Summer means vacation.
Vacation from the formality of school, activities, packing lunches, and homework.
Vacation can also mean packing up the kids, putting some movies on the iPads, filling up the car with gas and braving the open road. (Cue the theme song to National Lampoon’s Vacation.)
But if you aren’t careful, that road trip can break your budget. Here are some money saving summer vacation tips to help you stay on track financially while you are enjoying everything a summer vacation has to offer.
Money Saving Summer Vacation Tips
Opt for a staycation or a one-day trip. One of the best ways to save money on your vacation is to reconsider where you are going. Staying at home, especially with the phone turned off, can be a very relaxing and inexpensive way to have a vacation. Treat yourself to vacation-style living without ever leaving home. Sleep in, eat pastries for breakfast from your very own continental breakfast bar and go out to dinner some place you wouldn’t normally go. Plan a trip that is within 90 to 100 miles from home, so that you can be back in your own bed that night and save the cost of a hotel room. (Here is a Staycation Resource.)
Stay with friends or family. You can save big on your vacation budget if you don’t have to pay for a hotel room. Just make sure to be a good guest and offer the use of the couch or spare room in exchange. Make sure your visit isn’t financially or emotionally taxing on your hosts. Take them out to dinner or bring a gift to say thank you. It will still be a great deal less expensive than a hotel. But if you can’t stay with friends or family…
Pay as little as you can for a hotel room. The place you will stay the least amount of time is one of your biggest expenses on vacation. I’ve gotten some of the most amazing hotel deals on Hotwire.com. I’ve been able to stay in 3.5 to 4-star hotels for under $70 per night, which included taxes. (Another option is to play the Priceline Game to get great deals on hotels.) If you can save $20 or $30 per night, you can use those funds to eat at nicer restaurants or do more activities.
Do research before you go. If you know there are certain attractions on your “to-do” list, take a little time and research them before you go. Many times you will find days where the attraction fee is reduced or waived, if there is closing due to construction, or what kind of wait you will encounter. (Because NO ONE wants to hear from the moose, “Sorry, folks. Parks closed.”)
Pack a cooler. If any part of your vacation is going to be spent driving, pack a cooler. Even if you just take cool drinks, it will save money versus a gas station or drive-thru prices. Also, see if your hotel has the option for a refrigerator in the room. Even eating cereal in the morning vs going out for breakfast can help you save money.
Eat before you get there. Save money at amusement parks and other attractions by eating before you get to the event. Concession prices are usually high and the food generally leaves much to be desired. If you are looking for a good resource for finding the best restaurants in your destination area, use YELP. More than likely you will find local restaurants with better food and prices than chain locations.
Become a Groupon or Amazon Local stalker. About three months before you go on vacation make sure to start stalking your vacation destination on Groupon or Amazon Local. Many times there are attraction or restaurant vouchers available for up to 60% off retail prices.
Play the airline game. While flying non-stop is most convenient, you can often save hundreds by planning your flights right. Be willing to have a layover, or be willing to fly mid-week. Flights are commonly most expensive on Fridays and the weekend. Also, the best time to purchase airline tickets is 52 days before you fly.
Set a daily budget for the kids. It’s vacation! You want to be able and spoil your kiddos a little bit…but a candy bar here and there, coupled with a trinket here and there, and a couple of new t-shirts can bust a budget quickly. Let your kids be their own money managers. Provide them with a set amount everyday that they can either spend or save for the following day. It eliminates all of the “Mom, can I have this?” conversations.
BONUS TIP —> Just because you are vacation, don’t forget your thrifty skills. To get the most out of your vacation, consider these money saving summer vacation tips and also use your common sense. All those thrifty skills you use every day are just as important for big expenses: shop around for hotels, rental cars and flights. Always bring your own food if possible or find the nearest grocery store. Most of all…be flexible, it’s vacation.
What are some of your money saving summer vacation tips? Leave a comment and help other save this summer.