Every year, the one season that the entire family looks forward to is summer. This is when barbecue parties are held one after another. There is also plenty of fun to be had under the sun. Since the kids are off school, the whole family can take a break by going on a road trip, travel out of town or even out of the country. Kids can go to summer camp while parents can visit exotic far away or nearby beach destinations.
Although the fun never seems to stop when the summer season arrives, the one thing that you need to remember is that all these outings can take a toll on your budget.
If you splurge on each and every summer outing that you can plan, you might find yourself short on budget or even in debt once the season’s over. A worse scenario is for you to be still paying for a summer outing that you took one or two years ago, simply because you charged it all on your credit card.
Step One: Saving Up Prior to the Vacation
The good news is that there are plenty of ways for you to save up prior to, and during your summer vacation. First, let’s talk about how you can save money for your summer outings. The most important thing to do is for you to set up a separate savings account. After the current summer season is over, you can already start saving up for your next summer outings.
The reason why you should set up a separate savings account is that it will be much easier for you to organize your funds. Your goal is not to go over budget when spending for your summer vacation, much worse be in debt, so having a separate savings account really helps. Knowing how much money you have saved up also inspires you to add more money to the account by working doubly hard on saving.
Instead of adding money to your summer vacation account on a monthly basis, doing it on a weekly basis will make you reach your savings goals much more quickly.
There are several things that you can do to make sure that you are giving the account a boost. How about scaling back on your luxury or leisure expenses for at least three months? Let’s say that you always eat out or order takeout as a family. The money that you can save by cooking thrifty, delicious and healthy meals in your very own kitchen can go towards your vacation funds instead.
You can also stop going to the movies, not buy any new clothes or shoes or cut back on your fancy coffee or alcohol consumption.
As a family, you can make an advanced spring clean-up and check which items in your closets as well as in your attic you can put up for sale. The proceeds from the garage sale can go towards your vacation fund.
You can also take full advantage of savings and budget apps like SmartyPig, Mint.com, and others to make it easier for you to manage your finances and meet your goal of saving up for your summer family outings.
Step Two: Saving Big on the Summer Vacation Itself
Now that you already have an idea about how to save up prior to your summer vacation, how can you save money on the trip itself? Depending on whether you’re planning to take a cruise, go on a road trip, or fly to an exotic beach destination somewhere, here are the things that you can do to save big on summer travel:
Book flights six to seven weeks in advance
Whether you’re flying solo or with a family, the first thing that you need to do is organize your itinerary by securing your airline tickets. Exactly where do you wish to spend your summer vacation? You could fly out of state or out of the country, but remember that the best time to secure your airline tickets is six to seven weeks in advance.
This is when airline carriers offer unbeatable rates. If not that, you can always take advantage of last-minute offers although it is quite trickier, especially if you are traveling with family.
Other things to remember when booking flights is that red eye flights are cheaper than ones during regular hours; mid-week flights are cheaper than weekend flights, and you can also check on the rates offered by different carriers by checking out flight comparison websites.
Take advantage of frequent flyer programs
If you have a credit card, take advantage of frequent flyer programs so that you can use the points while booking flights. The points can be converted to actual tickets, upgrades or other flying-related freebies.
Know how to save on cruises
If you are looking forward to taking a cruise on your summer vacation, there are several ways that you can save money by doing so. First, you can cruise from a port that is closer to home.
Companies like the Royal Caribbean International and the Norwegian Cruise Line now set sail from different ports around the US. This includes Seattle, New York, Texas, Galveston, South Carolina and Baltimore.
As compared to flying, it’s usually much cheaper to reach the Bahamas using these cruise lines. Although the time that it takes for a cruise to arrive at a destination is usually much longer, most people prefer this than waiting for endless hours at the airport.
Another way to save money when booking a cruise is to do it through travel agents. These are professionals who know how to give you the best deals, especially if you are taking a themed cruise like the ones offered by Disney.
Use a gas comparison website to save fuel money when taking road trips
Another way to spend one’s summer vacation is by going on a road trip. For this, it pays to map out a route that you can follow, so that save time and gas on driving. Make sure that the route that you are going in is different from the one that you will take driving back, so you can maximize the number of destinations that you can visit. For road trips, gas will be the biggest expense that you will have.
To save money on gas, you can visit sites like GasBuddy.com or use gas comparison websites. Even a few cents difference in gas price will go a long way, especially if you are filling up the tank. You can also download plenty of apps to inform you of where the nearest establishments are including ATMs, gas stations, hotels, motels, restaurants, parks, tourist attractions, etc.
Find ways to save on accommodations
As compared to years ago, the price of individual hotel rooms has considerably gone down. However, the a la carte services including buffet breakfast at hotels, Internet access, parking and similar expenses can bulk up your bill.
To make sure that you are not paying any more than you have to during your stay at a hotel, always ask what is included. Visit sites like Priceline.com to look for hotels which provide complimentary breakfast or perks like spa treatments and use of hotel facilities. If you need to stay online during your summer trips, go online, and you will find a list of hotel chains which offer free Wi-Fi access.
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Book your entrance tickets online
When you’re visiting a new city, there are plenty of museums, national parks and other attractions where you can stop by. The costs of the tickets for these are quite high when you are buying them on the actual date, so you will save money by booking them advance and online.
Check out the tourism website of the state or city you’re visiting so that you can get discounts on entrance ticket to tourist attractions. You can do the same thing for train or bus rides, which are typically cheaper when bought in advance.
Save on food while travelling in a different city or country
If you’re traveling as a group, always eating out at fancy restaurants will put a huge dent in your budget. To make sure that you are still eating well while on vacation, do a quick search on how you can save on food.
Check out the restaurants which offer happy hours, or go where the locals eat. If you’re going on a road trip, it is better to pack a cooler and buy the food essentials you need on superstores to save money.
Consider taking advantage of all-inclusive vacation packages
Finally, consider taking advantage of all-inclusive vacation packages which already include airline tickets or cruise ship fees, accommodations, hotel breakfasts, airport transfer and guided tours.
Depending on your vacation destination, there are instances when all-inclusive travel packages become cheaper than when you are booking the airline tickets and accommodations yourself. In the end, it’s all about doing your homework in advance.
By knowing what to expect during your summer travel, you can enjoy it to the hilt but without the expenses putting a huge dent in your budget.