Saturday, July 4, 2015

Saving Summer Vacation Dollars

Summer is here and everyone wants to go on vacation. A recent article in USA Today highlighted how credit cards finance many vacations. The younger the adult, the more likely he or she will charge the trip unaware it will take over two years to pay off a two-week vacation. My first thought was who takes a two-week vacation.

It helps if you save for a vacation even if it is only twenty dollars a week. Twenty dollars each week for a year adds up to $1040 plus interest. It’s better to have a budget before you plan your vacation so you don’t overspend. A co-worker confided she spent $10,000 on a Disneyworld Vacation.

When my daughter was five, she had a primo Disneyworld vacation because we had relatives who worked there then, but we did not spend $10,000 dollars, I doubt if we even spent $2,000 for a family of five. We booked a travel package that included airfare, hotel, and car rental. Years later, I asked my daughter if she remember the vacation, she didn't. Sigh. 

Ironically, she did remember the low budget mini golf, kayaking, and even Girl Scout camp. Keep this in mind, when planning your trip. Standing in long lines on hot pavements in massive crowds doesn't always result in magical memories.

How do you get around the high price of vacation? Here are a few things I learned the hard way.

*Contact airlines and hotels directly. You usually get the same or better price than through a third party such as a discount travel site. The travel sites can mess up your room and don’t come through when your flight is changed or canceled.

*Take advantage of discounts such as booking through the week, flying at off times, vacationing off- season.

*Driving to a popular tourist destination, then book slightly out of the area. Prices will be lower and it be a calmer atmosphere too.

* There is no rule you have to stay two weeks or even a week. Cut down your vacation time into chunks of 3, 4, or 5 days. Consider your travel time too.

* Take advantage of hotels that offer free breakfast.

*Eat two meals a day with an evening snack. We always have a late lunch to beat dinner price upswing, but indulge in appetizers or snacks for the evening.

*Transportation may be your most expensive item. Try to be flexible with your travel time when flying, which can result in a better price. Big cities offer reliable public transit. Never underestimate walking when possible.

*Car rental can be a gamble because they hike prices for events, holidays, and weekends. Sign up for a loyalty program. Take advantage of AAA or AARP discounts. Book during a weekday and lock in prices. Flying in, check to make sure your rental car agency is at the airport.

*Read travel reviews. Often people feel tricked because they didn’t know their hotel was located next to a strip club. People do complain in reviews, but consider if what they’re complaining about is an issue for you. The woman who complained that the hotel ran out of wheat toast one morning was not a problem for me.

*Plan ahead & pack appropriately. Having to buy toothbrush, socks, even a swimsuit is an unexpected expense.

*Make time to relax. Our hotel had outside tables and chairs. Often sitting outside and discussing what we did provided us with a much-needed break. Families with young children might consider camping because the YogiBear campgrounds have constant activities for the children.

*Allow for some impulsive decisions. While walking on Pier 39 in San Francisco, we took a short cruise around the bay for $10 per person.

*Google free things to do in wherever you are going. You’d be surprised there are dozens of free things. Some will depend on the season.

If you can’t afford a vacation, consider a staycation. There is plenty to do in your local area. Don’t think so? Check out your state’s local festivals or go on Groupon. You’ll be surprised. Never discount the county 4-H fair either.

The best thing about taking a vacation you can afford is that you’ll only pay for it once, but you’ll remember it forever unless you're my daughter.