We all enjoy taking time off to travel and spend time away from our busy lives, but there is no need to sacrifice your budget to make it happen.
Being smart with your money goes beyond saving--it matters how you spend as well. You don’t have to be cheap with your travel plans, but you will need to make a few calculated moves to enjoy the time with your family making memories.
Make and stick to a budget.
Consider all costs associated with your trip, not just the expense of airfare or gas. Figure out what you will spend on food, attractions, and lodging too. Once you have a number in mind, add 10%. This will give you a cushion for unexpected or miscalculated expenses.
Now start saving. An easy way to do this is to set aside a specific amount each month and put it into a savings account just for travel. You can also give up a small daily expense such as coffee, lunch out, or new clothes and put that money towards your travel plans.
Discounts, reward points, and coupons.
There are sites available today whose sole purpose is to help you save money. Websites like Groupon and Living Social run specials and deals all of the time. Spend some time checking them out to see if there are any offers that will help you save a few bucks. Just pay attention to the fine print before you buy - discount websites often have strict cancellation and refund policies.
Look at your credit card and see if you can earn reward points or cash back on travel. Be smart and pay off your balance each month. Remember that travel savings account? You can use the card to earn the points and then pay the balance with cash you have saved.
Hotel rewards are an often forgotten way to save on travel. Look into various chains and programs. More often than not, you will find one that will let you earn free nights for every certain number of nights booked. This is a great way to save some extra cash on your trip.
Be flexible with your destination and travel dates.
If you are able to be a little flexible with the dates you are traveling you can save a substantial amount of money. Flights are typically cheaper on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. Room rates also fluctuate not only with the day of the week but the season as well. If you can visit during the offseason, not only will it be less crowded but some attractions may offer discounts. Just check that wherever you’re going doesn’t shut down during a certain time of year.
Set flight alerts.
Flight prices can change almost daily, if not several times per day. You can set up alerts to receive emails when flight prices reach a certain threshold. This way if you have a budget, you know you can stick to it and book at the best price possible.
Consider alternate housing.
Long gone are the days of staying in a branded hotel for every family vacation. Sites like Vacation Rental By Owner and Airbnb give you a lot of options to fit any need at almost every travel destination. They offer a large variety of options from cabins, condos, and homes. There are reviews of the accommodations so you can be sure that you will be satisfied with your stay.
There is nothing that says you can’t stay with friends or family while on vacation. Most of us have people we know that live in some interesting places. Most of the time they would welcome a visit and this will give you free lodging for your trip. While you are their guest you can contribute money to the food budget or pay for them to join you on some of your outings.
Plan your trip in advance.
Often when a trip is quickly planned, or not planned at all, there are unnecessary expenses. If you simply take your time to plan ahead you can find great ways to save.
From cabs, bus fare, or gas, transportation costs can add up quickly and be expensive. Plan to stay in one place a little longer rather than moving around every day. This way you can get the most out of where you are and really explore. Also, take the time to get a rough idea of what you want to do each day to make sure that you aren’t making unnecessary trips around town.
Once you know your next vacation isn’t going to send you into debt you can relax and enjoy yourself. Don’t get too caught up in capturing everything on camera, and remember to live in the moment. If you stay a little flexible you may even find things to do that you weren’t expecting or discounts and deals you didn’t even think of.