Vacations don’t have to be expensive. They certainly can be, but there’s no rule that dictates vacations must exceed a certain monetary threshold in order for the individual to enjoy it. Here are some ideas that readers may consider in order to take much needed vacations, but keep expenses from running out of control.
- Shop around for the best deals. Some simple research while sitting in front of the TV can pay huge dividends. There are many websites that offer coupons and discounts for stays at various hotel chains, bed and breakfasts, etc. Websites such as Airbnb, VRBO.com, Expedia, etc., offer visitors the ability to search out different homes or condos that individuals have for rent (Airbnb and VRBO.com) or prices on the best hotels in the area (Expedia). Many of these sites have reader reviews that can inform the future traveler about the cleanliness, ambiance and overall satisfaction with a particular stay.
- Brown bag it. Many individuals spend almost as much if not more on dining out that they do on their other vacation expenses. Add kids to this scenario and eating on vacation can get ridiculously expensive. Instead, try packing a cooler full of your essentials for the stay such as breakfast items, cooking utensils, and other food for the week. Choose a place to stay that has a cooking area and a fridge. Pack snacks for the kids from your home pantry. Often, the expense of groceries for the week will be less than one meal out at a restaurant. If packing is difficult (if you’re flying) find where the nearest grocery store is in the area you’re staying and plan for a few hours of shopping.
- Travel when others don’t. Many times you’ll get the best rates when you travel and stay in non-peak times. Generally, this means during the week when others are still working. It also means avoiding the crowds and hassles of packed freeways and airports when everyone else is traveling such as major holidays and weekends. Additionally, prices are usually lower during non-peak travel times. This is true for airfare, hotels, gas, and theme parks.
- Plan ahead. Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you have to always fly by the seat of your pants. For example, an inquiry into the pricing of flights to a certain destination showed that airfare was over $300 less if I would have booked 6 months prior. When you’re on your stay, ask around for the best deals. Ask your hotel if they have coupons to various places. Ask locals in the area where the best places are for the best prices. Don’t be afraid to call the place you’re going to stay and bargain. Sometimes directly bargaining with the individual or place will yield better savings than the discount websites. For dining, plan your meals in advance and pack your cooler or shop accordingly.
- Invest in experiences. When you’re on your vacation, do your best to invest in experiences. Think about the last time you went on vacation. If you remember anything you purchased that you regret or would not buy again, keep that focus on your next trip. Instead, focus on the experiences your money will buy. This includes precious time with growing kids, maintaining a relationship with a spouse, and creating memories that are priceless. This isn’t to say some souvenirs aren’t warranted, but be smart about it. Often these trinkets are expensive junk. I don’t need a coffee mug telling me the city I stayed.
- Stop keeping up with the Jones’s! Your vacation and relaxation is not and should not be dependent on your friends’ or neighbors’ vacations. Who cares where they went and who cares what they did. Of course, be happy for them and listen when they explain their excitement, but don’t be jealous or envious. You don’t know how they paid for it or what circumstances surround it. If your peers’ vacations make you jealous or envious, see a counselor. You’ve got bigger issues.
- Don’t finance your vacation with debt! As a financial planner, I’ve seen too many individuals finance their vacations with credit cards. Often, it’s a symptom of keeping up with the Jones’s. And likely, the Jones’s are doing the same thing. Instead of financing your vacation with credit card debt, save up and use that saved money for the trip. If you find yourself with little saved, then plan a less expensive trip. This may mean a small, three or four-day weekend trip instead of a two week stay. The only time credit cards should be used for vacation is to not carry cash on the trip, foreign travel, or to take advantage of discounts offered by the card company for the specific trip. A good rule of thumb, any amount put on the credit card should already be in the account where the credit card bill is paid from – in full! The credit limit doesn’t mean a spending maximum.