Saving money is not a phrase that is typically associated with vacation. However, during these tough economic times saving money is absolutely necessary. You might wonder how you can have a really great vacation while still saving money, but it is possible. In fact, some of the best vacations are not the ones where the most money is spent. The best vacations combine doing interesting things along with just relaxing and enjoying your family and friends.
Your vacation destination has a lot to do with how much money you spend. In general the farther you go away from home the more you will have to spend on your vacation. Obviously, air travel is often prohibitively expensive so consider a destination that is within driving distance of your home. You can make the trip exciting by stopping at attractions along the way or packing picnic lunches that allow you to enjoy beautiful scenery and break up a long car ride. Also, keep in mind that the best way to get somewhere is not necessarily by driving as fast as possible. Not only is not not safe it is also no the best financial choice. Most modern cars get the best gas mileage when they travel between 55 and 65 miles per hour. If you want to spend less on gas, travel at those speeds as much as possible.
Your destination affects your budget in another way too, more popular usually means more money. Yes, everyone wants to go to the big amusement parks or beach on vacation which is why it costs more to go to those places. Instead, consider going to a less popular but still fun destination. State and national parks are usually very inexpensive and offer loads of activities and programs that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. You will also find that getting away from the crowds instead of going to them will make your vacation far more enjoyable.
Eating is another vacation budget buster.
We are all tempted to overeat on vacation because there are usually lots of good and new foods to try. However, all of that food comes at a big price that is often not budgeted in to your vacation. Instead of just eating wherever you happen to pass try coming up with a pre-set plan of places you would like to eat. There are lots of smart phone applications and websites that can help you find places to eat that suit your budget. Also, if you are staying in a hotel look for one that offers a free breakfast. If one is not available stock your hotel room with breakfast foods and just eat there. It is easier and faster then going out for breakfast anyway, especially with children.
Discount Programs for Vacations
Before you book a hotel or buy any tickets ask about discount programs. If you are a member of AAA, AARP, the military, or a teacher you may be entitled to significant discounts. Some places offer discounts for joining their preferred customer programs. Usually it is free to join but if there is a cost make sure it is worth the discount you will get.
Go Small Often
The last bit of advice when it comes to a family vacation is to consider going on a few small vacations rather then one big one. If you live within driving distance of a few great places why not scatter several long weekends to see them throughout the summer instead of going away for one long stretch. This way you will get several breaks, see lots of places, and probably spend a lot less money.
Ng is a personal finance writer, and has a real passion for encouraging people to compare credit cards to ensure they get the best deal. Check out his comprehensive guide to low interest credit cards where he provides an in-depth overview and analysis, to help you find a better deal.