Are you gearing up for a summer vacation? Whether your goal is to beat the heat or dive right in, your summer getaway doesn’t have to burn up your budget. With some careful planning and research, you can have a memorable vacation, and still have cash left over. Here are seven tips to help you make it happen:
- Do Your Research – Compare a variety of hotels and travel packages, both with the company/airline directly, and with travel deal sites Expedia, Priceline, Hot Wire or Orbitz. Learn which hotels and resorts offer off-season (or seasonal) deals, AAA or AARP discounts, among other discount programs. You may be able to save a lot of cash by selecting a hotel or airport that’s slightly off the beaten path. A little extra driving or walking can save a few hundred bucks.
- Consider All-Inclusives – Many hotels, resorts and cruises offer all-inclusive vacation packages that include everything from lodging and transportation to food, drinks and tips. These are excellent options for money-conscious travelers who want and need to abide by a travel budget, without budging.
- Plan Far in Advance… or Procrastinate – If you plan on flying, purchase your tickets either far in advance or at the last minute to find discounted prices. This also applies to some hotel rates, all-inclusive vacations, cruises and packaged vacations on travel deal websites.
- Be Flexible with Dates – It’s easier to find discounted flight and hotel packages if you are flexible with dates and times. Consider taking a red-eye or booking your flights on off-days. Flying on Friday or Sunday is typically more expensive than flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday. Rates are also higher on holiday weekends, so avoid them if possible.
- ‘Coupon Clip’ Your Vacation – Travel where the deals are. You can get discounts on hotels and flights if you book them together. And, search for hotels offering perks such as complimentary breakfasts or free long distance and Internet. Most hotel concierges will also have coupons and deals they can provide you upon arrival. All you need to do is ask. Additionally, if you need a rental car, select a small economy vehicle to save on gas. You can also pack your own snacks to save even more cash.
- Jump on the Bandwagon – Travel in a large group with friends or family. Many vacation destinations offer group discounts. You can also split the cost of gas, food and entertainment. If you can’t afford to pay for lodging, visit friends or family in another part of the country and stay with them (offering reciprocal accommodations in your hometown!). They should also have tips on tourist and local hotspots.
- Budget Year Round – If you budget for vacations throughout the year, you won’t feel the pinch when it comes time to take off. Set aside a small amount of money each week or month to use for vacations, as your budget allows. Then, when you’re on the trip, create a max-dollar-per-day spending limit. You should resist the temptation to “charge it” while catching some R&R. Credit card bills can add up quickly while on vacation, and falling deeper into debt can make life on the home front much more stressful.