Can you see yourself relaxing on a pristine beach? Or hiking the summit and exploring mountaintops?
No matter what it is, you’ve probably dreamed about your ideal vacation. So why haven’t you taken it?
According to a Gallup poll, 62% of American adults took some kind of vacation last year, and 37% of those reported make less than $30,000 a year. If money is a concern when it comes to planning vacations, you don’t have to sacrifice your dreams to be able to enjoy a fabulous trip. By finding great deals to planning well in advance, you’ll discover your dream vacation is attainable – and affordable.
These tips will help you get started saving money on your travels, without sacrificing any fun.
How To Start Saving For Your Dream Vacation
The first step in saving money towards your travel is to set up a savings fund separate from your primary savings account. You want to keep your money separate so that you can accurately monitor your progress, but you also don’t want to compromise other savings, like an emergency fund.
From there, it’s time to strategize:
- Automate savings with an app, through your bank account, or even by allocating a portion of your paycheck directly to your travel fund.
- Start tracking your everyday expenses and find ways to slash costs. Use coupons when you can, and cut out any items or services that you don’t use on a regular basis.
- Be careful with credit card rewards that offer flights and hotels. These cards tend to have higher rates, and you can easily find yourself in trouble by having more debt than you can pay off.
It’s also a good idea to start thinking about how you will pay for things when you’re on your vacation. Do you plan to have a travel credit card – and can you pay off the balance when you get back? Be sure that you are not adding to your debt, but are preparing for all costs related to your trip.
How To Find Cheap Flights
According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), the average airfare for the third quarter of 2017 was $336, the lowest average since 2009. However, when you’re actually looking at flights, it can seem like there is no rhyme or reason for flight pricing – the same leg a day later may cost half as much. If you’re looking to save money on flights, you can take advantage of this scattered pricing structure by being flexible with your travel dates and times.
Many travel search sites will allow you to look at a range of dates when pricing out your flights so that you can avoid the higher-priced weekend or prime time flights. Be forewarned that the most expensive flights are during March and April, July and August, and December, as schools are on break.
Opting for connecting flights can also sometimes save you money. Do a little research to price out different legs of your trip and you may be able to put together a cheap itinerary that gets you where you want to go.
If you’re not currently a member of an airline’s frequent flyer program, sign up before the next flight you take. While earning enough rewards for travel won’t happen overnight, you may find your future dream vacation flights are free.
How To Find Affordable Hotels
If your dream vacation is to visit a Caribbean beach, but you have your sights set on the Bahamas, you’ll be paying a premium on everything from hotels to food. Instead, shop around to other islands in the Caribbean, where you’ll find the same beautiful beaches, but at half the cost.
If you’re traveling with friends or family, consider renting a house or villa to share the costs. You’ll probably find that the nightly rate you pay is cheaper than you’d find at a hotel, and you’ll be able to skip the temptation of pricey hotel restaurants and bars. If you shop for food at local markets and cook in, you’ll find your savings are even higher.
Timing is essential when you’re planning your trip. If it’s the high season at your destination, everything will be more expensive. Look for the seasonal patterns where you’re going, and you’ll find that you probably don’t have to compromise much in terms of planning. If the high-season starts November 15th, take your trip on the 5th, and you’ll have the same weather and accommodations, for much less.
How To Get Deals On Top Destinations
A vacation hotspot doesn’t earn its name because it’s empty. If you’re looking to go to a top travel destination for a fraction of the cost, you’ll have to do some work planning ahead.
Start by signing up for travel deal sites and regularly checking them to see what specials are offered. Once you know the general cost you can expect to pay for flights and lodging, you can start to compare options, so you know you are getting the right price when it’s offered.
Another way to save on top destinations is by booking your excursions and outings far in advance. Often these experiences can sell out, but you can also skip all the costly middlemen – hotel staff, tour guides – by going straight to the excursion company.
How To Save Money On Your Trip
Flights and hotels aren’t the only expenses of your trip – you’ll be spending plenty of money at your destination as well. It’s easy to forget how much to save or budget for your trip beyond quantifiable expenses like flight and hotel costs, so prepare yourself to vacation smartly with these tips:
1. Go Easy On The Drinks
Alcohol has some of the biggest markups from restaurants, hotels, and clubs, as it is an easy way to make money. No one is saying you can’t enjoy yourself on your vacation, but try and limit spending on alcohol at bars and restaurants. Buy a bottle of wine from a local store to enjoy on your balcony and skip the sugary cocktails on the beach.
2. Stop Buying Souvenirs
How often do you look at a trinket or souvenir from a trip years back? Unless it was something significant, it’s probably just taking up space somewhere, or shoved in a box. Focus on the experience of your vacation, and you’ll have memories and photos that are far more meaningful.
3. Make A List Of What You Want To Do
Think of this as your dream vacation bucket list – what are the things you want to do when there? Prioritize this list as a budget when you’re on your trip, and you’ll stay on track finding the experiences you set out for.
4. Shop In Advance
If you have to buy shaving cream or sunscreen from hotels or tourist areas, you’re going to pay a premium. Start shopping well in advance of your trip so you can access deals and coupons and skip the markup.
5. Get Your Currency When You’re There
If you need foreign currency, having your bank issue it can be easy, but it can also be expensive. The same goes for airport currency exchanges – rates are often much higher than what you would find at a local exchange specialist. Check out current rates online, and you’ll have a baseline for comparison.
6. Skip The Car
Unless you need to drive somewhere every day, you may find it’s cheaper to avoid a rental car. Walk as much as you can to take in the sights, and many locations now promote biking as an easy – and green – way to get around. Should you need a car to get somewhere, compare prices of taxis in the area to the daily cost of your rental car before you sign that contract.
With some planning and saving, you can make your dream vacation a reality. Prepare yourself for your travels now by taking steps to increase your savings at every opportunity.