Escaping from the confines of a cubicle or a classroom for a fun-filled vacation is something most people dream about. The good news is that you can enjoy your holiday without spending exorbitant amounts of money. Read on for tips on how to stretch your vacation and your budget.
Do Your Research
Think about what you'd really like to do on your vacation and create a list to narrow your choices - whether it's hitting the beach, going shopping, climbing a mountain or visiting a museum. Consider whether you can do this somewhere nearby, or whether you know anyone who has done your chosen activities before on a similar budget. Alternatively, travel agencies or even chat rooms on the topic can provide great advice on accommodations, places to dine, things to do and tourist traps to avoid. Internet sites such as Yahoo! Travel, Expedia and Priceline are often useful when seeking reasonable fares.
Look For Deals or Coupons
Peruse newspapers, magazines and websites for advertised deals (or coupons) on items like hotels, rental cars or other methods of transportation you'll be using. Major airlines also offer some good money-saving packages, and many clubs or organizations offer discounts to certain demographics such as students and senior citizens, so be sure to ask vendors what discounts are available and whether you qualify. Booking online can often save you up to 30%.
Don't just call the hotel and airline directly to make reservations; call them to inquire not only about price, but also to determine whether any of the travel websites enable you to plan, price and book the trip online. Many travel websites direct travelers in bulk to certain destinations, which can mean cheaper rates than you'd be able to fetch on your own. In addition, some travel organizations offer discounted rates to groups, when asked. If you don't ask, you might not be offered the discount - and don't forget to negotiate!
Pack A Lunch
Unless you've landed a great all-inclusive vacation, one of your biggest expenses when traveling is dining. Consider packing a cooler with your favorite lunch or dinner items. Alternatively, you could visit the local supermarket each day to shop for some of your meals. This can save you a lot of money over the length of your trip.
Have A "Staycation"
A great way to save money is to find a destination that you and your family can enjoy that is close to home. This way, you can avoid costly transportation such as airfare. Alternatively, you can have a "staycation", where you relax at home and enjoy the flavor of your hometown. You can then use some of your savings on a spa day or park pass.
Many parents don't have the luxury of spending time with the kids all summer. Summer camps can be an affordable way to ensure your children are in a safe environment and give you some time to yourself. To save money, it is often less expensive to send kids to camp in shorter two- or three-day trips throughout the summer rather than for five or more consecutive days. Day camps that bus children to daily activities are an option that cuts the costs of food, lodging and full-time staff. Early registration can also provide discounts, and many camps also offer gift certificates - which might be an ideal birthday or holiday gift for your child or someone you know.
Consider Joining AAA
If you're looking to stay or travel close to home, chances are you'll be relying on the family car. Therefore, it makes sense to ensure that the vehicle is operating properly. In addition to offering roadside assistance (for a price) if necessary, the American Automobile Association (AAA) can help you find a car, and obtain financing and automobile insurance. AAA also offers travel discounts on hotels, cruises and other travel-related items. AAA even offers lower rates at many local merchants.
Find Non-Peak Seasons
Certain destinations are in high demand during certain times of the year. As a result, traveling when everyone else wants to travel can become quite expensive as merchants hike prices during these peak seasons. If you can avoid traveling during a peak season, you can potentially cut costs by 10-50%. Another benefit of avoiding peak season is reduced competition for certain landmarks and attractions. Fewer people means smaller lineups and better photo opportunities. Time of day is another consideration. For example, a theater matinée is often cheaper than the price at night. Time of day can also affect the cost of air travel.
Consider Currency Rates
If your travel plans take you out of the country, high fees related to currency exchange can leave you with a bitter aftertaste. You can easily save a few extra dollars by conducting a pretrip investigation. The best conversion rates are generally found in the country to which you are traveling. However, don't whip our your wallet at the airport, where exchanges tend to be pricey. Instead, head for automated teller machines affiliated with major banks. Also, be sure to check your credit card company's exchange rates before you leave. You may be charged 1% for conversion as well as a 1-2% service fee. This is generally less than what you'd pay if you were exchanging cash or traveler's checks.