Summer is the perfect time to plan ahead and find fun ways to stretch your travel budget. We’ve actually been doing that ourselves, both for business and for vacations. We recently bought a house, so we’re sticking with a debt-free policy on our trips – meaning our vacations will be paid for by the time we take them. This way we will be able to enjoy them more, and not have any financial regrets afterward.
If you want to do the same, here is our strategy. Feel free to use it as you see fit!
Get a Ball Park Figure
Once the essentials are covered, your vacation can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be. Just knowing that can be empowering. We have a habit of searching for some vacations online to get an idea of what to expect. Looking at your budget and the timing, it becomes easier to decide where you want to splurge and spend and where you want to save. We’re planning on traveling to Chicago and San Diego this year, and we are going to make Chicago a road trip, allowing us to not only save money but also have some fun exploring on the way up. (Traveling with kids takes skill if you’re looking to save.)
Build Your Vacation Fund with Automation
Once you have your plan up, it’s time to go away and automate your savings. Most credit unions and banks offer this service for free, so be sure to take advantage of it. Automating will save you time and also keep you on schedule, so when you go on your vacation this year it will be debt (and guilt) free! Also, an added bonus with saving ahead means you can also earn some interest (depending on where you stash your cash). You may even be able to get a head start on automating your savings by setting aside some of your tax refund in a savings account.
Be Ready to Negotiate
One of the biggest ways we’ve saved is using options like ‘Name Your Own Price’. I cannot begin to tell how many times we’ve been able to knock down our flights, hotels, and car rentals with this. Resources like Better Bidding and BiddingTraveler can give you an idea of how low you can bid and have a chance of getting accepted, and the money you save can be rolled over to your next trip or for something else you really want.
Travel Like a Local
One of our favorite ways to explore a new city is to act like a local as much as possible. Sure we may visit certain popular sites, but we really enjoy getting some recommendations from those who live there. I like to tap into my social network and see if anyone has suggestions. I just got a great one this week for Chicago. (I’ll let you know how it goes when I’m back!). Also, I recommend looking around for some lunch deals and happy hour specials. You get the experience of eating at a popular restaurant, without spending too much money.
I hope these tips help you with your next trip this year. How many of you are looking forward to some vacations this year? Where do you want to go?