3 Smart Tips for Budget-Savvy Vacationers
By Burt Carey
There are times in our lives when we seemingly throw all caution to the winds to have a good time. Take vacations, for example. Ever been guilty of buying that fourth poolside resort special, and regretting it the next morning when your only breakfast option is room service and a bloody Mary?
And just think, you got to relive the pain the next month when the credit card bill arrived.
Vacations don’t have to be that way. In fact, you’ll have a much more pleasant time both during the vacation and after by following a few money-saving guidelines that allow you to have the time of your life without breaking the family budget or looking like a penny-pinching nerd.
The key is to start now. The more planning you do, the higher your potential savings will be.
Rent a Condo or House, not a Room
What the 1990s were to the vacation condominium industry, private home rentals have become to the 21st century. Such online sites as AirBnB.com and HomeAway.com have joined with the popular vacation rental site VRBO.com to provide quality accommodations for less per night than a room at a resort hotel. If you’re traveling with family, not having to pay for a second hotel room means the savings are even greater.
Renting a house for a long weekend, a week or longer, results in a much larger living space than any hotel will offer. And look at that fully loaded kitchen! Serious savers plan meals ahead of time and hit up the neighborhood grocery store with list in hand. Eating in for one or more meals per day will save hundreds of dollars over a week’s time.
And booze. Buy from a local liquor store. And if you want to go out for some nightlife, have your pre-dinner drinks at the house and spend a couple of bucks on Uber, a taxi or other commercial transportation.
For those traveling with friends or extended family, find a bigger house and split the cost, cooking and clean-up duties.
Go During Non-Peak Times
Perhaps in no other industry is the law of sales-and-demand as pronounced as it is for big sporting events (think the Master’s, Super Bowl, Olympic Games) and vacations. Head off to Hilton Head, S.C., during June and you’ll be paying the highest price of the year for food, rooms, souvenirs and the dozens of up-sales built around them.
Three terms are typically used in vacation parlance: peak, off-peak and shoulder. Peak times are when the biggest numbers of vacationers flock to an area and spend lavishly (and, yes, foolishly) just to be seen by friends, co-workers and even family members as someone who’s got it going on with the “in” crowd.
Yeah, like those people are going to pay that credit card bill for you!
Off-peak is the exact opposite of that. And yes, you’ll look like a total loser showing up to a beach community in February. You’ll save some money, but is walking on the beach in winter clothing and a knit cap how you really want to spend your vacation time?
Shoot for scheduling your vacation for the few weeks just before peak or just after peak. This can be tricky for families with school-aged children, but for those whose schedule isn’t dictated by a school calendar, mid-spring or early fall travel can point not only toward tremendous financial savings but to some of the most pleasant weather conditions of the year.
Plan Your Meals
Eating at fantastic restaurants or someplace that’s fun for the kids is all a part of an enjoyable vacation. But dinner out just a few times in a week-long vacation can add hundreds of dollars to your vacation spending.
You don’t want to be a total bore and eat every meal at the house you’ve rented for the week. But you’ll see huge savings by doing breakfast and lunch in, then planning dinners out either earlier or later than the typical dinner crowd to free up some extra cash for those special nights out.
If you’re heading off to a tourist-rich hot spot like Orlando or Myrtle Beach, check for local coupons or other savings by looking at online sites such as LivingSocial.com, GroupOn. Com, the KrazyKouponLady.com or others. Go online and look up restaurants ahead of time, and not just their websites. Take a look at their Facebook page for announcements about Happy Hour hours, special offers and other timely deals.