How to Save for a Vacation
Last week, we discussed ways that people with plans this summer can save money while on vacation. However, those without vacation plans – yet – are at an even greater advantage, since some of the best money-saving opportunities for travel take place during the planning stages. In fact, last minute deals as well as creative scheduling can make a huge difference in the overall expense of vacation during the summer months, as well as all year long.
Use a Travel-Related Credit Card
When you use credit cards the right way, there are a lot of advantages and rewards to choose from including everything from statement credits to gift certificates. Travel-specific credit cards which usually apply to a specific company or corporation, are no different, and there are a variety of types that different users may find advantageous.This includes:
- Airline-based cards that offer discounts, upgrades, and companion tickets
- Hotel-based cards that earn users free stays or room upgrades
- Destination-focused rewards cards, including the popular Disney card which offer discounts, upgrades, and access to areas around the Disney parks.
When you pay off your credit cards each month, point balances are the same as free money to spend on these aspects of travel. However, those without travel-specific credit cards can still find beneficial rewards. Many cards offer users the option to use points for hotel and rental car gift certificates which also allows users to shop around to different companies and find the best price before cashing in rewards.
Consider the “Best” Time to Get Away
While the words “summer” and “vacation” are pretty much synonymous, vacationing during peak travel months, such as July and August or Christmastime, is not the best way to save money on the road. In fact, travelers exponentially increase the to save when they go away during the so-called “off-season.” However many of these “off” months are still great times to go to the beach or a theme park. Many tourist spots are open on weekends in June and the beach is lovely in September. While some people, such as those of us with school-aged children, have less flexibility in this regard, others can save hundreds of dollars a week in hotel fees alone, not to mention avoid crowds and traffic!
Finding the least expensive hotel room in the area may seem like the best way to save money when planning your vacation, but there are also a variety of “hidden” fees that come along with making that choice. A hotel situated far away from popular tourist activities, forces you to spend money on gas and parking each day. A slightly more expensive room with amenities like a mini fridge and microwave saves money in the food budget since it allows you to plan for, prepare, and store your own food. The same goes for hotels that provide breakfast each morning.
Finally, considering the size of a hotel room is also important, especially when traveling in a group. Sometimes, opting for a larger suite-style room and splitting the cost is less expensive than reserving two private rooms. In addition, larger groups and families can save money by renting a house or condo within walking distance of a beach or boardwalk. When split among 2-3 groups, the costs of private rentals are often far lower than hotels and they come with a full kitchen standard!
Plan Early, Plan Late
Another great way to save money in the vacation planning process is to consider when you make your plans versus when you want to get away. Planning to travel far in advance saves money in a number of ways. First, it allows you to spread out payments such as airfare and hotel deposits over a longer period of time, potentially reducing interest charges on credit cards. Second, many places, especially package-rated ones like cruises or all-inclusive resorts, may offer discounts or coupons for early bird reservations.
Similarly, waiting until the last minute can also save money, though it is less guaranteed. Since resorts, flights, and cruises can never truly anticipate how many people will book a trip at a particular time, often there are open seats and rooms that travelers can reserve at the last minute at steep discounts. Though risky, if you have the flexibility, it is not unheard of to 50% or more off of standard prices on package deals by booking between one week and one day in advance.
Getting the Most Out of Your Vacation Budget
Going on vacation is a pleasure and a privilege for a number of reasons and, often, worth the expense. However, using a bit of planning and strategies designed to save you money can also make vacationing affordable.
**What strategies do you use when planning a vacation that saves or stretches your money?**