Vacation. It's a magical time for friends, couples, and families to relax, unwind, and connect with others rather than their favorite devices. If you're not careful, it can also become a time when you leave a massive hole in your budget.
There are ways you can save money while on vacation, both while planning it and when on vacation. You could save even more than you might expect.
The first key to saving money while on vacation involves maintaining a focus on costs with each budget line of your travel plans. You can do this while you're planning your vacation with a few simple steps.
Plan Your Meals
With so many hotels and condos offering fully stocked kitchens and kitchenettes or microwaves and mini-fridges, you can save quite a bit of money on meals by eating out only once per day (if that) and preparing the remaining meals in your room.
If your hotel offers free breakfast, take advantage of that as well. If dining out once daily, lunch is often the best time to splurge. Many restaurants provide reduced prices on their lunch menu. You might even have enough food left on your plate to take back to your room for a snack later in the evening. Don't forget to look for 'early bird' dinner specials as well.
Book Your Hotel Wisely
Forbes recommends going to the hotel website directly to get the best price for hotel rooms. If you're a member of a specific hotel's loyalty program, you can save even more money. The same holds for senior discounts. How much money can you save? According to Forbes, the differences in rates could be as little as one dollar or as much as $50. Of course, don't forget to use your points to save on your travel.
Consider going outside the box and renting from Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway or another resource. You may even find apartments are available at much better costs than renting hotels for the duration of your vacation, while also providing you with more room to spread out and dine-in.
Whether you're flying or driving, the way you pack can have a significant toll on how much you spend on your vacation and how much you enjoy it. No one wants to carry around unnecessary and bulky items. Pack lightly and try to get all your supplies and clothing in one carry-on sized bag per person if possible. That will help you avoid hefty bag checking fees with the airlines.
While on Vacation
During your vacation, you have opportunities to save as well. The below tips can help you avoid unnecessary spending and may be instrumental in stretching your dollars, allowing you to add more activities or mementos to remind you of an extraordinary time together as a family.
Bring Snacks and Water Along
Make sure you pack a backpack for your outings and fill it with water and snacks. That will help you avoid hungry, cranky children (or parents) and the higher prices of similar items at convenience stores in touristy areas of town. However, be open to splurging for special treats unique to a particular locale, such as beignets in New Orleans, clam chowder at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, or homemade key lime pie in Florida.
Seek out Free Entertainment and Attractions
Many museums offer reduced priced admissions on some days while others are entirely free. Same goes for National Parks. These may not have all the frills you will find at costlier attractions like branded theme parks, but spending some of your time at free attractions allows you to have budget left for the pricier attractions you have highlighted for a visit.
Other free or low-cost attractions to consider include:
- State parks
- Walking tours
Check out local calendars for the city or area you are visiting to learn about community events, activities, and attractions that are free on given days. Also look for local movie houses that offer second-run movies at deep discounts or local theatre companies that can put on a good show. That gives your family something to do if your other plans for the day are rained out.
Buy City Tourism Cards
These cards give you access to many of the top attractions in the city for free or at steep discounts. Many even offer free public transportation for the duration of your stay negating the need for car rentals and associated parking fees. In addition to providing free access to some of the city’s top attractions, they also offer discounts on restaurants and shops.
Look for Discounts and Deals Online
Browsing the Internet can help you locate great deals on popular tourist attractions in various cities across the country. That's not the only way to save, however. Consider looking at chain restaurants and see if they offer discounts for new email subscribers or via downloadable apps. These discounts may be useful for free appetizers, reduced meal prices, buy one get one free or half off admission to attractions, and more.
Employing a few key savings pointers before and during your vacation can help you get more mileage and fun from your vacation while helping you stay within your budget. These tips will help you stretch your vacation dollars without sacrificing fun festivities with your family.