Planning Your Summer Vacation on a Budget
If your family is like most, you are busy. The demands of work
and children's activities sometimes make it hard to think about a
vacation, much less actually getting away for one. Many people also
feel like we are living in uncertain economic times and are
hesitant to take a break. Yet vacations are not just fun, they are
an opportunity for you to be with your family outside of your
normal routine and connect in a different way. They also don't have
to cost a fortune. It is possible to plan a summer
vacation that won't break the bank.
Know Your Budget
Financial advisors suggest you save anywhere between 5 - 10% of
your total yearly budget for leisure. If you are planning a big
trip such as one that involves overseas flights, hotels, etc., you
may need to revise your household budget and pull income from other
pockets. Once you know how much you have to spend, look at where
you want to go, how you will travel and what activities you will do
when you get to your destination.
When to Travel
Everyone knows that summer is high-season, but you can work
around this if you travel at the end of June just as schools get
out, or in the week or two before kids go back to school. You may
find some cost decreases, especially in hotels. Another thing to
consider is that it may not be high-season everywhere. Consider
traveling to a "winter" destination such as Florida, where prices
may be cheaper because it is the off-season..
Where to Stay
There are lots of accommodation options these days. If you want
to stay at a hotel, check out the economy chains. Often these
hotels have overnight rates that are bundled with a local
attraction, e.g. tickets to a water-park. They are also likely to
have free wi-fi, breakfasts included and free parking.
Many vacationers are now seeking out short-term vacation rentals
that are either an apartment or a home. This type of accommodation
allows you to save money because you can eat in, or prepare food to
take with you for the day. Also, if you are a bigger family, this
can be less expensive than a couple of hotel rooms. A similar
option is to do a house swap. You can trade your home with someone
located in your desired destination. For both of these options
there are numerous websites to help you find the accommodation best
suited to your budget.
If you are going to a popular destination or a big city,
consider staying nearby rather than right in the heart of things. A
hotel in Jersey is a lot cheaper than one in Manhattan. Check out
the price of transit into the city versus the cost of a hotel and
you will likely see the advantage. And of course, you could always
travel where you have family and friends who can host you.
Driving to your destination is usually the cheapest option. If
it's a long drive, you can make the journey a road trip with well
planned stops to please everyone. If you are flying, book at least
two months ahead of time and shop around using websites that
provide cost comparisons. Keep in mind the extra expenses of flying
such as baggage fees. Packing light saves you money and leaves you
a bit of room for souvenirs. If you need a car at your destination,
book this in advance as well, and don't forget about ferry
reservations if needed.
Eating on the Cheap
Everyone knows that three restaurant meals a day is not budget
friendly. If you are staying in a vacation rental you have the
advantage of eating in and preparing snacks to have during the day.
If you are staying at a hotel, you can still visit the local
grocery store to stock up on snacks and prepared foods. Most hotel
rooms have a small fridge that will fit a few items. If you want to
try a nice restaurant, go at lunch time rather than dinner when the
menu options tend to be less expensive.
Needles to say, research your destination. Are there coupons or
city entertainment packages? Do you have a museum membership that
gives you reciprocal access at the museums at your destination?
Visit the tourism websites for your destination and look for free
music festivals, playgrounds, nature trails, movies in the park,
etc. There is no shortage of free fun in the summer.
Finally, one of the easiest ways to have a budget vacation is to
stay close to home and explore your own city and surrounding area.
Pack a picnic lunch and be a tourist at home!