Nothing drains that easygoing vacation vibe more quickly than agonizing over how much you’re spending.
katThe way to prevent that buzzkill is smart advance planning that reduces your costs, limits impulse buying and ensures that your vacation reduces your stress instead of adding to it.
There are two key steps to a vacation that doesn’t break the bank. The first is to finance the trip, to the maximum extent possible, with savings rather than debt. Floating a vacation on a credit card is a non-stop direct flight to Debtville.
The second step is to handle your vacation spending the same way you handle your everyday spending: set a budget, and stick to it.
With those two fundamental steps in place, there are plenty of other opportunities to save money without being a killjoy. Did you know, for example, that you can get Living Social or Groupon offers for your destination? A few weeks before your departure date, go online and add your destination to your list of cities and look for opportunities to save big on dining and other purchases. I found that tip in an article at Kiplinger.com, along with suggestions such as trolling state and local tourism bureau sites for discount offers.
Another way to save money on vacation dining is to have lunch instead of dinner at that fancy place with the rave reviews you are dying to try, and do sandwiches or pizza for an evening meal. Barbara Friedberg recommends that and other strategies on her blog. Another great tip: if your hotel doesn’t offer free breakfast, pick up fresh fruit or muffins at a grocery store and combine with in-room coffee.
If you’re visiting a major city, cab fares can be a huge expense. Researching mass transit options beforehand can be a real money saver. Cities like Chicago have all day rail and bus passes that are perfect for tourists for just $6. Or another great idea is get your exercise by walking to your desired destinations. What I like about that option is the opportunity for unexpected discoveries along the way like an amazing city monument or “can’t miss” diner.
One more thing (OK, here comes the new mom again): Use budgeting for your vacation as a learning opportunity for your kids. Jennifer at Personal Finance Advice posts several strategies; one I like is to give older kids a set amount of spending money and leave it up to them to decide how to use it.
Let them know that if they blow all their money early, you’re not going to bail them out. For younger kids, her strategy is to save all the souvenir-buying for the last day before departure. Keep a list of the “I wants” that pop up over the course of your stay, and then let each child pick one or two items from the list, helping them learn about limits, and the value of setting priorities.
Your priority on vacation should always be to relax and have fun. Not having constant money worries nagging at the back of your mind is one of the best ways to make it happen.
The Money Corner is posted on Dollars & Sense every Tuesday. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her newborn, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union.
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