It’s April Fool’s Day and, for many people, it’s the unofficial start to summer vacation planning season. Everyone needs an extended period of time away from the daily grind and routines of work, home, school … life. Most of us don’t take one often enough, but when we do, it’s usually in summer.
I suppose there’s a little bit of Clark W. Griswold in all of us. We dream about the perfect vacation. Yet, if there was one recurring theme in all thoseVacation
movies, it was this: Travel always ends up costing more than you planned.
If everything went according to the Griswold plan, the movies wouldn’t be funny. In real life, good planning is exactly how you avoid cost overruns, unnecessary stress and possibly more vacation funds than anticipated. Bonus! Here are some ideas and resources to get you started:
Do your homework. If your trip requires a flight, hotel, cruise and/or rental car, travel websites like Travelocity (www.travelocity.com) and Expedia (www.expedia.com) make it easy to search for deals. KAYAK (www.kayak.com) actually compares prices for flights/hotels/cars from those and other deal sites. It’s easy to get lost or overloaded with information though, so go with your instincts. Sometimes waiting too
long for the perfect deal can burn you in the end.
Once you nail down your destination, compare the travel site deals with the actual airline, resort or rental car company websites to make sure it’s really a deal. I’m still a fan of Priceline (www.priceline.com). If you’re a little flexible on when you fly and where you stay, you can name your price and see what comes up – it’s actually pretty exciting. We have used this especially for hotels and scored some incredible bargains.
Stay at home
. I mean, stay at someone’s home. This is a great way to save money and often get more living space vs. a typical hotel room, and possibly a better scene. From Branson, Mo., to the island of Bora Bora, vacation homes and condos are sitting vacant everywhere. Many owners list their properties on VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) (www.VRBO.com). If the idea of a seaside condo or lake house sounds better than a high-rise hotel, give VRBO a try. Many times the overall cost can be lower.
. As a kid and an adult, some of my favorite vacations were ones we took with other families. VRBO can be a huge plus here. Let’s face it. A week in the same hotel room with your kids can get a little, shall we say, tense. Often, for the price of two hotel rooms, you can get a four-room house so that adults and kids can each have their own rooms, plus a kitchen, living room and more.
. If you think about it, three restaurant meals a day could add up to more than your nightly lodging bill. If you’re in a rental house or your hotel has a kitchenette, skip eating out a few times and cook at your place. A trip to the grocery store, especially if divided by a few families, is very affordable. And you don’t just have to buy stuff to make tacos. For one meal, if it’s within your budget, splurge a bit and buy steaks. It will still be cheaper than a restaurant. And, it gives you the feeling that you are truly on vacation and enjoying something special.
. It’s too easy to have an anything-goes attitude on vacation. That’s where we get in trouble and the credit card gets a workout. Spend what you saved and planned for all this time, but stick to your budget.
For that matter, maybe Walt Disney World just isn’t in the budget this summer. If you’ve come to that conclusion, then good for you. It’s a sign of fiscal discipline. But you still need that break! I love the staycation concept, camping somewhere close to home, or hitting a town like Omaha. There are hundreds of free or low-cost activities in towns across the region. Pick a destination and go.
Even if you don’t leave the house, just be sure to make it a real vacation. No laundry, no chores, no errands, no work! Everyone needs a break. If you wouldn’t do it on vacation, don’t do it during your staycation!
Kat's Money Corner is posted on Dollars Sense every Tuesday. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little one, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, click http://twitter.com/savinmavens.