As consumers face one price hike after another, they are forced to find creative ways to maintain their lifestyle. Everyone deserves a vacation, but many are finding it increasingly difficult to afford a holiday this summer. According to a recent study, 57% of Americans feel they are not able to spend as much on their vacations this summer as compared to last. With the rising fuel costs, and the decreasing value of the dollar, we are challenged to come up with ways to enjoy our time off without breaking the bank. Clearpoint Credit Counseling Solutions offers savings tips and creative ideas for the savvy traveler:
- Put away those credit cards! Your post-vacation high will fade much sooner once you realize how much debt you’ve racked up on your credit cards. Avoid this feeling and the debt trap by saving up ahead of time for your holidays, and use cash whenever possible. When you run out, you run out.
- Prepare a budget – One of the best steps you can take in order to curb the temptation to overspend is to come up with a vacation budget ahead of time. Planning is key. Make a little room in your budget by cushioning it for unexpected occurrences and emergencies. The rule of thumb: Set a budget and stick to it.
- Be Resourceful – Check with your local Chamber of Commerce organization website to find local vacation suggestions and links to recreational ideas in your city. Consider a staycation–a budget vacation in your state.
- Timing is everything – If you do plan on traveling outside of your immediate area, make sure you do it during the off-season. Prices are usually substantially lower, and you won’t have to deal with all of the crowds either.
- Short and Sweet – You don’t have to go on a two-week excursion in order to feel refreshed after a vacation. Take a long weekend for yourself and your family and maximize your itinerary by planning activities well ahead of time.
- Avoid unnecessary costs– Don’t find yourself trapped by additional charges and/or fees! Avoid the following:
- Hotel room phones which often carry hefty surcharges.
- Silly souvenirs (Chances are many of them will end up collecting dust in your attic).
- Pack your own meals – You’ll be surprised to see just how much money you can save if you do a little planning ahead of time and pack meals and snacks for your trip instead of eating out in restaurants each time. When on the road, avoid gas stations as they are often overpriced. Perhaps you want to treat yourself to one nice dinner on the trip? If so, consider splitting entrees or foregoing dessert or drinks to save on the overall cost. Also, check your local visitor’s center or online websites for coupons to local restaurants.
- Transport yourself – Since gas prices continue to rise and don’t seem to be leveling off any time soon, it’s time to consider alternative methods of transit. Choose a location with lots to do and see, and walk from place to place. Consider using the local bus service in your area as well. If you are driving, it’s a good idea to make sure your car has been serviced before you hit the road. If possible, take a smaller vehicle to save on gas costs.
Consider these free or low-cost options as potential vacation destinations in our around your immediate area:
- Outdoor festivals
- Theatrical productions
- Local concerts
- Historical landmarks
Though you may not be able to go globetrotting this summer, you can still experience a perfectly enjoyable vacation. For instance, “I Love N.Y.,” in an attempt to target state residents and the 80 million people who live within a three-to-five-hour drive of the state’s border, is working with more than 200 hotels across the state, offering travelers who buy two nights a third night free. If you don’t want to drive, you can take Amtrak and mention the “I Love N.Y.” discount — you’ll get 20% off your train ticket. Loads of tourism boards are arranging deals like this, including the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association (with an extended-day harbor pass to go along with a third-night-free).
Go Abroad on the Cheap
Believe it or not, you can get out of the country without paying a fortune. According to Budget Travel magazine, you can head out of the United States to rural areas and save some big bucks. For example, instead of spending a week in Paris, try the Dordogne region in southwestern France, where you can stay for as little as $55 a night. At that price, you could rent a car for a day or two and tool around the area! Another good option: Mexico. If you head to Yelapa, a tiny fishing village 20 miles south of Puerto Vaillarta, you can rent a six-bedroom house for $150 a night. Also, look to countries where the dollar is stronger than the local currency, such as Argentina and Costa Rica, even Thailand.
The big tip: Think outside the typical “travel box” and do more leg work to find the best deals. Pick up travel guides and check out rural areas that appeal to you. Do the same with travel magazines, and hit the Internet to start searching for the best deals out there (try EuroCheapo.com if you’re looking to find a great deal in Europe), and of course get guidance from travel websites.
Rent a Place as Opposed to Getting a Hotel
Believe it or not, if you rent a home or apartment in a city you’re heading to for vacation, you could save a lot of money. Budget Travel says you can rent an apartment in Europe for $100 a night, while a hotel could cost you $300 per night. There are sites dedicated to rentals in Paris, and list some apartments for as little as $800 a week; you’d be hard-pressed to find a hotel room for anything less than $300 a night in the City of Lights.
For U.S. rentals, try Vrbo.com: You can find housing for less than a hotel would cost, and find great deals in some of the hottest areas (how about a three-bedroom plus pool in East Hampton this summer?!) The added bonus: The homes you’ll stay in have kitchens, so you won’t be spending money left and right on food, which becomes a hefty expense when you’re on the road.