By Stephanie Yates
In the summer months, most of us try to get away for some vacation time. The kids are out of school and for some of us, the pace is a bit slower at work. What a perfect time to kick back, relax, and recharge those batteries! Now, I don’t want to take all the fun out of summer vacation, but let’s go over a few money items so that you don’t end up paying for that vacation long after the summer is over!
You Need a Budget
How are you going to pay for your vacation? Your annual budget should include a provision for vacations if they are in your future plans. Hopefully, you’re putting money aside on a regular basis to make that vacation dream a reality. A budget will help you to determine just how much you should be stashing. Also, when vacation time rolls around, try to let your budget dictate your spending. That is, whatever you have—or reasonably expect to have—at the time of your vacation is all that you can spend. Period. Often, we use credit cards as a way to extend our budget, but that’s a very dangerous business. Suddenly, that $2,000 vacation could end up costing two to three times as much as you planned! Stick to your budget and there will be no surprises or lingering debt.
Start Early—And Late!
Vacation travel is an interesting business. You will want to start planning early for the best availability but you may also want to check your options a bit closer to your preferred travel dates in order to take advantage of last minute deals. The best days to travel by plane are typically Wednesdays, followed by Tuesdays and Saturdays. Holidays too are great days to fly in order to score reduced rates. Also, try to make those purchases between 3 p.m. on Tuesdays and 1 a.m. on Wednesdays for the best deals.
Be a Bargain Hunter
Here are some examples of great travel deals that might take some flexibility and extra digging but could save you big bucks:
• Have you ever heard of a “repositioning cruise”? This is when a cruise line needs to move a ship from one port to another and will take passengers along for the ride, often at a reduced price. The downside is that these cruises tend to be longer than normal and generally do not begin and end at the same port, possibly requiring you to purchase two different one-way plane tickets. Check with the major cruise lines for more details.
• If you are planning a vacation for a large group, consider renting a home instead of a hotel. You may find that the rate per person is lower than if you booked a block of rooms in a hotel. Also, you get the added bonus of kitchen facilities that will allow you to eat in and save even more money. Remember, whether you are researching rental homes or hotels, try to choose a place that is close to the attractions that interest you and has the amenities that you need to make your stay enjoyable. If you choose the rental route, AirBnB.com, HomeAway.com, and VRBO.com are some of my favorite listing sites.
• Speaking of food costs, all-inclusive deals that you would find on cruises and at some resorts can save you some serious cash if you have big eaters in your group. Yes, it’s true that you would have to eat whether you are on vacation or not, but it’s cheaper to eat at home than at a different restaurant every day when you are on vacation. All-inclusive deals often include everything except alcohol. Check out Beaches, Sandals, and Little St. Simons as examples.
• Scoop up those discounts! Hotels and airlines offer a number of discounts. Make sure you take advantage of them—especially if you travel frequently for work or play. Most rewards programs are free to join and could earn you a tidy savings or upgrade on future travel. Also check into senior discounts and special offers linked to your credit cards. Five percent here and 10 percent there adds up when you’re trying to vacation on the cheap!
I hope I’ve given you food for thought to make your next vacation a great one without breaking the bank!