Vacations are an exciting and highly anticipated time of the year! They are a time for you to relax, enjoy time with family or friends, and get away from the every-day stresses of life.
However, if you are anything like me, you tend to over-think the financial side of the getaway – food, hotel, airfare, gas, rental car, entertainment, etc. Expenses accumulate very quickly, often adding up to much more than we previously anticipated.
According to a 2017 Forbes survey, the average American spends 10% of their annual income on vacations. On top of that 55% of Americans don’t even make their vacation a part of their budget plan. To adequately plan for a vacation, you must have the available finances and a set budget.
Through research and careful planning, I was able to find ways to make my vacations less financially stressful. I started planning for my vacations ahead of time and was able to forecast what the average cost would be – ensuring that it fits into my budget.
Below are the financial tips that I have learned to follow:
1.) Make money by signing up for a credit card promotion bonus
Have you ever seen a credit card promotion that read, “EARN $300 CASH BACK when you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 90 days of account opening”? This is FREE MONEY!
One of the best credit card bonuses out there is for the Chase Sapphire Credit Card with a 50,000 point bonus. These 50,000 points are $500+ in travel.
You can convert these points to cash or use them to book hotels, airline tickets, gift cards, and other entertainment. Since you are already planning on spending the money on vacation, you may as well get rewarded for doing it!
Pro Tip: Some credit cards come with an annual fee. I prefer to stay away from annual fees, but if the reward is significantly greater than the fee, I will still consider opening the credit card.
2.) Make money by signing up for a bank account promotion bonus
Just like credit cards, banks also have special promotional offers for opening an account.
For example, TD Bank is offering a $300 bonus for opening an account and using their direct deposit for three months. You don’t have to physically go into the bank – you can do this online! Once the three months are up, your account is automatically funded with the money!
I recently opened this account to help fund a weekend get-away – free $300 simply for opening an account.
3.) Travel during low-tourist periods
If you avoid travelling at peak tourist season, you can possibly save hundreds of dollars. Tourist destinations often discount their prices over 60% to attract the attention of tourists. Research your location to find its off-season.
We typically book our vacations in late summer or early fall – low tourist times for most of the western world.
4.) Sit in on a Hotel Preview
A “Hotel Preview” is just a fancy word for a sales pitch on a time share. If you can handle high-pressure sales without throwing punches, this is a great way to get a $200/night condo for only $50/night.
On a recent trip to Orlando, I also received free Disney World tickets in addition to a $150 discount on a condo – just for going to a 90-minute sales pitch.
Pro Tip: Talk with your spouse before you go to the sales presentation. Know whether your answer to the salesman is “Yes!” or “No!” Be firm with the salesman and stick to your original decision. The sales presentation can be very persuasive and you will be much happier if you stay unified and firm on your prior decision.
5.) Pack everything in Your Carry-On
In the past, I use to pack with very little organization and thought. Now, I take a much different approach to packing.
Prior to your vacation, plan out everything you will absolutely need. If you can pack it all into one suitcase, you will be saving a minimum of $50 per person with this tip.
If you can’t fit it all into your carry-on, pack your extra clothes in a suit bag. Once you get on the plane, ask the flight attendant for a space to hang your “suit” – pants, shirts, swimsuit, dresses, etc. You get the point!
The hotel prices you see online are almost always the beginning price. If you contact your hotel prior to your vacation, ask if they can offer you a lower price or upgrade your room.
As mentioned above, I was able to negotiate 3 Disney World tickets in addition to the $150 condo discount – all because I was willing to ask. Be polite! You will never know unless you ask.
7.) Plan Your Meals
Food and beverages are where most people spend the majority of their vacation budget.
Prior to your visit, scope out the area and know where you want to eat. Ask your friends who have visited that location before and read blogs and travel sites.
I always check TripAdvisor for restaurant meal prices and reviews. I also visit Restaurant.com and RetailMeNot for coupons to the chain and local restaurants. My wife and I almost always eat at a classy restaurant because of a gift certificate that was previously purchased.
If your hotel has a kitchen, consider eating in. Make a quick trip to the grocery store and purchase some quick-and-easy groceries like fruit, sandwiches, nutrition bars, and cereal.
In the end, just don’t arrive at your vacation destination with no plan and end up going to the pricey restaurants that your hotel recommends.
8.) Take a Bus to your Destination
Don’t check out on this one! Many people take the bus to travel cross-country.
A couple years ago, I rode a bus from Philadelphia to Washington D.C. roundtrip for a grand total of $13! You may have to search to find an amazing deal like that, but you can reduce your travel cost significantly. Check out megabus.com – the company I chose for their affordable tickets.
9.) Buy your Touristy items on Amazon (or not at all)
Overpriced souvenirs – the #1 tourist trap! If you decide to buy your dancing hula girls, sea globes, t-shirts, and magnets from a tourist store, you will probably pay an additional 25%+ premium. Prior to your vacation, purchase these items on Amazon! This tip alone will save you a significant amount of money.
Whether you are thinking about taking a vacation or already have one planned, make budgeting a serious part of your planning process. Don’t put your vacation on a credit card – only to have to pay it back later.
It will take some extra effort on your part, but if you make some extra money, stick to your budget, and spend less, it will all be worth it!
If you have any questions about this article, just let us know in the comment section below! We’d be happy to help you out!