Money Conversations: Anyone Can Afford a Vacation
Cold snaps are finally over. Green lawns, chirping birds and warm rays of sunshine are bringing joy to the senses. Summer will be here in a blink of an eye. What is the first thing that comes to your mind? My inner child frolics: “It’s time for a vacation!” Yet my professional adult pragmatically adds “time to budget it out”. Everyone needs a vacation. Still, one of the most common, yet most surprising phrases I’ve heard from the people I counseled is “I cannot afford a vacation.” Here is a myth buster: everyone can afford a vacation! ON ANY BUDGET! With a little planning and imagination, everything is possible.
If you prefer to spend your vacation in the same spot every year and have your booking routine down, most likely this article is not for you. Yet if you enjoy adding new dots to your wall map, then, hopefully, some of these tips will save your family a few bucks.
“Airline tickets are cheapest 60-70 days before travel date on international flights and 40-45 on domestic flights” – reports USA today. Also, it has been found that travel search engines such as Cheapoair, Expedia or Travelocity often offer better deals than direct air-carrier websites unless you earn credit card airmiles. If you have to book a flight within another country, it is worth trying travel search engines within that country for cheaper rates. It is nice to buy a trip protection option to have a flexibility of changing the travel dates if needed. Don’t forget to account for the cost of checking in luggage. Often, the first checked bag is free. So, when you shop for a suitcase, opt in for a bigger honking case on wheels vs a couple of chick bags. If traveling with a toddler, it is worth investing into a light-weight stroller. Instead of checking it with the luggage, you can surrender it at the gate for free and then get it right back when getting off the flight. This will save you a headache and muscle aches during the layovers.
At times the price is cheaper online, and other times it is cheaper to book directly at the counter. So check both. Sometimes you can also find online discount coupons or promotions. It never hurts to ask directly for deals at the counter. You would be surprised how much info you will find out just because you are not afraid to ask politely.
If you are staying a few days, check around for rentals. Sites like AirBnB or VRBO are gaining popularity worldwide. On the other hand, when visiting popular destinations where everyone prefers to stay in beach-side condos or casinos, chain hotels have harder times keeping up with the competition and offer cheaper amenities. Proximity to the popular sites makes a difference in price as well. For instance, if sightseeing in New York, consider staying in New Jersey with a 30-minute shuttle to Manhattan for considerate savings.
You don’t have to be a student to enjoy student perks. If you prefer a good home-cooked meal, yet do not want to pay the restaurant prices, check out college cafeterias and Picadilly-style canteens. You might not get a fancy atmosphere, but you would definitely get a hearty meal for your buck with a reflection on the local cuisine. Local markets is another option. In fact, the city market is the best place to taste an authentic meal and get a feel for local culture.
Returning back to the subject of student perks, most European travel agencies offer something called “student tours.” The name is misleading and might make you think you have to be a student to sign up. What it means is that these are shorter tours with stays in hostels vs hotels. Students on the budget are the ones who usually prefer these tours. However, if you are OK with these modest accommodations, you can book it at any age.
Memberships like AAA and AARP will give you discounts in places you never imagined. Just ask. Even museums and movie theaters honor those sometimes. Don’t be shy to ask for discounts, period. Military discounts, student discounts, corporate travel discounts, good driver discounts, good student discounts… anything you can think of discounts. You will be surprised how much you can save just because you dared to ask.
In the 21st century with language apps and virtual maps on the palm of your hand, the world is at your feet. I hope this article will encourage you to be brave to expand your horizons and book a vacation of your lifetime.