Cut Down on Vacation Costs
By Andrew Tavin
You do not want to need a vacation from your vacation.
Vacations are a great way to reduce the stress that builds up during your regular day-to-day life. It can be so nice and relaxing to take a break from the grind and just relax on a beach somewhere. Or maybe you prefer a more rigorous adventure like mountain climbing, parasailing, deep-sea diving, or a relay race consisting of all three.
But vacations can also be expensive. Recent research conducted by OppLoans found 43% of American adults report spending beyond their means while on vacation. Beyond that, 55% of American adults claim to have lost sleep worrying about the amount of money they spent on vacation.
It seems pretty clear that whatever stress you may have relieved by going on vacation can quickly come back to an even greater degree once you are home and start looking over your bills — especially if you can’t afford to pay them. That is why it is important not to overspend on vacation, lest you return feeling less rested than you were before.
Budgeting before you book
A vacation is supposed to be a break from your work life, so adding extra work in the form of planning out your vacation in detail could feel very unappealing. But dedicating a little time to hammer out a solid vacation budget will prevent a lot of headaches when you return back to your regular life.
“In terms of saving money and financing any vacation, a budget needs to be set based on how long you will be away and where,” travel writer Anthony Bianco urges. “Once this amount is determined, regularly contribute the amount of money you need per week into a separate account over X number of weeks — calculate your savings time/schedule and stick to it. Be ruthless. Cut whatever you do not need and add more to your account if possible until you reach your required budget.” Bianco also suggests saving about 10% to 20% more than you have budgeted for your trip in case you need a buffer.
Online research can also be your best friend when it comes to finding the most affordable options and deals available, according to Nermeen Ghneim, owner of personal finance blog Savvy Dollar.
“Read reviews, and investigate coupon sites like Groupon that may have special rates on the places you want to visit,” Ghneim suggests. “Investigate restaurants that you may want to try, and see if they have deals for specific days to times of days.”
All in the travel timing
Certain times of the year tend to be more popular for vacations. Unfortunately, that means it is more expensive to take a vacation during those times. Fortunately, that means it is cheaper to take a vacation at other times — and probably less crowded, as well!
While certain areas may be known for their seasonal attractions, there are often more affordable off-season options coupled with cheaper lodging rates. Bianco says this is the reason he tries to avoid peak season like the plague.
“If there is a huge demand and limited supply of hotel rooms, the chance of you scoring a bargain is pretty slim, because hotel owners know that someone else will come along with the money they want,” Bianco says. “Trying to book early can help, or trying to find a spot [during] either side of peak demand will reduce costs.”
By travelling during slower travel times or during the off-season, you also have a lot more flexibility, Bianco adds. “The demand is down, but supply is up and businesses are more ready to give you a substantial discount.”
This can also apply to flying, which is why Newsha Tarifard, owner of boutique travel company TravelWell Adventures, recommends booking airline tickets for weekday travel, particularly between Monday and Thursday.
Similar to having flexibility in your travel calendar, the more flexible you are about where you stay while on vacation, the easier it will be to save money.
“Accommodation is usually the most expensive piece of a vacation and often the least used,” Tarifard says. “Unless you’re planning on lounging in your hotel room all day, it’s really a waste of money to spend a ton on fancy lodging. Save your money for activities and experiences while you are out and about, and book a cheaper Airbnb or hostel instead.”
Even something as simple as souvenirs can add up very quickly when on vacation — especially if you are the kind of person who always wants to bring something back for every person in their life.
If you like to buy souvenirs, learn what is available before you go,” suggests Trina and Tim of the Team Hazard Rides Again travel blog. “If the towns you are visiting specialize in textiles, woodworking, and silver jewelry, decide what you really want and allow for it in your budget. Then, when you get to your destination, stick to the souvenir-buying plan.”
Trina and Tim recommend buying one or two nice items instead of splurging on trinkets that may not add much value to your life. Clothes is another area to reconsider. “Before buying traditional clothing, ask yourself whether you would wear it at home. If the answer is no, do not buy it, no matter how cool it seems at that moment.”
For many people, the food is the highlight of their vacation. But if you are not careful, your full tummy can lead to an empty bank account.
“Eat local most of the time,” the Team Hazard duo advises. “Fancy restaurants, especially in tourist areas, rarely have the best food. They are more about atmosphere and comfort. Eat at the places where the recipes come from the owner’s home kitchen, where the chairs are plastic, and there are cats wandering around. Eat from the roadside stand where food is being cooked up fresh on the spot and sold to locals.”
If you stay somewhere with access to a kitchen, you can save even more money on your food costs by dining in, especially in cities or countries where the prices on the restaurant menus can quickly add up.
“Cooking (or even wine and cheese nights) also gives you the opportunity to experience local living and the different sorts of foods and produce offered in that particular country,” Tarifard says. “You will also eat a healthier meal than what you are probably ordering when out on the town — a much needed break for your body.”
You probably do not get as many vacations as you would like. Remember all of this advice so you can make the most of the vacations you will take.
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