Summertime is in full stride now. The kids are out of school. As you plan and prepare for your summer vacation(s), consider these 6 financial planning tips so you don’t bust your annual budget:
1. Determine Your Budget – Set aside what you are comfortable spending on this vacation and carve it out of your annual spending plan. It is good to set a target for how much you are willing to spend. This will help you make trade-off decisions during the planning and while on vacation.
2. Consider Driving – or Renting an RV! Make sure to do a cost comparison here. Lower gas prices in recent years have driven airfare prices down. At the same time, with gas price relatively affordable, this might be the year for a road trip. Loading the family into a van will significantly reduce your costs. If you go to national parks or historical areas in the U.S., you can also save with online coupons.
You may even want to consider renting an RV, which will further reduce your costs because you won’t have to pay for hotel rooms. You can even bring your dog and eliminate the costs of boarding your pet. While this may conjure up visions of the movie Vacation with Chevy Chase as you drive across the country, I’ve had friends who have done this and they found that the RV became one of their favorite vacations. In this interconnected age, quiet time with the kids is invaluable. Or as a credit card company says, the experience may be “priceless.”
3. Use Points/Credits – If you can’t get the picture of the Griswolds out of your mind and really hate the idea of a road trip, then fly. If possible, use points from credit cards on your flight or hotel. If you haven’t already reserved, it may be hard to find deals now. Ways to keep your airline costs as low as possible include doing round-trip tickets, which tend to be less costly, and also travel light. Airlines are increasing the costs of carrying luggage, so pack as little as possible!
4. Use Vacation Rental Properties rather than Hotels – Particularly if you are traveling with your family or a group of people, you can reduce your lodging costs by staying at rental properties. Rental properties typically cost 50-80% less per square foot than traditional hotel rooms. I have used Vacation Rentals BY Owner at www.vrbo.com several times and have had great success. You can view photos online of the specific property you are renting and they often include perks such as a community pool, workout centers, and clubhouse areas. Other sites to check for rental properties are www.homeaway.com and www.airnb.com. Beware, however, for scams and make sure you talk to the owner of the property and check their references to make sure they are legitimate. This option provides more room and can make your vacation a home away from home. You can also reduce your meal costs by staying in (see tip #6).
5. Shop for Discounts on Tickets for Attractions – Do an online search for package deals or Groupon for the attractions you are planning to see. Sometimes you must stand in line and can’t order ahead of time online, but it is still worth checking.
6. Watch Meal Costs – If you rent a house or condo instead of staying at a hotel, you can easily save on food costs by eating in, particularly breakfast. You can also entertain in – buy your alcohol and adult beverages and make your own drinks. We’ve often experimented with new drinks that fit the place – like new fruity drinks for the beach. Load up at a nearby grocery store with drinks for the kids and snacks.
If you stay at a hotel, take advantage of the complimentary continental breakfast if provided. If not, then get out of the hotel for breakfast in order to keep costs down. It will also be less expensive to eat a larger lunch and then a smaller dinner. If your traveling party doesn’t get cranky if you don’t eat a lunch over the noon hour but can delay, do a “linner” instead. A later lunch or early dinner, say between 2-4 in the afternoon. Then you can snack or eat lightly at night. This will help save food costs.
With some planning and research, you can stay within your annual spending budget and still have a terrific summer vacation. Enjoy!