Think you can’t vacation on a budget? Think again! Planning a vacation on a budget can be challenging. When you factor in location, airfare, hotel expenses, dining, and other costs, it starts to add up-- but don’t let that scare you away from wandering to a new and exciting destination. Here are some guidelines that can help you stay on track with a budget and have a fulfilling vacation.
Start with a Realistic Number
You probably already have an idea of what you could spend, what you should spend, and what you would need to spend if you want to go all out. We can all agree that a vacation shouldn’t leave you bankrupt or feeling the need to scramble for months after to recover financially. Start with a number that you know to be manageable. From there, you can decide it if that number realistically encompasses all costs as you do your research. While you may need to adjust the number as you plan, it’s also possible that you may need to adjust your expectations and plans if added costs take you out of the realm of a manageable and realistic number.
Pro tip: If you are planning this trip with enough time to save money, then consider opening a vacation fund account with your bank and keep it separate from any other accounts. Be sure that the only way to retrieve funds is a physical trip to the bank – so that means no debit cards attached in order to avoid easy spending. You can also ask for gift cards for birthdays & holiday gifts to use toward your vacation.
Have a Meeting
If you are traveling with your family, with a friend, or as a couple, it is important to understand what you want to get out of the vacation, what type of vacation to take, and where you want to go.
Is your goal to discover a new place, take a relaxing break from a hectic schedule, or check a box on your bucket list? Will you be camping, cruising, going to a resort, or planning your travel around an experience like a theme park, festival, sporting event or adventure?
Knowing the answers can help you understand how to portion the budget for specific vacation aspects such as dining, accommodations, transportation, or experiences. Plus, by sitting down and taking the time to discuss with your travel companions, everyone will be on the same page with spending goals.
From Point A to Point B
If you have figured out what type of vacation to take, next figure out where you’ll be going. Deciding on the destination also brings up the question…how are you getting there? This is a great time to start researching deals on car rentals, train, or plane deals, and looking at the possibility of using the local public transportation at your destination. Here are some things to consider: • A handy online travel cost tool can help you calculate whether driving or flying is the most cost-effective way to get to your destination (if driving is an option of course!). You may want to try https://www.travelmath.com/
• Hotel points/reward programs – do you already belong to one, or are there perks to signing up (second night free/discounted or dining credits for the area, etc.)?
• If you are cruising, how about looking for a cruise departing from the closest port? Or look for cruise deals that also come with free airfare perks. Just be sure to ask your travel agent and read the terms and conditions as some require you to fly in a day early, which would then require overnight accommodation.
• Airline miles – do you have miles/points you can use to offset the cost of flying? Pro tip: Don’t be fooled into signing up for an airline credit card just to get miles…often, these require you to spend a certain amount within a period of time on that particular card to get those miles, so those miles are not without some cost.
• Travel Light – if you must fly, packing light can save money on checked baggage fees. Pro tip: Do some research on the ability to do laundry on your trip – this could help you pack less.
• If you have decided to take a road trip, consider whether an RV would be a savings rather than driving your own car and staying in hotels. RVs can be a great budget-friendly option…your hotel and restaurant are rolled into one!
• Public Transportation – research the public transportation options in your destination. You may find many inexpensive (and sometimes free) options to get around once you’re there.
‘Tis the Season
No, we’re not talking about holiday travel, but rather, peak vs. off-season times for your destination. Destinations such as Bermuda and Alaska have designated peak and off seasons for obvious reasons, but it may be harder to figure out those times for the destination you are planning to visit. Here are some things to consider that can help you to budget for your destination: • Avoid Peak Seasons – to truly make your dollar stretch, work around the most popular times to visit. If avoiding peak seasons is not possible, then our following tips may help.
• Book in Advance – If you can book a year or more in advance then you may be able to take advantage of early bird special rates, get free or discounted perks on dining packages or local transportation
• Local Happenings - See what is available in the area for free or at a discount such as museum days, walking tours, parks, places to hike, public beaches, kid-friendly activities, and local performances – what you find might surprise you!
• Dining - Eat local, shop for groceries to make food yourself, or leave the tourist areas to dine out.
• Do a Home Swap. This has become more popular and may be a potential savings that could be a game changer for your budget.
We hope this inspired you to save on your next vacation. If you have a favorite saving secret that you would like to share, please tell us about it. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hearing from you will make our day!
By Staff Contributor
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