Ready or not, summer comes every year and brings with it the season for trips and vacations. Planning a fun trip within a reasonable budget is a good way to protect your credit and avoid overspending, but it can be a challenge. This becomes even more difficult when the travel party grows from one single person to a family of four, five, six, or even more. To help take the hassle out of trip planning and budgeting, we would like to offer a few easy steps for planning your perfect family vacation.
Do your research
Search on-line for lower-priced airfares and hotel accommodations, and read the offers carefully. It’s also smart to search for discount codes online or ask about discounts when you are booking your accommodations, transportation, and entertainment.
Know the line of credit on your credit cards and daily withdrawal amounts allowed for your debit/ATM cards
Not all cards are accepted everywhere. This may be particularly important when planning family fun outside the country. Find out if your ATM card is accepted at your destination without any additional fees.
Know how much you can spend
Beginning with the end in mind is a sure way to maintain your focus and stay on track with your family’s financial goals. Consider shorter trips or possibly exploring the tourist spots near where you live.
Be creative with travel and lodging arrangements
According to Warren Chang, vice president and general manager of Fly.com, the average cost of domestic airfare is about $380. This figure goes up when the additional fees of booking an international flight are factored in. Chang’s recommendation is to fly Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Saturdays as well as on actual holidays for the least expensive fares. And if have the luxury of flexibility with your dates, he recommends checking airlines' and travel websites' low fare calendars by plugging in your destination and the dates with the lowest airfares pop up.
Think beyond the obvious flight costs. Consider onboard costs as well! Airlines such as Spirit operate on an itemized, or a-la-carte, system where each amenity is priced and paid for separately.
For your best results, you will need a strategy that goes beyond "search and book". Keep in mind that the best time to book tickets is about 45 days before travel on domestic flights and about 60 days before travel on international flights.
Waiting until the last minute to book is not the best way to score cheap airline tickets. You'll be competing with price-insensitive business travelers, which typically drives prices up two weeks before a flight.
While last-minute booking is not the best for flying, it is the best for hotels and cruises, so look for deals through sites where you can name your price.
Sleep outside the box
The American Hotel & Lodging Association estimated the average room rate at $110.35, which can add up quickly over the course of your entire vacation Mark McSweeney, executive director of the Vacation Rental Managers Association, says vacation rentals often provide a huge savings in cost when compared to other lodging options by allowing one reservation for multiple people.
"Rates for some three-bedroom vacation homes may start at just $69 per night but sleep up to eight travelers, versus just one or two," he says.
McSweeney also says renting a space fully equipped with a kitchen offers great value to travelers who want to save on dining out.
A $25 dinner does not have to be the norm when traveling. Dining coupons from places like Restaurants.com, LivingSocial and Groupon can help you save big during your time away. Remember to make sure to use them before they expire though! You may also consider sampling street vendors for tasty and cheap local options as long as the set up appears clean and palatable. Hotels equipped with a kitchen also provide an affordable alternative to dining out.
"When booking a hotel, I always ask for a fridge, and I book a kitchen if I can afford it. Eating in on some vacation nights just makes eating out more special," Firpo-Cappiello, editor-in-chief of Budget Travel LLC in New York City, says.
Eating at buffets during the week instead of weekends, and at lunch instead of dinner are also great ways to shave off a few dollars from the cost of food. For example, eating a big brunch instead of breakfast and lunch separately provides a two-for-one opportunity.
Do less, Save more!
You may be surprised how much simply being in a new setting relaxes, restores, and revitalizes your entire family. Stepping away from your usual daily routines and focusing only on the things you like are what make family vacations so special and important. Don't feel compelled to see every tourist attraction while you're on vacation. Try to spend more time relaxing and keep track of how much you're spending on a daily basis.
Stay connected without breaking the bank
If you've ever made a long-distance call from our cell phone, you know that roaming charges can cost more than a hotel if you're talking long enough. Get your friends and family to join Skype and avoid using your cellphone carrier altogether. Skype offers free video calls, while smartphone and landline calls start at 1 cent per minute.
Finally, social media is also a very popular way to keep in touch while you’re away. You can speak or video chat for free on most popular social media platforms, like Facebook, Snapchat, Periscope, Instagram, and more from anywhere in the world with a Wi-Fi connection.