Memorial Day weekend is coming up and as the “unofficial start of summer,” the last Monday in May signals to many families that it is time to unwind, relax, and get away. Vacations are often where some of the best memories are made and physically getting away from the same old places and routines is a great way to rejuvenate and come back ready to work or start a new school year.
However, vacations are also expensive. From five-star resorts to all-inclusive cruises, from multi-day theme park passes to quick-and-easy meals on the run, the expenses of getting away add up quickly. While we all wish we had unlimited funds to use for leisure activities – and especially vacation – that is sadly not the case, and for many families on a tight budget, vacation itself is a pipe dream, for now…
But it might not be fore long. That’s because once you have the means to travel there are some great ways to do enjoy your time away without spending too much money in the process. In fact, by doing so, you may find that you are able to take a vacation sooner than you think.
Ways to Save Money on Vacation
There are many small ways to save money while on vacation, but most fall under the same heading – plan ahead! By anticipating what you will need and when you will need it as well as doing a little research before you leave, it is easy to avoid money traps and stick to a budget while traveling.
While most of these tips are pretty intuitive, putting them together maximizes your savings, sort of like stacking deals. In fact, I like to think of vacation money-saving a bit like I do couponing. By taking the time before I go to the store to plan to shop and eat, I save money and time while there. Similarly, planning on how to spend money before you leave allows you the freedom to “get away” with less worry. Here’s how to start:
Leave Your Toiletries at Home
I know it’s tempting to use that stockpile, but most hotels provide basics like shampoo, conditioner, soap, and lotion free of charge. Using these not only reduces the size and weight of your luggage (helpful when flying) but saves you additional money by not using up the stuff you have.
Research Free/Low Cost Activities
While a strict itinerary is the opposite of R&R, spending day in and day out at the free hotel pool is kind of boring. While there are no shortage of tourist traps and expensive amusement parks across the country, there are many other alternatives that offer the same or similar experiences for less. Plus, having a list of things to do prevents boredom or the temptation to spend money shopping or other unplanned events. Here are a few ideas:
- Instead of an amusement park: many areas have nice municipal parks for children, plus many, in more urban areas, are really big and include water features
- Instead of a big museum: out-of-the way museums or local landmarks offer cultural enrichment and often only ask for donation-based entry fees
- Instead of the water park or high-traffic beach: off-the-beaten-track beaches, mountains, and state or local parks generally only require minimal parking charges.
Search for these activities while you are still at home and save or print out directions to each location, storing them in a physical or virtual folder. Then when the inevitable “what should we do” pops up, you are ready with low-cost ways to have fun and spend time together.
Just like your weekly shopping excursions, planning to eat saves you a ton of money while on vacation. Dining out is nice, of course, and something you can work into your plans more easily by limiting it to one meal a day or only a few throughout the week. The rest of the time, stock up on easy-to-prepare and store foods such as yogurt, fruit, cereal, and muffins for breakfast, sandwich supplies and salads for lunch and dinner. Try to find a hotel room with a mini fridge (they often don’t even charge extra) and/or bring a cooler with you (you can also buy a foam one if you fly to your location).
Look for Discounts and Daily Deals
Finally, if you want to add some extra pizazz to your trip and have some wiggle room in your budget, consider looking for daily deals and travel passes that allow you to experience traditional tourist locations for less. Online sites like Groupon are a good place to start, simply sign up for alerts in the city you plan to visit and purchase activity passes when they go on sale. This has the added benefit of a pre-pay option which allows you to spread out your vacation expenses..
Another great, but overlooked option are tourist passes which allow users to pay one price for entry into several popular locations. Different options include “books” of tickets, such as CityPass, which give you a percent discount on individual entry to specific locations, or all-in-one passes, such as the Explorer Pass, that allow entry into dozens of spots over a period of several days that users choose for themselves. These are great options for people traveling to compact, urban locations where there is a lot to see, like New York, Boston, or San Francisco.
Having Fun in the Sun
Taking time to get away from the pressures of everyday life is so important for physical and mental health. Financially, however, vacations can bust the bank, which is why planning ahead is the best way to save money while on vacation. Obviously, there are ways to save when planning to travel as well, which we will cover next week.
**For now, what other tips can you offer about saving money while away?**