Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Saving for a Vacation

As you know, Terry and I are currently soaking up the sun in Turks & Caicos. Last year, we took a Caribbean cruise, and the year before that we went to Europe twice!

Miami, 2012

London, 2011

Paris, 2011

The truth is, though, we don't just hop on a plane to these exotic places without a thought. And we want to be able to make small trips along the way: wine tasting, We have spent years working out our finances and figuring out how to live the life we want to live without breaking the bank.

Saving for Vacation and Budget-Friendly Travel

Have a goal in mind. If you’re not sure of the location, at least have some sort of an idea of how long of a trip you plan to take, how fancy vs. laid back you want it to be, how much you plan to do while you’re there. But setting a goal for a week-long vacation in Europe next summer creates a more specific idea for you of how to get there.

Shoot for travel within a year. Terry and I have tons of dream destinations in mind for future trips: Australia, New York/Boston, a road trip across the U.S. But with time and budget constraints, some places will have to wait. We choose based on what we can do in a reasonable amount of time. Setting a dream vacation for five years from now is too far; we set goals we can accomplish in six months or a year.

Prioritize. Consider what’s most important, and if you want to make a trip happen, figure out where you can cut back. Maybe save that big screen TV for next year. Eat out less often and work out from home instead of at a gym, wait for movies to come out on Netflix instead of going to the theater.. If you find little ways to cut back here and there you’ll be able to afford the vacation you want.

Save your time off, too! If your work limits your time off, plan in advance and do your best to avoid taking unnecessary vacation days. We usually travel when I have breaks during school, of course, and Terry is diligent about not taking days off unless absolutely necessary.

Start saving! It’s never too early to start a little fund for your trips! We have set up a separate account with our bank that allows us to pull money out of our checking each week or month to set aside for luxuries. Even $10 per week is $520 per year! That’s enough for a long weekend road trip or a flight to visit friends.

Need some motivation? Read travel blogs, research your dream vacation(s), and decide where you want to go. Then print out a photo and stick it on your fridge. Remind yourself of that goal whenever you think you might need a little push to save more!

Then, once you’ve decided on your trip…

Consider your options. Terry and I travel from LA to the Bay Area several times per year, and we really save a lot of money by driving instead of flying. But of course we add another hour or so to our travels that way. As far as hotels, consider staying at local inns or bed and breakfasts instead of fancy brand name spots. As much as we love Hilton, we haven’t yet found a good deal on one abroad.

Research ahead of time for the best deals. This part is daunting. The countless travel websites out there make personal research possible but also overwhelming. We had a blast researching for Europe but ultimately contacted a travel agent to help us with advice and bookings. Her prices were far better than what we were able to find! Consider a travel agent especially if you are traveling abroad or taking a cruise; they make the whole thing much more manageable!

Plan ahead to avoid costly fees. Pack smart and bring from home what you know you’ll need. There are usually plenty of necessities wherever you travel, but you can save by not forgetting your essentials (contact solution, reading glasses, camera batteries, cell phone chargers, etc.).

Bring snacks for travel day and/or your hotel. Airports have huge mark ups on their food! Skip the lines and stress and salty foods and bring your own snacks for travel days. This time around, I packed healthy oatmeal cookies (basically a breakfast cookie), strawberries and pineapple (not allowed to bring into another country, but we ate it before leaving the U.S.), Lara bars, and KIND bars. These foods aren’t the most nutritionally dense, but they prevent us from skipping meals or having to pay way more than necessary.

Eat like a local. Especially if you’re staying somewhere for more than a few days, consider a grocery trip at the beginning of the week to cover breakfasts and even some lunches. I’m all about eating the local cuisine when I travel, but we save a good deal of money when we stick to dinners out! My mom also always brings appetizers (cheese, crackers, salami, etc.) for the hotel room instead of ordering a first course at the restaurant.

Bring your own alcohol. Whenever you can, this tip obviously cuts down a lot of the overhead from adult beverages. Just be aware of corkage fees!

What is your dream destination? Any tips for saving for travel?


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