There is no getting around it – a great vacation comes at a high cost. For a family of 4, you can sometimes spend in excess of $5,000 for 5 or 6 days away from home.
How Much Money Should I Save for Vacation?
The amount you can save is going to vary greatly depending on where you want to travel, how thrifty you are and how much research you do.
The different areas you can save some money include Transportation, Accommodations and staying on top of any hidden fees that could end up costing you a tremendous amount of money extra that you haven’t budgeted for.
There are a number of ways to save on transportation when you are going on vacation.
Save Money on Tickets – You can save a lot of money on airline tickets if you’re flexible with your travel dates. A day or two earlier or later can make a huge difference in the cost. Tuesdays through Thursdays are usually the cheapest days to travel by air.
Consider alternate airports – Sometimes, flying into a different airport can save hundreds of dollars per ticket per flight. Larger cities typically have multiple airports.
Consider the cost of travel to and from the airport as well – Try to save money getting to and from the airport. If you take your car, you will need to pay for parking at the long-term car park. There might be cheap transportation to and from the airport, but it might be cheaper and less hassle to take your car if you have a lot of people and/or a lot of luggage.
Don’t overpack – Airlines can charge a small fortune these days for checked baggage. Pack each carry on for each family member carefully for maximum usefulness in the minimum amount of space.
Watch out for fuel surcharges and airport taxes – These should usually be included in the price of the ticket, but if you are booking online, that “cheap fare” might actually end up giving you sticker shock.
Book packages if possible – A flight, hotel and car rental for one inclusive price can be a good deal.
Collect air miles – Air miles can all add up to a big savings on your next vacation as long as there are no high fees for booking. Charges will usually be highest for last-minute travel, such as less than two weeks prior to departure.
Go in the off season – Avoid flying at the height of the holiday and summer. Try spring and fall getaways instead.
Going by Car
Make sure you have the car serviced before you go. You don’t want to end up with breakdowns and/or any costly repairs on the road. Check the tires, especially in warm and cold weather. The state of the tires can have a significant impact on fuel mileage.
Look for good gas prices – If you have more than one option, shop around. Pay cash for your gas. This can save you around 10 cents a gallon because so many gas stations these days are passing along the credit card company charges to the customer.
Bus Trip/Coach Vacations
Go all-inclusive – Consider an all-inclusive bus trip vacation, especially if you are not fond of driving. They can be very cost-effective and offer sightseeing to top locations.
Bus passes – These are popular in Europe and other locations where people like to see the sights by bus. You could get a pass offering unlimited travel for 7 days, for example. Compare the price of the pass with the individual prices of the tickets between all the destinations you want to visit.
Train Passes – As with bus passes, these can be a really cheap way to see Europe and the rest of the world. Note that some train systems will have first, second and perhaps even third-class options. The latter should be the cheapest, and reasonably clean and comfortable in most cases.
Book a cheap cruise – A cruise is your transportation and hotel all rolled into one. All you have to do is unpack once and relax. Before booking, check out each destination carefully to make sure there will be enough to do. Some will stop at interesting destinations, while others will spend most of their time off the shore of their own company-owned island for people to do water sports and other activities.
Look for last-minute deals and packages if you don’t live at a cruise shop port of call and have to fly to get to your ship.
Consider Group Travel
Traveling with a group, usually 4 to 10 people, can really cut down on expenses. Larger groups can get the best rates if they plan ahead.
Accommodations can be one of the most expensive parts of your vacation if you are not careful. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to keep the budget down. Some of the same saving options for transportation apply to accommodations too.
Look for a Package Deal
Once you have created your travel budget, you should have a pretty good idea of how much you can afford per day. Go online to see what kind of package you can get at that rate. For example, booking flight, hotel and car rental on Expedia can offer significant savings.
Be Clear About What is Important for Your Family
If you are single, chances are you won’t care what your room is like because you will be outside of it most of the time soaking up the sights. But do check if you get stuck with a single supplement fee.
If you are traveling as a family, a suite with a refrigerator and microwave can help you keep the kids fed and costs down.
Remember, the less you spend on your room, the more you have to spend on other things.
Some of the properties are really great and a fraction of what you would pay for a hotel. Just be sure to check the location in relation to all the places you want to visit. You may need a rental car if you are not driving to your destination, which can add to the cost. Check for public transportation, and typical taxi fares.
