10 Ways To Travel on a Budget and Save Money
Not since the Griswolds first hit the road in 1983 has the summer family vacation been more pursued. The Travel Channel estimates Americans will spend more than $255 BILLION DOLLARS on vacations this summer. Here are ten ways you can travel on a budget and still have a great time.
- Let Time Shoulder The Burden
While some destinations just aren’t right during the ‘off-season,’ others may be depending on
where you’re headed. Consider visiting during what travel folks call ‘shoulder season,’ the time between peak and off-peak. For Walt Disney World, for example, the shoulders are May and September. Yes, the kids may be in school, but not only will you be able to enjoy more for your dollar (think of those shorter lines) you’ll also find many items not costing as much.
- Book Early
Yes – a ‘no brainer’ but, depending on how you plan to travel, you’ll find airfare and lodging expenses really begin to increase about mid-June and stay at their peak through the end of summer.
- Debit Vs. Credit
Do you have a total budget in-mind for your family vacation – from travel and lodging to sites and meals? If you don’t, you should have a fairly good idea (no one expects you to be an accounting expert) and then plan for it by placing this amount in an account readily accessible by your debit card. Keep the credit card in your wallet for emergencies but by drawing on a planned, set amount from your budget, you won’t get sticker shock later realizing how much you did spend after you receive your post-vacation credit card statement.
- Tech Is Your Friend
If you’re driving, download money saving apps like GasBuddy® (for nearby gas), Roadtrippers® (for sites along a route), Yelp® (for local restaurants), and Hotels.com (for last minute rooms). There’s also Tripadvisor’s app and its “Near me now” feature to Google map to store key locations (hotels, rental car centers, restaurants, etc.) to your phone so you’re saving a few bucks while stressing less.
Use GroupOn® or Living Social® to find discounts and deals for the city you’ll be visiting. You can find ‘percentage off’ discounts or even ‘two-for-one’ tickets to events and tourist activity admissions. Why pay full price if you don’t have to?
- Membership Has Its Advantages
If you have a membership to a local zoo, science/art museum or other, check-out the Association of Science and Technology Centers website Passport Program page. You may be able to get free or discounted admission to similar museums around the country if they happen to be on your way.
- Any House Can Be A Home
Renting a house through sites such as VRBO, HomeAway, or AirBNB, gets you far more space for your dollar (on average, 1850 square feet versus 325 for a hotel room, according to HomeAway.com). With an average nightly price of $217, the savings can be considerable for larger families that would otherwise have to book multiple hotel rooms. You can also save a bundle by cooking a few meals there instead of going out each night.
- Don’t Let A Good Deal Pass You By
If you are visiting an area with good Uber or Lyft coverage, it could be less expensive to use those services rather than pay the daily rate for a rental car combined with the nightly rate to park it. You may even be able to find advance discounts for these online. And if you are unfamiliar with the area, you get the added benefit of letting someone else drive you around. If you need to rent, you can find discount coupons at many of the major car rental sites or at HotWire.
- Fly Like You Mean Business
If you’re flying, it’s instinct to book the weekend to-and-from flights. By booking departures and returns mid-week like you would on a business trip, you can save as much as a couple hundred bucks per ticket. Sure, the folks at work will look at you kind of strange when you don’t take your PTO during the traditional Monday – Friday timespan but traditional can cost you. Also pay close attention to which airports you book in and out of – some charge more than others. If you have a good alternative, you can save even more.
- Fuel On The Run
Most people will leave great food on the table during their vacation hops to different restaurants. Idea: take it with you – especially if you’re on a road trip – and pack a cooler for it, if you choose. It makes great in-between meals road-trip snacks instead of stopping at multiple convenience stores along the way to pay top-dollar for sub-par items that you probably wouldn’t pay a dollar for back home.
- Souvenirs With Financial Literacy
You may wonder where a chunk of that $255 billion vacation money spent goes. Probably toward souvenirs like hats with moose antlers that usually end-up in the closet never to be worn again. Instead, go for ‘collectibles’ – cheaper items found along the way that remind you of great vacation moments for years to come. And use the opportunity to teach fiscal awareness – especially with kids - by having a set ‘souvenirs jar of funds’ of which only a given amount may be drawn from each day (should I spend it today or ‘double-up’ for tomorrow to get something really cool?).
It teaches patience and ‘wait’ versus immediate gratification as well as the value of a buck. If you really want to go military mission with it, use it to reward good behavior like doing their part with luggage, going to bed on time – or an all-time parent favorite – no whining.