Summer is just about upon us. Some say the recession is over, but many of us are still living with tight budgets. A vacation meant to refresh your soul could become a financial burden if you’re not careful with how you spend your hard-earned money. Here’s some secrets on how you can travel, eat and have fun…. while keeping your wallet in the green.
1. Set up a vacation budget.
Three mandatory items to be included in your vacation budget are: transportation, lodging and food. This will help you determine how far you can go and how long your vacation will be. A budget will help you determine your living standards while away from home, and also encourage you not to overindulge.
Set your “basics” budget funds aside before adding the extras like entertainment, souvenirs, etc.. This way, you won’t end up with an overloaded suitcase and an empty stomach. If you find the grand total exceeds what you can afford, figure out where you can stand to cut back, shorten your stay, or change the destination entirely if the cost is way out of bounds.
2. Think off-peak.
This applies across the board to your 3 essentials: lodging, transportation and food.
Lodging: You can avoid the crowds and save oodles by choosing an off-season destination. At the Scottsdale Hilton, a standard room is $141 in December, Arizona’s peak season. However in June, the same room is $65.
Additionally, savvy travelers target the shoulder season, which is a short period just before high season. Shoulder season vacationers will enjoy almost the same weather and amenities as the high season tourists, but will pay about a quarter to a third less.
Transportation: If you are flying, try flying at less-traveled times. Flights on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturday afternoons typically see the least demand and will have the cheapest rates.
Food: Restaurants will run specials or happy hours midweek when business is slower. You’re not on the clock, so why pay more when you don’t have to?
3. Book in advance.
Amusement parks, campsites and hotels will have special deals– but only for those that book ahead. If you’re a fly by the seat of the pants type, be prepared to pay for the privilege– hotels to attractions generally tend to charge more “at the door” compared to buying tickets or reservations in advance.
4. Check your insurance rates before you go road-tripping.
RVers love to brag about the freedom and convenience they enjoy while on vacation. It’s like taking your hotel room with you, wherever you go, and there’s never a checkout time. Additionally, campgrounds and RV sites can be a very affordable alternative to hotels. However, many RV motorists tend to overlook one basic but crucial component of their budget: RV insurance. These days it doesn’t take much to get a free quote, so make sure you’ve got the lowest rate available for your policy type.
5. Bring your own.
How many times have you been at the amusement park, zoo, or outdoor festival when a rumbling tummy effectively empties your wallet at the concessions counter? Food and provisions from vendors in vacation spots are expensive. Pack a bag full of snacks and bottles of water. Throw in some sunscreen, and cheap emergency rain ponchos. The best benefit to bringing your own snacks is that you can choose what to bring. Convenience stores, event vendors, and hotel vending machines aren’t exactly known for their extensive selection of healthy or tasty foods.
Additionally, check to see if your accommodations have a fridge you can use. Being able to stock up on lunches and snacks from a grocery store and thus eliminating a few trips to the restaurants and fast food joints can really add up.
6. Take gas-saving measures.
Whether you are renting a car or taking yours on the road, filling up the tank can guzzle up your budget. If it’s your car, take the time to get the two things done that will maximize your fuel efficiency: a tune-up and properly inflated tires. When on the road, try to combine errands. Most importantly, chill out: a lead foot can reduce fuel efficiency by 10%. Lastly, pack light and choose your most fuel-efficient car when you take off for your vacation.
7. Book directly through the hotel’s website.
Many hotel chains guarantee the lowest rates available, in addition to offering packages and special offers. You can also take advantage of the hotel’s rewards program, if they offer one. Many are free to join and will offer members VIP check-in, special members-only floors and/or extended checkout times.