Consider Travel Hostels
Hostels have come a long way in the past few years, and are clean, modern, and full of amenities. Some of them can be a bit out of the way, but their cheapness can more than make up for location. Backpacker hostels in New Zealand are a way of life and are used by people from 8 to 80, so don’t worry about being “too old” to go to a hostel. Just be prepared to share kitchen and sometimes the bathroom, or pay more for a private room if available.
Watch Your Travel Dates
Peak times will be at the holidays and in the summer in many locations. Travel in the off-season can cost a fraction of what it does at peak season.
Bid on Hotwire or Priceline
You can get some great bargains this way. With Priceline, you can’t pick the exact hotel, but you will have an idea of location and rating.
Beware of Location
City center hotels can cost a small fortune compared to others a bit further out. So too can airport hotels if you are not careful. Consider the cost and availability and time factor in relation to public transportation and/or taxis to where you need to go (and/or car rental), and see what makes the most sense.
If you are a frequent traveler, join a loyalty program for the same chain of hotels. It can add up to a range of perks and might also get you a room upgrade at no extra cost.
House swapping is becoming more popular, as families who want to visit certain locations but still enjoy comforts of home exchange with others. Just be careful of location, and do be careful of their property and your own valuables when you have anyone in your house.
Camping can be a great adventure. Campsites can be very basic, or full of amenities.
Deals and discounts
Look for bargain deals, coupons and more.
Check the Fine Print
Before making any booking, be sure to read the fine print so you know exactly what things will cost.
Hidden Vacation Cost Extras and How to Avoid Them
It is important to budget carefully for your travel, but it can be tough when there are so many hidden fees imposed on travelers these days. Here are some important ones to avoid.
Booking Your Flight
Reservations can cost more if you try to book them on the phone these days. However, booking online can be costly too, if you make a mistake. If you have to make a change, they will often charge fees so high they are not much different from the airfare itself. Look for a website or airline that offers a 24-hour flexible booking period. Trip insurance might seem like an extra fee that you would wish to avoid, but it can save a lot of money in the long run.
Be careful when it comes to using frequent flyer programs, because they sometimes impose fees on your supposed free flights. There might be fuel charges, airport fees, and redemption charges when you cash in the miles.
Fuel surcharges are another tricky fee to avoid. They are often tacked onto your frequent flyer miles, and to small children who donít take up a seat. International flights will be the most expensive. Compare costs carefully. The cheap fare you see may not be so cheap after all if the airline imposes fuel surcharges.
Checked baggage fees are another bone of contention. If you want to bring more than just a carry-on bag, most airlines now charge you for it. Pack tightly and bring only small bottles of toiletries that satisfy the rules about how much can be brought onboard. You can always buy more once you arrive at your destination, or use the freebies hotels and motels usually provide.
Overweight baggage fees are exorbitant. If you do have to check a bag, avoid adding even more fees by making sure you donít over-pack. Weigh your luggage before you leave to avoid any surprises. Donít go crazy with souvenirs on the way back either.
Visa, exit and tourist fees are another little surprise we often forget to budget for. It will often be included in the airfare. Check online for visa application fees.
Check to make sure the fee includes everything, with no added extras. Remember that your credit card will offer travel protection for collisions, so you might not need additional insurance.
Key replacement, alternate drop-off locations and fuel surcharges can all end up costing you big time. They will also charge if the tank isn’t full, so fill it up cheaply before heading in to drop it off.
Room supplements for singles (or more than X number of people in a room) are common, and can add up. Beware of resort fees, which can tack on as much as 10% more per night. Steer clear of the minibar, phone, and “free snacks and water” in the room which turn out not to be.
Resort Fees per Day Add Up Quickly.
Valet parking can add up too, but might be cheaper than trying to park in a local lot in the center of a big city.
Other fees to watch out for are luggage storage if you want to stow your bags before check-in or after check-out so you can see the sights; towel fees if there is a pool or beach; use of the hotel safe to store valuables; newspaper fees; and, a charge for using the fitness center.
Also watch out for “energy fees” and ATM fees well above normal if you are tempted to use a machine in the hotel lobby.
Port fees and taxes are quite common. The more places the ship stops, the more fees there will be. They should be included in the price, but do check.
Service charges for drinks is also common, up to around 15%. WiFi can also cost a good deal per day.
Be careful with shore excursions. They are not usually included in the price of the cruise, so renting equipment can be costly.
What are some of your favorite ways to get the most for your vacation money?
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