. When I recently booked a room I asked for a further discount and was immediately presented with (1) an upgrade for ₪ 100 less and (2) a coupon book for all the kosher restaurants in the area. This is what happens when you just ask.
#2 – Consider a tzimmer. This is by far the biggest secret for vacationing in Israel. A tzimmer is really just a hotel with a jacuzzi in it. Some of them are private cabins and some are virtually identical to hotels, but almost all of them are cheaper than most hotel rooms. Generally, a tzimmer is a bit fancier, more elegant, and offers spa treatments (which are optional and often overpriced) but because most tourists have never heard of a tzimmer, the supply remains up, the demand is low and as a result, so is the price. Check out places like www.zimmer.co.il for tzimmer listings.
#3 – Have at least one picnic a day instead of eating out every meal. It is nicer, probably healthier and much cheaper. And don’t worry about shlepping food everywhere; odds are there is a supermarket in whatever city or town you are going to. That being said…
#4 – Limit eating out to once a day. Eating out is usually the biggest expense aside from the hotel. Do you need a fancy restaurant in the morning? Why not go to the local bakery and get some fresh bread and some cheese at the makolet. This can save you literally ₪ 100 a meal.
#5 – Hike. Israel is a country of hiking. Almost every area in this country has fun and inexpensive trips available. Check out sites like www.tiuli.com for some really fantastic trips are either free or cost very little.
#6 – Be your own tour guide. There is so much information on the internet that is so easy to find. Have different members of the family learn about different areas beforehand. Share and talk about things together. This will not only save you money, but make the trip much more memorable and personal.
#7 – Take the bus. Okay, probably not the most romantic idea, but it can be a huge money saver. On my upcoming trip I weighed two options, renting a car and using the bus to get the main destination and from these using cabs. I called up the local cab companies in the vacation area and asked the prices of the trips I want to take (add ₪ 15 to whatever they say to be safe). Turns out I can save nearly ₪ 500 by not renting a car. It is just one bus each way and some cabs – not a bad tradeoff at all.
#8 – Bargain on luxuries. Remember that whenever you are going to buy a souvenir or something nice you can always bargain. On trips, I do not want to get into aggressive bargaining, but I have saved a few hundred shekels by just politely asking for a discount.