Summer vacation season. Normally it’s a time of relaxation, family trips, creating enjoyable memories with friends.
Not this year.
With gas prices are through the roof, it’s impossible to think about vacation season without worrying about the cost. Even flying to your destination is painful; airlines recently raised fares to compensate for higher fuel costs. How do you enjoy your summer vacation when getting there might swallow the entire budget? Here are some tips to re-examine your summer travel plans:
1) Scour the internet for deals. A couple years ago we were in Indianapolis for a swim meet. We stayed at the Crowne Plaza, and thought we had a good deal. A friend staying next door paid half our price by shopping on Hotwire. After that, Hotwire was my first choice for travel expenses.
Then, I spoke with a woman at a hotel in Dallas. She said that if we called the hotel, they will often match the Hotwire or Priceline rate. Why is this important? If the hotel has a reward system, such as Marriott, Holiday Inn, or even budget LaQuinta or Red Roof, you’ll still qualify for points. If you use a cut-rate site, you won’t be eligible for reward points.
If you fly, set alerts at popular flight websites such as Orbitz, Expedia, or Travelocity. You’ll be automatically informed when prices drop. If you aren’t picky about your destination, book late. Airlines and travel agencies often run spur-of-the-moment deals to fill unused seats or hotel beds.
2) Balance travel against your long-term goals. If it’s going to cost a fortune to reach your destination, consider downgrading your accommodations or rental car. Use websites such as Hotwire or Priceline to compare many different companies. Rather than eat dinner at expensive restaurants, try a nice lunch, where menu items are usually less expensive. For dinner, find a grocery store and have a picnic enjoying the scenery at a park.
3) Ever try a “stay-cation?” Instead of leaving town, explore local sports teams, the museums, a beach, and friends? Visit local restaurants you haven’t explored. Play board games. Camp out at a local campground. By staying close to home you’ll spend less on fuel and more on fun activities with the family.
Vacations don’t have to require you to spend your retirement savings to be meaningful. By hunting for discounts or exploring options close to home, you can have a both great summer and lots of memories without breaking the bank.