Last week I pumped you up about going to Disney World, which I realize for some of you was probably not ideal since your budget screamed you would be staying at home this year. I get it. That’s okay – we aren’t going on an extravagant vacation this year either because of some family responsibilities. But in the spirit of making sure you are able to make the most of whatever your vacation plans are, I wanted to spend some time today offering some tips on how to save for a great vacation.
Let’s set the groundwork first. To make sure you set goals that are within your limits, let me remind you of what a true and complete goal must be S.M.A.R.T.:
In other words, if you’re setting the goal to go to Hawaii for a three-month getaway by saving $100 from each paycheck, that just won’t work (unless you already happen to live in Hawaii). Make sure you’re not going overboard on what is a good way to save for vacation.
Do the Math…and Make the Math Work!
It amazes me what most people I counsel who have gone way into debt for a big vacation tell me. They almost always say, “I needed/deserved it.” My response – “do you also deserve the stress and difficulty you’ve put yourself in now by bringing home all these bills?” If you can only save $100 per month toward vacation, go on the absolute best vacation that budget will afford you. Remember, we’re trying to relax, see a new place and build memories. Vacation shouldn’t be a contest to see how much money you can spend.
Shop for Deals
There are tons of websites dedicated to getting the best deal on vacations. Travelocity, Cheap Tickets, Hotels.com, Kayak.com, Priceline, etc., etc., etc. I don’t endorse any of these sites specifically, but I do generally check them all before I book tickets for travel. I’ve used a couple of them and if nothing else, they get you looking at options for cheaper hotels, airfare, etc. Don’t just assume one place has the best deal – check around.
Go with Friends/Family
If you can’t get along with your family, skip this idea. Totally not worth it. But if you like hanging out with your family or have some close friends who are up for it, why not travel together? If driving, you can split the gas money. On hotel, share a room or if that’s a bit too much for you, get multiple rooms and usually get a discounted rate for doing so. At dinner, share (or if possible, cook it yourself as an adventure). We’ve traveled with family and friends many times and it is always a fun way to build the relationships and save some money.
If you have kids in school, this can be tough. Otherwise, think about this: hotel rooms in touristy places are usually 30% or more higher during peak times than in off-season. As you read this, I’ve just returned from Las Vegas on a business trip where rooms were advertised at “as little as $59 per night” at my hotel but the absolute lowest rate while I was there was $159 because it is Spring Break and Trade Show season for Vegas. If you can avoid peak times, do so. It will be less crowded (making better use of your time) and much cheaper.
Let Your Kids Help
My home is a dictatorship. Mommy and Daddy are in charge. When Annie gets to choose an activity, it is a BIG deal for her. I love the look in her eyes when I tell her she can pick what we do on our daddy-daughter dates. She loves it. So let your kids dream. Give your kids an amount of money for the family vacation and let them help plan it. Other than making them giddy with excitement, it will do two things: 1) give them a dose of reality on how much things cost and, 2) help build problem solving and critical thinking skills as they try to figure out something fun to do on a budget.
In the past, Stacy has posted a couple of other helpful articles about some possible vacation ideas that you may want to check out: Traveling Cheap and Geocaching: A Frugal Family Activity.
What about you? How would you recommend to save for and on your next vacation?