You’ve heard all the traditional budget tips, right? Put away money early. Figure out travel and hotel costs first. Stay with family when possible. They’re all very smart, very reliable, and entirely too familiar. What can you do to maximize your savings and really make your budget stretch during your holiday?
Create a Separate Bank Account for Vacation Budgeting
Online banking can be one of your greatest budgeting tools. In the age of debit cards and online shopping, it's way too easy to spend more than you planned. It's hard to spend money that isn't linked to your regular shopping card, though.
The benefits don't end there, though. Most online banking services give you budgeting tools you can use exclusively for vacation planning. Set up a new account and determine spending limits for things like airfare, hotels, food, museums, transportation, and souvenir shopping. Remember to keep a little extra for emergencies! Some banks even offer mobile alerts, so you can have a budgeting buddy in your pocket while you travel to help keep tabs on your spending.
Redesign Today's Budget
Even if you live paycheck to paycheck, it's still possible to budget for a holiday escape. Try cutting back a few things today for big thrills later. For instance, don’t go out to dinner. Instead of enjoying a weekly date night, stuff that money in your vacation fund and turn date night into vacay-hype night. Look up places to go, things to do, and food you will get to enjoy during your travels. Make lists, review your budget, create a Pinterest board, and get excited! It’s free, and you’ll reap the rewards later.
Look for Bundles and Deals
Why pay more to buy things like lodging and travel separately? Businesses and travel agencies pass on savings directly to vacationers by moving more of their product in package deals. This holiday may be longer or more luxurious than you planned if you find a good bundle. Check out bargain sites like Travelocity and CostcoTravel, but remember that the best deal – just like the greatest adventure – may hide off the beaten path. Once you have a destination and price point in mind, do some Internet sleuthing.
Google your destination with keywords like “cheap,” “deal,” and “bundle.” You may find a surprise. At the very least, you’ll get a broader idea of how much vacationing in the region costs so you can make a more informed booking decision.
Search for Cheaper Activities
If you go to a waterpark, you’ll spend more than you would at a beach. Fun in the sun comes at various price points, as do most other types of tourist attractions. Consider walking tours where possible, visit parks, and check out historical sites and museums. Not all museums are cheap, though, so make sure you look up admittance info before you turn up at the front door and realize you can’t afford the excursion. Websites like TripAdvisor can really help.
Look for marketing targeted at students. Look up local hostel websites and see what ads pop up. You may find great, energetic tours your whole family will love that are way cheaper than those advertised in hotels and tourist centers. Sometimes the only fee is a tip (the amount is up to you) for the tour guide!
Cook at Home
Whether you stay at a hotel or reserve a space through AirB&B, make sure you have a kitchen. Cooking at home is always cheaper than eating out, even on vacation. You don’t have to be a great cook to save through this technique.
Go to the local grocery store and pick up breakfast foods, drinks, and a frozen pizza or two. Make eggs and toast in the mornings, sip wine on your balcony while the sun sets, and warm up a slice of pizza between afternoon adventures.
Cut Minor Costs
If you have to pay, find another way. Why take a taxi two blocks when you can walk? Share your Uber for necessary lifts, and never go souvenir shopping after three glasses of wine at dinner. Little costs add up quickly, and the more people you have in your party, the higher those costs will rise. Always ask yourself if there is a cheaper way to go, see, do, try, or get whatever it is you want.
Always remember: the best parts of your vacation, the stories you’ll remember forever, probably aren’t the ones you pay an arm and a leg for. Celebrate the little things, like the amazing street food vendor you found around the corner, how your kids actually woke up before you so they could watch the sunrise, and the joy of clear waves lapping over your toes. Adventure is always calling, and a few budgeting trips can help you answer.