It is the time of year when we all look forward to summer! That means swimming, lazy days, BBQs, and vacations!!! If you plan on traveling anywhere this year, there are some simple things you can do to have a fantastic trip on a budget!
Whether you plan on staying close to home or flying to an exotic location, a vacation is a time to spend with your family. But, while you want to enjoy your time together, you also do not want to go into debt just for a week’s worth of fun! With some simple planning and know how, you can have an amazing family vacation on a budget.
Before you get busy planning, you need to know how much to budget for your vacation. While you may want to spend a week on a beach in Maui, the reality is that you may only be able to afford to toss a beach towel on your deck!
There is no rule that says you must take a big vacation to have fun. There are plenty of things you can do to plan your vacation on a tight budget but come back feeling refreshed after spending time away.
FAMILY VACATIONS ON A BUDGET
Purchase tickets before you go
The ticket window can often result in higher rates than what you find online. Sign up for emails a few months before your plan to go as they sometimes offer discounts to subscribers. As soon as you see a deal, grab it!
You may also find online sites that can provide discounts of as much as 20%. Even the venue or park itself sometimes has offers that are limited to online purchases. But, do not limit your search to online offers. Some stores may sell discounted tickets to various parks and events. Call around or ask locals where they get discounts to the place you want to go.
One word of warning: When it comes to using secondary markets, be careful. Some of these are people looking to rip you off. Do your homework to make sure that they are a legitimate site. And, as the saying goes, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Follow daily deal sites
Watch GroupOn for the city where you are heading to as there are often admission deals to theme parks, restaurants, and even hotels. So, if you are heading to Houston, watch the Houston GroupOn page.
You can even keep the app on your phone and check it when you arrive. You might stumble upon a place you wish to visit and can score a discount. We did this when we took our family to Orlando and saved more than $20 on admission to a fun museum!
Purchase airfare at the right time
There are right and wrong times to buy airline tickets. If you can get them less than six weeks from when you travel, you can often save a lot of money! Other tips include flying during the middle of the week rather than the weekend and booking late on Tuesday night.
There are also excellent online price trackers you can use to find a great deal. When you first visit a site such as Priceline, you can find better prices on your airfare than you would if you book directly through the airline.
Get a deal on your rental car
If you must rent a car, find the best discount before you book. You can save if you book far in advance and even if you prepay. There are a few other ways you can save more money on your rental cars.
Don’t over plan
There is no need to see an attraction every day of your vacation. If you plan on being at your destination for five days, just plan events for 3 of them and then spend a couple of down days. Nothing says you have to do something every minute you are away from home.
Yes – you read that right! There are actually great ways to use coupons when you travel.
Visit the website for the city you plan to visit. For example, at the VisitKC website, there are 2-for-1 offers which anyone can use (local and tourists). Just print out the coupon and take it with you to knock money off of your admission to various locations.
If you do not find something online, ask at the desk where you are staying if they have anything like this. The lobby may have brochures or coupons you can use, or the tickets may be offered only to guests who inquire.
Skip the hotel
Opt for the rental of a home or a condo. You not only get more space but a full-size kitchen. That way, you can cook your meals and save on the high cost of dining out.
If you happen to know family or friends nearby your destination, reach out to them where you can stay for FREE! They would probably love to see you and offer their home as a way to help you save money on your lodging.
Book the right hotel
If you do need to use a hotel, find one which offers a free breakfast. That will be one less meal you have to pay for each day! Look for other accommodations such as movie nights, swimming and a gym. You’ll have instant things to do that are included in the price of your room.
And, when looking, consider a location that is not close to the city center or venue you will attend. Often, the rates at these locations are higher, simply because they are close to the action. Booking a distance away can save you quite a bit on your hotel costs.
The most popular times of the year to travel often coincide with holidays. July 4th, Memorial Day, Labor Day may work great with your work schedule, but that is also true for others. As a result, ticket prices often skyrocket, forcing you to pay more for your trip.
Not only can you save money if you don’t travel during these times, the crowds may be lower. If you hate big crowds, then this is something you absolutely want to do.
Don’t use plastic
When you do travel, stick with cash or traveler’s checks if possible. When you use cash and track it properly, you will spend less. This is true for regular spending and also on vacation. You can take along your cash envelopes – just modify them for your trip:
If you do use cash, make sure you do not take all of it with you on every outing. Request a safe in your hotel room and keep it locked up (many hotels now have this included as a standard feature).
Don’t Dine Out
If your hotel does not include a free breakfast, you can pick up items at a local store and keep them in your room. Some hotels offer a mini fridge for free, so you might ask if you can have one in your room to keep items chilled.
Then, visit the local store and pick up breakfast and lunch items to make inexpensive meals in your room. A bowl of cereal and fruit is an affordable breakfast. Pick up lunch meats, spreads, and bread to make sandwiches for lunch!
If available, you might even see if you can find a location with kitchenette. We did this one year and were able to have all of our meals there. It was a simple way for us to save a bit of money.
Pack a backpack with snacks and bottled water for during the day. Then, when the kids are hungry, you can pull out a fruit or granola bar. Water is not only a healthier option, but you can refill your bottle for free pretty much anywhere you go!
**BONUS TIP: Toss a towel into your backpack so you can wipe down wet seats and to use later in the day as a cooling rag for your neck.
Use your rewards
Many times, credit cards, shopper cards and warehouses all offer discounts and deals to members. Go online to see if they have discounted tickets, airline miles or other offers that will help save you money on your vacation.
Plan a staycation instead
Perhaps your budget is too tight to allow for a vacation this year. Why not do a staycation instead? You can set up your own water park in your backyard. You can turn on the game and make your favorite ballpark foods and have a game day at home. You can even visit local tourist destinations in your city.
There is no rule that says you must travel more than 10 minutes from home to have a great time. We’ve got a list of amazing, affordable staycation ideas you can plan for your family this year.