6 - 2009

12 ways to plan a budget vacation

Carrying on the theme of vacation planning,  check out this list (from Bills.com) of 12 ways to make vacation cheaper:

  1. Save money ahead of time. Brainstorm resources that you can set aside to pay for your vacation: rebates, birthday money, bonuses, garage sale proceeds, money from cashing in change, or profits from eBay sales can help. For future trips, include vacation costs in your annual budget and save a portion each month. Cheap here: We have an ING Direct savings account that automatically transfers money from our checking account every month so that by summer, we can pull funds from it. One of my financial goals is to increase this amount in the future, because traveling is one of my priorities in my future life.

  2. Pick your season. Some spots are much cheaper in low season. The release mentioned that beaches can be cheaper during the hot summer season — and who cares, if you’re swimming anyway? On the other hand, ski areas offer appealing attractions in the summertime.

  3. Consider a city. Those visiting a city might be able to get by with public transportation instead of a car rental, saving hundreds of dollars. Using shuttles or public transit can avoid the need to hire an airport taxi.

  4. Plan far ahead. Order plane tickets well in advance of a trip for the best prices. Additionally, try traveling and visiting attractions mid-week to save a bundle and avoid crowds. Cheap again: If you can’t order early, and you have some flexibility, ordering last-minute can save, too. We always look at Priceline or similar sites, too.

  5. Consider all-inclusive. Sometimes, all-inclusive vacations offer great values, from a cruise to a resort to a dude ranch. Look at the costs of meals, beverages and excursions to decide if an offer is a good deal.

  6. Save with a home away from home. Save money on lodging and meals by renting or trading for an apartment or condominium. You will be able to prepare your own meals and spread out in more space than a hotel. Trade homes with a friend or relative, rent or trade through a reputable home exchange, or housesit to save big on a longer stay — even in a foreign country. Cheap here: We done a home swap (read a little about that here) and rented an apartment in Paris via Expedia, as well as stayed in several timeshare condominiums. It’s our favorite way to stay — you have room to relax if rainy days limit your outdoor time, and you have flexibility to entertain, watch a movie, eat favorite comfort foods or cope if someone comes down with the flu.

  7. Eat in. For a hotel stay, request a room with a microwave and refrigerator. Bring simple non-breakable dishes and make your own breakfast (such as cereal or yogurt), dinner (salad or frozen meals) or snacks. Make sandwiches in the morning, and then eat just one meal a day out to save significantly – and spend more time out enjoying the sights instead of sitting inside restaurants. Cheap says: We’ve never tried this, and I think cooking in a cramped hotel room would bother me. But bringing in some yogurt, saving leftovers or maybe even microwaveable meals rather than ordering room service is a great idea. Pack reusable utensils to avoid some garbage.

  8. Drink water. Bring your own water bottle to save resources and money (call attractions first to make sure they permit bringing a bottle in). Avoid soda or, especially, alcoholic beverages at every meal to save money and calories.

  9. Go coupon crazy. Before leaving home, go online to select activities you might want to do at your destination. Then search the Web for your activity and the word “coupon.” Many places offer two-for-one, free lunch, kids-free or percentage-off coupons online. Print these and bring them along to save.

  10. Strategize souvenirs. Instead of buying souvenirs at a tourist gift shop, visit a large discount retailer. In many areas, these stores have a good selection of T-shirts, mugs, magnets and postcards — at much lower prices. Or purchase something you will enjoy later, like local foods, craft supplies or a needed household item (such as new kitchen towels, a vase or a basket) that will remind you of your trip. Cheap says: I love doing this! Every time I use my Silpat mats and rolling pin I think of New York Cake & Pastry, where I bought them right before we left New York City, and I remember the day when I purchased them.

  11. Camp out. The cheapest lodgings often come when you bring your own roof. Campgrounds are available near amusement parks, beaches and scenic areas. Expand your definition of “camping” to include RVs, rustic cabins and even yurts. “Rough it” so you can splurge on an activity, from a simple hike to a wild ride at an amusement park. Visit a state park near your hometown or in a destination you have longed to visit.

  12. Walk. The best way to see a new place is to experience it. Wear comfortable shoes and take a walking tour or just explore. It is good exercise — and will not break the bank. Cheap says: This is a fabulous way to see a city and limit your environmental impact! If possible, check out the city before you go to find walkable neighborhoods and then look for lodging in that area. If you’re a biker, check for bike shares or bike rentals, too.

Do you do these things? What else do you do to keep vacation affordable?

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