Our guest blogger Jenny from SouthernSavers gives sage advice on how to save money and make your vacation the best one yet.
The weather is warm, and you are getting
the itch to change scenery and just relax. Vacations are wonderful, but
how can you truly relax when you know that your hard earned money is
being spent so quickly? By starting with general principles and a few savvy planning tips you can really get off on the right foot to save big!
A well planned trip takes time. If you try to plan a vacation at the
last minute you will most certainly spend more money than you intend.
For one thing, you won't have time to follow any of the tips that
follow in this article if your vacation is next week. Starting a few
months out gives you some time to brainstorm, save money, and do adequate research. Impromptu travel is sometimes necessary, but don't waste
money on a haphazard vacation.
Set a Budget
It seems that this one tip is really the essence of frugality. It is
a proven fact that if you plan ahead on how your money will be spent,
you will spend less overall.
First, decide how much total money with which you have to work.
Remember, you can't spend money that you don't have. Commit yourself to
not paying for your vacation with credit. Your happy memories will be
tainted with the stress of paying off the debt. You may already have a
chunk of money saved, or you may have a bonus check or tax refund you
are planning to spend. If not, figure out how much money you will be
able to save up over a period of time. Have $20 a week (or month)
deposited directly into a savings account, cut spending in your regular
monthly budget and save the difference (see how low you can get your
grocery bill!), do some odd jobs or side jobs to earn extra cash, or
even stash away loose change.
Next, break your budget into categories such as lodging,
transportation, food, activities, and souvenirs. We will talk about how
to save in each of these categories specifically in the weeks to come,
but for now simply consider your priorities. For instance, as you
think about lodging, do you need a hotel with all of the amenities, or
do you really just need a bed (where you can crash after a day of
chasing your children all over the beach)? When deciding your daily
food allowance consider your priorities and still think practically. You might want to spend a little more to experience authentic French
(or Italian, or Thai, etc.) cuisine but the sandwiches you can make
yourself are probably just as good as what you'll eat in the
restaurant at Disney World. You may be dying to scuba dive in the
Caribbean but care less about parasailing, or maybe it is just the
opposite. It all depends on what you are looking for in a vacation.
Take time to decide what it is you must do to come home happy,
spend higher percentages of money on those things, and skimp on the
rest. Generally, you want to find ways to save on transportation so you
have more money to spend when you actually reach your dream
If you followed tip #1 and started early this will be much easier to
do. Your calendar has less appointments on it, it is easier to clear
time off with the boss, and you can take your time researching and
If you need to fly, you will find that airfare is considerably
cheaper when purchased in advance and when you aren't locked into a
specific date. Search engines such as Kayak, Priceline, and Hotwire
allow you to sign up for deal alerts which are sent to your email
allowing you to jump on a deal as soon as it is available. However,
these offers usually have a very short window of opportunity, so you
have to be ready to jump on them and be willing to shuffle your travel
dates around blackout dates, etc.
Last, be open to new things. Maybe your family has always gone to
the beach, but you might find that you are just as happy staying at a
cabin on a lake closer to home. Maybe you have always dreamed of
sightseeing in Europe but have never taken the time to explore the
historical, interesting, or unique sites in your own state. A cruise
might seem like the perfect get away for an anniversary, but a bed and
breakfast in a nearby town could be just as romantic. As you plan, keep
an open mind. Think more about the experience you are trying to create
for yourself and your family. Don't feel locked into the type of
vacations typically advertised by the industry. Memories can be made
and fun times can be had just about anywhere.