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Friday, January 23, 2015

Cost-Saving Vacation Tips

Cost-Saving Vacation Tips
Traveling from Vermont to Hawaii isn't easy. It's a 22-hour journey of driving, flights, shuttle busses, layovers, and more flights, all culminating in an epic collision between an exhausted traveler and some faraway hotel's welcoming bed pillow.

Such an epic journey isn't easy on your finances either, but it doesn't have to break the bank, and it certainly doesn't have to involve going deeper into debt, so long as you plan for it smartly.

Here are some of the ways that Danielle and I saved money on our trip to Maui.

Know What Kind of R&R You're Looking For

It's dangerous to go on vacation with nothing but vague notions of rest and relaxation in your head. Everyone wants to kick back on a vacation, but if you don't think of HOW you're going to kick back you run the risk of making the dollars in your wallet an endangered species.

For me and Danielle, having a nice hotel in Maui wasn't a priority because the type of vacation we wanted involved a lot of activities, not the least of which involved spending loads of time on the beach. As long as the beds are comfortable, we're not picky. For us, the hotel room is just a place to crash after a long day of doing stuff.

If, however, your dream vacation is all about lounging around the resort with a good book, watching TV, or admiring the view from the pool, than maybe you'll want to put a little more money into your hotel. This means, of course, that you should reel-in the rest of your vacation spending.

Pack Food ... or Have a Grocery Budget

Food, glorious food! One of the greatest reasons to go on vacation is to eat food. Sometimes it's the whole reason you go on vacation—to eat exotic foods! The problem is that beyond that lonely concept people don't put much effort into planning what they're going to eat while they're on vacation. They just wake up one morning and realize, gasp, we need food! This usually results in paying for last minute room service or eating out, like, a lot.

Pack food. Bring snacks, like granola bars, trail mix, muffins and water. When you get to your destination go grocery shopping and make plans to prepare at least half your meals yourself. Our hotel in Maui came equipped with a fridge and small stove which made it easy to scramble some eggs in the morning, and the nearby beach had grills handy to barbecue some chicken we bought at a grocery store down the street. We grilled enough chicken for four meals for less than $8. Eating out for those four meals would've easily cost us $100.

Pack Conservatively

Unfortunately the airline that Danielle and I were flying with had a $35 cost per checked bag, outrageous when you consider the exorbitant cost of plane tickets these days. We knew we would have at least one checked bag, but with some careful packing we were able to get everything we needed into our carry-on luggage. Did it mean making some sacrifices? Yes. (I had to leave behind the navy blue belt that matches me red shorts, but I was pretty sure I would survive.)

Have a Budget

You budget for your electric bill. You budget for your mortgage. You budget for birthdays and Christmas. So budget for your vacation! Decide—not how much you're willing to spend—but how much you can spend, and stay within that limit. If, with two days of vacation left, you've maxed out your allotted spending money and the kids want to go mini-golfing, say, "Sorry, kids. Jake and Danielle say 'no.'" Shoot me an email. I'll send you our PO address and your kids can write us a nasty letter.

Remember that Not Everything Has to Cost $$

While there are some vacationing things that are going to cost money no matter what, NEVER forget to check the area for free fun. Danielle and I made a list of hiking spots we wanted to visit in Maui as well as some historical landmarks. Maybe hiking and sightseeing isn't your thing, but there were also art shows, music, playgrounds, beaches, and other free stuff that we could've enjoyed.

Plan Your Vacation At Non-Peak Times

Granted, this might not always be possible due to your schedule, but usually the best rates at hotels and resorts are during times when they don't see as much tourism traffic. If you know where you want to go, do some Googling and find out when their off-season rates come into play. You could save yourself a bundle of money.

Use Your Judgment

Obviously a family of five doesn't have the same flexibility as a young couple with no kids, or an older couple who are all done going through the Baby Steps to financial freedom. Know your limits. Talk with your spouse. Pray about it beforehand. Put together a vacation that works for you in the here and now. It might not be that dream vacation you've always wanted, but don't worry about that. You'll get there eventually. Try to keep your eyes focused on the end game.

Keep pinchin' :-)

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