Summer is usually the most convenient time to travel to family, friends or vacation destinations. If you have children, they are all out of school. Many offices schedule vacations during the summer months, when business is slow. This peak time comes at a price, though, and without careful, smart planning, and a bit of creativity you could find yourself saddled with the exorbitant costs of summer travel. Here are 10 tips to help you stay within a manageable budget and avoid debt, especially credit card debt, from your summer fun.
- Heading overseas? Chances are your credit card will charge you between 1% and 3% on foreign transactions. This adds up after a while. Check your credit cards in advance and if necessary, apply for a new card that offers no overseas transaction fees.
- Maximize your dollar. Exchange rates vary considerably around the world, some markets doing much better than others. Do your research, and if you are not too focused on a particular overseas destination, pick one where your dollar will go the farthest. You could triple the amount of money you have to spend on resorts, spas, restaurants and excursions.
- Take advantage of family and friends. If your family or friends happen to live in some great vacation locations, call them up and see if they mind having house guests for a week or so. Chances are they will enjoy it and you can save money on hotels. Be sure to budget for special gifts of appreciation.
- Look for deals. Utilize trip planning services such as Travelocity, TravelZoo and Expedia. They will give you the best destination deals and unless your heart is really set on a particular place, you can save money by planning your vacation around the cheapest destination.
- Go local. Consider a trip to a more easily accessible location, one that you can reach by automobile or train. Gas prices have come down and you will save on the high costs of airline tickets and rental cars. Assuming you have a safe and reliable car, this can be an excellent way to have a fun and affordable vacation.
- Traveling with the kids? Look for hotels that offer free-stays for kids, restaurants with special kids’ menus and amusement/entertainment venues that offer free or highly discounted tickets for children. Many hotels, especially Holiday Inn, offer all-inclusive packages for children under age 12: free room and free food.
- Book your room in a business hotel. All across the world there are special hotels that cater to the business traveler. They come with less of the frills we might like, but they are less expensive too. Plus, during the summer, their business is slower, so you can find some pretty good deals. Refine your Google search with “business” and checkout your options.
- Try to be flexible. If your vacation destination means you must fly, consider a Tuesday. According to Cheapair.com the cheapest ticket offers are on Tuesdays. The next cheapest day is Wednesday. Search around through all the online airline ticket sites and find the best deals according to day and time, and plan your schedule accordingly.
- Be spontaneous. If you can wait until the last minute, you will find some excellent deals on airline tickets, hotel and resort accommodations, even car rentals. Online sites such as Living Social Escapes and Groupon Getaways can help you find that last-minute vacation deal.
- Live like a local. Skip the hotel and book a vacation home or room. Sites such as Airbnb offer unique opportunities to either rent a vacation home or share a home with the host. You get to feel like you are actually living where you are vacationing and you save money on restaurant bills.
Bottom line: plan ahead, set up a vacation budget and save, be creative and flexible and limit your credit card charges to what you know you can quickly repay.