By Brad Johnson, Stewardship Volunteer
Summer is upon us, and outside of December, most people will take their vacations in July & August. Taking time off to rest and rejuvenate is much needed, but trying to enjoy a vacation without blowing your savings is indeed a challenge. Add to that the hundreds of options available to the modern consumer, and creating a budget-friendly getaway plan can feel like looking for lost treasure in a jungle. Fortunately, we’ve sifted through the top money-saving vacation tips so you don’t need to. Discover these seven strategies for cutting costs without skimping on fun.
Look into cheaper lodging options
Over the last few years, the lodging and vacation rental sectors have seen a massive shift towards a model of convenience for consumers. While AirBnB is perhaps the most popular alternative to hotels and vacation rentals, many other options exist. FlipKey, HomeAway, and Tripping.com are just a few of the other rental options available. Many of these feature thousands of listings in other countries too, giving you flexibility when traveling abroad.
On one of my recent vacations, I used AirBnB to look for lodging cheaper than hotels in the area. I ended up finding a perfect spot in a prime location for $30 per night – much less than the $90-$120 per night local hotels were averaging.
Look for early or bulk discounts
One of the trickier aspects of planning a vacation is timing event purchases and other forms of entertainment. In many instances, looking for early bird discounts can yield you savings of 15 percent or more.
If you know the exact hotspots and timing you want to experience ahead of time, using websites like Goldstar or Eventbrite can land you discounted tickets weeks in advance. You can search by event category and price level, ensuring you’ll never overpay for the events and activities you’re most excited about.
If you know the general area you’d like to visit but are open to suggestions, Entertainment.com’s Travel Planner or TravelZoo can point you in the right direction, while still saving you money. Their deals are comparable to “big name” brands such as Hotels.com and Expedia, and will often save you even more money.
Consider booking items separately
On the flipside of grabbing bulk discounts, sometimes buying items separately will save you more money. It’s worth looking at what exactly you’re getting for the cost you’d pay. Buying a travel package through an airline may cost you double or more what you’d pay otherwise. Travel packages are sometimes the right choice, but only if it’s the best deal you can find. Be willing to shop around, and you may end up finding something even better.
Find a favorite airfare watch service
When it comes to saving money on travel, nothing beats saving on airfare; the highest average expense for vacations. Nowadays there are a few top-shelf options for keeping your plane tickets as low as possible.
My all-time favorite is Next Vacay. After inputting the airport you fly out of most often, Next Vacay will send you round-trip flight deals for incredibly low prices. The service is free for the first 30 days, and $25 per year after that.
These flight deals are only available for about 24-72 hours at a time, so it’s best to act quickly if the given trip fits your interest. If you don’t want to pay a fee for this service, there are other similar websites. Google Flights, CheapOair, Hopper, and SkyScanner allow you to manually search for budget flights within specific time frames, giving you increased flexibility in where you travel and on what dates.
Travel during the off-season
Another tried-and-true vacation hack is planning your trip for the off-season, when few others are also vacationing. This gets a little tricky because destinations throughout the world have different off-seasons. Places like the Caribbean islands have their off-season from June to November, whereas a location like Florence, Italy experiences the off-season from November through April.
Be flexible on ground transport
Unfortunately, taxis, Ubers, and/or car rentals can add up quickly. Occasionally these services are necessary (especially for additional travel after flying), but many times, they can be avoided. Look into bicycle rentals in the same city of your vacation, or consider train or bus passes. There are even some vacation destinations with bike travel built into the experience, which are worth checking out.
Secure lodging with a kitchen
Food is one of the most expensive portions of any vacation, sometimes even eclipsing lodgingTo help reduce this expense, aim to secure lodging that has at least a kitchenette, which will allow you to buy food locally and make it there.
Taking a vacation is a wonderful gift everyone should be able to experience. With some diligence and ingenuity, you can enjoy a memorable vacation and spend significantly less than sticker price. Proverbs 21:5 says “The plans of the diligent surely lead to profit; and everyone who is hasty surely rushes to poverty.” As you get ready to enjoy your summer plans, remember this advice and use these strategies when it’s time to planning your next vacation.
To learn more about upcoming financial classes at Willow, click here.