We deserve our vacations. We want our vacations. We need our vacations. Whether we take several long weekends throughout the year or blow it all on a 2-3 week escape, we look forward to those times and try to budget for them as best we can. While vacation time is certainly a time to splurge on fun, saving money on the unimportant things can be a good thing. Here are some helpful tips for doing just that.
1. Bring your own toiletries
Many other say you should not, because hotels have those things available. However, there is nothing worse than a couple both trying to use those tiny shampoo, conditioner, and lotion bottles, and hotels can be kind of scrimpy about them. Bring the things that you know work for your hair and bodies. Slip those hotel bottles in your suitcases for taking home.
2. Pack carefully and lightly
Leave with suitcases not full, and only one checked bag per person. Airlines will charge for more, as you already know. Here is how you can get more on. Each of you check one bag; each of you takes another carryon that is the largest allowable and stuff it. Then, take a knapsack that will fit under the seat and stuff it as well. Females can put their purses inside those knapsacks along with many other items. You have then met the airline luggage requirements at no extra charge. And that suitcase you checked that is less than full? You can fill it with items you purchase on the trip.
3. Check out regional airlines and airports
Sometimes you can save a bundle by using smaller regional airlines that may not fly into a large city airport. If you plant to rent a car anyway, use a smaller airline with a much cheaper fare. Usually, these smaller regional airports are not more than an hour away from the city.
4. Car rentals by the hour
If you do not need a car for the entire time you are vacationing, check in to the hourly rental options like ZipCar. You actually have to buy a membership ($25), but then you can rent by the hour wherever they are located. Hourly prices range from $9 – $12 approximately. A great option if you are traveling to any major city in the U.S.
5. Travel during off-seasons
October is a beautiful month in Florida, and it is off season. Rates are cheaper. The times between the New Year and spring break are off-seasons in many Caribbean countries too. Lots of resorts provide some free meals and other amenities during off season.
6. Cruises are economical
Considering that you get an all-in-one package on a cruise, you may find it cheaper than planning an elaborate vacation that involves airfare, hotel, and meals and transportation all on your own. Of course, you do have to really like cruises, but for couples, it’s a great option. Just watch your drinking. The bar/beverage bill at the end can be a shock. If you prefer something a bit more intimate, check out smallshipcruises.com. There are usually some great deals and you can book those deals plenty in advance.
7. Download free apps
Everyone knows about Scoutmob and Foursquare, but there are lots of places that offer regular permanent deals. There are other apps, not well-known, that can plug you in to these. Try Happy Hour Finder, for example, which will list all of the happy hours in the neighborhood of your destination. Many of them offer free hors d’ouerves, which can often take the place of your dinner.
8. Monitor deals on Groupon and Living Social
About a month before your departure, start watching for deals at your destination. You will find some for the well-known popular attractions and some ones you didn’t even know about. Sometimes the smaller attractions are better. Purchase these deals if you really believe you will use them.
9. Take a look at public transportation
Light rail systems are wonderful. Do the research in advance and map out routes from your hotel to attractions. Even if the rail will not get you right to the place (most often they do, however), you will save a lot on cab money, the closer you can get to your destination. While many U.S. cities don’t yet have a comprehensive rail system, every major foreign city does. You can find the maps online.
10. Make Restaurant.com your new friend
If your vacation is within the U.S., all you have to do is type in the zip code of your destination and start looking. Sometimes you can find a discount well over 50% or “buy one get one free” dinners at great restaurants.
11. Check out all attraction websites in advance
This will help you decide where you want to go and also grab some special admissions deals. You can compare those deals with others you find on Groupon or Living Social to get the best one.
12. A Military ID has its perks
If either of you has been in the military, bring your card along. It is worth discounts and deals everywhere. And don’t be shy. You don’t get what you don’t ask for. Often, you can find this out in advance on hotel, restaurant and attraction websites.
13. Skip the room bar and snack cupboard
Hotels do not just stock mini-bars anymore. Many also have snack cupboards. Everything is exorbitant as you already know. Make a trip to the local grocery and liquor stores and pick up those items for yourself. One drink in your room before going down to dinner means one less cocktail you’ll be paying for at restaurant prices. And, after a long day on the beach and in your pajamas and hungry, you’ve got the snacks you need.
14. Make a financial plan in advance
Whether you plan several short trips or one long one, you should have a vacation savings account that is separate from all other accounts. All of your online research should give you a solid estimate of the cost of the trip(s) you plan to take. Take the cost of that one big trip and divide it by as many months as you have before you go. Now you know how much you need to save each month to make it happen. All the discounts and deals you are able to find later on will just be that much more you have to splurge when you do take that trip.
Of course, you do have to return to your real world. “Coming down” from a great vacation can be hard, so make sure you have planned for that too. For example, if you are planning a once-a-year longer vacation, it’s a good idea to return a day before your regular schedule kicks in. Give yourself time to “de-compress.” It can be as simple as recovering from jet-lag to a more psychological change in mindset, but you do need time for it.