Last week, I stumbled on a guest post at Five Cent Nickel about 8 ways to stretch your vacation dollar. Among the suggestions were things like:
- Only eating two meals a day to save on restaurant bills.
- Seeking out less expensive alternatives to traditional “big-name” attractions.
- Paying in advance:
“…if you pay for your car and hotel room…six weeks before your trip, you are much less likely to get hit with surprise budget-killing extra fees.”
In addition, you spread out the cost of your vacation over several weeks or months, instead of spending it all in one shot. Excellent tip!
With two major family vacations and some minor trips planned for this year, it’s essential for us to budget for and control the costs associated with traveling and staying out of town.
Generally speaking, we always use our envelope system to put away money before our trip and know what we will and won’t be able to afford when we go. Other than that, it’s really just about finding ways to stretch the vacation dollar. Here are 8 more tips we use personally:
8 More $-Saving Tips
- Research ahead for low-cost things to do. My wife thinks the amount of research I do before taking a trip is unhealthy, but I’m usually able to find a pretty good deal or two on something we will all enjoy as a family. That doesn’t always mean scoring “coupons” or other discounts, but also searching for fun activities that don’t cost much to do.
- Consider cost of travel when selecting destinations. Some places are simply more expensive to visit than others—this is the reality of travel. It doesn’t mean that we avoid traveling to expensive places, but simply that we either accept it and prepare for it accordingly, or we select a destination ahead of time that will be friendlier to our wallets.
- Use cash for spending money. One area of vacation spending that always got us is discretionary money. When faced with the prospect of buying souvenirs or paying for “experiences” at our destination, it’s hard to track these against your vacation budget on the fly. We use a variant of our envelope system that’s portable—hard cash. Before any vacation, we set aside a predetermined amount of spending cash to use during the trip for “fun stuff.” Once we’re out, we stop spending!
- Book a place with kitchen facilities. Whenever possible, we try to book lodging that includes a kitchenette, or at the very least a fridge and microwave. That gives us the option of buying groceries and preparing our own food when traveling, something that can save hundreds of dollars over the course of a trip.
- Drive whenever possible. A lot of our trips are within the state, which makes it a no-brainer to drive, rather than flying. But even with longer trips, we think long and hard about driving before deciding not to do it. We’ve found that flying has a lot of negative consequences, like limited space to pack, lack of flexibility in terms of travel times, having to deal with an upset baby on a plane, and more.
- Plan repeat visits. With so many Florida attractions only hours away (most of them concentrated in the Orlando area), I’ve warmed up to the idea of yearly passes. With a few select attractions in mind, and limiting ourselves to one per year, we can typically make it 4-5 times a year to the same theme park without getting bored, and without spending the $80 per-person admission every single time. This fills our “need” to get away, and saves us on travel costs in the process.
- Build packing lists. Have you ever gone on a trip, only to realize you forgot to bring a whole list of things? You probably ended up running to the nearest store to get toothpaste, t-shirts, or a razor, all at a premium cost. When it kept happening to us, we realized we could use the experience to build lists of frequently-forgotten items for different travel purposes (one-night trips, camping trips, overseas trips, etc.). Now we use these lists to pack and make sure everything’s in the bag!
- Use the experience of locals. We have many friends and family scattered all around the country and the world. A lot of our trips involve travel to areas close to where those people live—what a resource! Locals know the best places to eat, drink, party, and relax while hanging on to your money, and they are usually more than willing to share and show off the expertise on their hometown.
Your Favorite Vacation-Saving Tips
What’s the best piece of money-saving advice you use when going on vacations? Are you planning any trips this year? Share your tips and comments below the post!
Photo by mdanys