Vacation is all about fun and relaxation. But the cost of going can be stressful, especially if you overspend. You want to return home happy and with an album of happy memories, not an insurmountable bill. Check out these smart tips that will help you spend less, maximize your fun and come home with peace of mind.
1. Travel off-season. Avoid the crowds and the price hikes. By strategically scheduling your vacation off-season, you can reap the rewards of a tourist industry willing to slash prices for your business. This can dramatically lower the cost of your vacation.
2. Become a fan. Look up travel sites, airlines and other travel discount companies and subscribe to newsletters, follow them on Twitter and like their Facebook pages. By becoming a loyal fan, you’ll receive exclusive notifications about major discounts, last-minute sales and offers that can save you big time.
3. Drive instead of fly. Turn your vacation into a road trip adventure and stash away significant savings by hopping behind the wheel instead of onto an airplane. Your savings will especially add up if you have kids; their plane tickets are full price, unless they are under the age of two and travel as a lap infant.
4. Find things to do for free. A walk through Central Park, frolicking on the beach, visiting historical sites, taking in an outdoor concert and exploring the nooks and crannies of a new city – these are all free activities that can fill you with wonder on vacation. A simple Internet search of your destination and “free activities” can deliver a bounty of fun, free ideas for you and your family.
5. Pack your food. If you’re road-tripping it, this is particularly easy. Load up an ice chest with most of your meals, snacks and drinks. Sure, it may be tempting to swing your family through the drive-thru at every meal, but that adds up significantly, and it’s less healthy. Preparing your meals is easier and tastier than you might imagine. Use your imagination and think of great meals you’d love to eat on vacation. Pack sandwich fixings – and go ahead and splurge on the gourmet cured meats and cheeses. Or do what my parents did when I was a kid: pack a rice cooker or a hot plate with a small skillet. When we got to our destination, we’d buy groceries reflective of the local cuisine and they’d whip up tasty meals in the hotel room – better tasting than the restaurants we infrequently visited. As a kid, I rolled my eyes at first, but always enjoyed their cooking better than eating out.
6. Eat at kids-eat-free restaurants. Of course, even the best on-the-road cooks will want to dine out. Trim your restaurant expenses by eating at restaurants where kids eat free. Finding these restaurants is easy: simply type in the city or town you’ll be traveling to and “kids eat free” in any search engine and check out your options. Do your research in advance because a lot of these offers are only valid during certain days or hours.
7. Find alternatives to hotels. We are no longer beholden to hotel rooms that cost us hundreds – sometimes thousands – of dollars per vacation. Now we have sites like AirBnB or HomeAway, and many more, that allow you to rent unique rooms, condos or entire homes for much less. For those traveling with kids, this can be a convenient option, as it offers more space, a kitchen and the comforts of home. If you’re looking for a fun, frugal option, you can always try camping.
8. Use coupons. Turn to sites like Groupon, Living Social, and RetailMeNot for big discounts on a variety of things like restaurants, museums, amusement parks, and more. When booking anything, ask if they are running any special discounts and, if not, be bold and ask for one.
Vacation should be a carefree venture, not a financial burden. With so many creative strategies for spending less, your vacation dreams can come true without straining your bank account. Plan ahead, find cheaper alternatives and, of course, have fun!
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