How to Save Money on Vacations
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Everyone wants to save money on vacations. Why wouldn’t they?
For a variety of financially-driven reasons, only 51% of eligible American employees utilize their allotted vacation time, according to MarketWatch. Many respondents expressed that they couldn’t afford to take vacation, did not want to return to piles of unfinished work, or did not trust a colleague to complete their work in their absence. Among other reasons, perhaps Americans are just stuck in the grind, suffering DINGOs who cannot afford a vacation, or are naturally poor savers.
In October, Mrs. Superhero and I will enjoy a guilt-free vacation getaway and spend four days in Las Vegas. It has been fun to research, plan, and discuss all of the activities that we would like to include during our stay, as this will be our first trip to Vegas. I admit that I am overwhelmed by all of the options, but I am choosing to think positively. We will just have to return to Vegas another time – which should be very possible considering the money we will save on this vacation!
STEPS TO SAVE MONEY ON VACATIONS
While there are many ways to save money on vacations, I recommend the following steps because they are tried and true. They have helped me and my wife save money on vacations, and we believe they can help you, as well.
Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail
In the midst of our planning for our vacation to Las Vegas, there is one thing my wife and I haven’t had to consider: how we are going to pay for the vacation.
A few months back, I opened a Digit account in order to satisfy our goal to save money for vacations automatically on a regular-basis. So far, our account has swelled to nearly $900, and we haven’t missed the money one bit. That money will cover the costs of our package deal, which includes airfare and resort stay. We will address our plan to cover the costs of food and entertainment below.
Recommended – Open your own Digit savings account for free today!
Many people only pause to consider how they are going to pay for their vacations after they’ve already swiped their credit card. When you consider the fact that credit card interest rates may range anywhere from 12 to 26 percent, on average, we have discovered how not to save on vacations!
With a minimal effort, you can create a plan for paying for your vacation in advance. Remember – if you fail to plan, plan to fail!
Book Your Vacation As Far Ahead As Possible
Generally speaking, a common way to save money on vacations is to book your trip as far ahead as possible. Airlines and hotel chains have a simple mission: strive to reach full-capacity for every flight and individual hotel at all times. They are unlikely to achieve this goal, of course, but they increase their odds of doing so by offering advantageous savings far in advance of travel dates.
We recommend consulting a variety of websites, such as Expedia, TripAdvisor, and Airfare Watchdog to monitor prices. On most of these platforms, you can create and save itineraries and opt to receive price alerts. You can also utilize the option to name your own prices on Priceline.com.
When planning our Las Vegas vacation, we found the best deal for our preferred resort on Expedia.
One word of caution when booking in advance: Be sure to read the fine print regarding cancellation policies and purchase cancellation protection/insurance if you feel there is a chance you may need to cancel your vacation.
Consider Last Minute Vacations
If you are unable to book your vacation in advance and can accept flexible travel dates, you may save money on vacations by purchasing last minute deals.
When Mrs. Superhero and I were planning our first wedding anniversary vacation several years ago, we were able to find a deep discount on a hotel room in Traverse City, Michigan. We found this deal despite the fact that our stay coincided with the National Cherry Festival. Vacationers who have flexible calendars, and in particular those who are educators, can take advantage of similar last minute deals to save money on vacations.
Plan Your Meals, Too
In most vacation budgets, the third-largest line item after airfare and hotel costs, respectively, is often food. You have to eat on vacation. If you’re like me, you like to eat well and try new foods. Fortunately, you can do this at a reasonable cost.
At breakfast time, avoid eating at your hotel or resort unless the meal is free or included with your stay. Typically, you can save money on vacations by walking a block or two to find more affordable breakfast options. You may even opt to enjoy a light breakfast in your room by eating food purchased at a grocery store.
Most tourist attractions aim to pad their bottom lines by preying upon the impulse of unsuspecting vacationers. They know how to take advantage of your unexpected hunger and thirst. This is why theme parks can charge $10 for bottled water and $12 for a hot dog. By planning ahead, you can save money on vacations even within your food budget. Aim to stock up on snacks and beverages at a grocery upon arriving at your destination. If you are driving, purchase these items before leaving home.
We recommend avoiding tourist hot spots. To save money on vacations, strive to eat and drink as do the locals. Once again, TripAdvisor, Groupon, and Restaurant.com can provide direction as you plan. In a pinch, you can also find last-minute deals in this manner, so be sure to download the appropriate apps for these platforms on your mobile device.
Additionally, opting to eat a larger lunch and smaller dinner can help you save money. Many lunch specials feature dinner entrees in smaller portions, but they are still large enough for lunch. When dinner time arrives, eating slowly and savoring a smaller meal can make it seem larger.
I am unconcerned about food and entertainment costs during our upcoming Las Vegas stay, as we will likely use Groupon and Restaurant.com as much as we can. Our normal budgeted funds for food/entertainment will cover the remaining costs. We will also loosen up the purse strings for one or two nice meals.
Stick to Your Plans
We will certainly face our share of unexpected expenses while in Las Vegas. However, most of them will be opportunities which we may choose rather required expenditures. We will need to exercise discipline and control in a land of many rich opportunities; of course, this is a well-known best practice which should be implemented in order to save money on vacations.
As budgeting guru Dave Ramsey often says, “Adults devise a plan and follow it; children do what feels good.” The power of suggestion and advertising can be very strong, especially on vacation. But if you remain in tune with your goals and values, you will not fall victim to impulse.
Find Free Events
You can find free events in virtually any vacation destination on any given day. This only requires a small effort to save money on vacations.
Travel During Off-Peak Seasons
Despite my above example about the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City, traveling during off-peak seasons is the best way to save money on vacations. If at all possible, avoid travel to child-friendly locations during March and April (spring break time) and June-August (summer vacation). Also strive to avoid vacation travel during holiday weekends, such as Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day weekends. Airlines and hotels often charge holiday premiums during these peak times.
While vacation costs can put a strain on budgets big and small, you can take steps to save money on vacations. You work hard to earn your income and vacation time, so maximize every opportunity you can to rest and recharge without breaking the bank. Even if you truly cannot afford a vacation, consider an affordable staycation as a method to avoid burnout.
Finally, do not forget to take advantage of web sites and apps such as Expedia, Airfare Watchdog, Priceline.com, TripAdvisor, Groupon, and Restaurant.com when planning a vacation. With any luck, they will help you save money on vacations!
What shows, restaurants, etc., do you recommend we check out in Las Vegas? What other tips do you recommend to save money on vacations?