Many individuals have varying financial goals, but often times an annual vacation or trip with family top the list of most. Of course they don’t just happen with the snap of a finger. Vacations take financial planning, budgeting, savings, and research and creativity for finding affordable transportation, accommodations, and activities upon arrival. Vacations are well-deserved treats that are the result of hard work, and with the right preparation you should be able to enjoy it to the fullest without financial distress before, during, or after.
First and foremost planning for a vacation should start with setting an overall budget for the trip. This will allow to you determine how much you need to start systematically saving, ideally for several months up to a year in advance of the trip depending on the anticipated cost. The total cost can be the most difficult task to accurately estimate as you have to account for all expenses during your vacation, including and not limited to; Airfare and transportation, lodging, travel documents, food and groceries, dining out, entertainment, activities, local transportation expenses, souvenirs and gifts.
After you have determined your allotted budget for the trip, and most importantly begun saving for the adventure, it’s time to shop around for the necessary and most costly travel expenses; Airfare and Lodging. One thing that appears not to be changing anytime soon is increasing flight prices. With continued rising fuel costs, the era of cheap travel is over. Although that doesn’t mean you can’t find an affordable flight, or perhaps even a “cheap” one at that. The best way to ensure that you do find an affordable ticket is by booking your reservation well in advance. About 2-3 months in advance used to be plenty of time, but nowadays you will want to purchase your flight as soon as you know you want to go. Also, having some flexibility in your dates of travel can help reduce the cost. Flying on weekends is almost always more expensive, and if you can manage to travel on Tuesday through Thursday you will significantly reduce your cost of flying. You will also want to try and avoid holidays if possible as this is when many people are flying, which drives the prices up.
As for lodging, some of the same rules that apply to flying can be followed in order to find cheaper accommodations. First and foremost though, you need to decide what level of quality lodging you want. Are you looking for somewhere that is simply clean and has a bed to lay your head at night and take a shower? Or are you looking for somewhere with big TVs, a luxurious pool, and a 5-star restaurant downstairs? Once you decide on the quality of lodging you would like you can begin your research. In addition to standard lodging accommodations such as hotels and hostels, where you can find potential discounted rooms on websites such as www.priceline.com, take a look at options for renting from owners, such as www.VRBO.com (Vacation Rental By Owner) or www.airbnb.com. These could be great options for saving money, and staying somewhere that will fit your expectations.
As for tips when you arrive at your destination, whether you are traveling locally or internationally, spending more time at “local” spots you will find that you take less of a hit on your wallet. For example, you will find in Europe that most restaurants near tourist locations (parks, squares, museums, etc.) tend to have far more expensive prices, and likely a subpar quality of food. Invest in a good guidebook of your choice, and learn some secret spots so you can go have fun with the locals…and save money. Happy travels!