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July Tip: Plan a Relaxing and Affordable Vacation
With summer vacation just around the corner, it’s time to plan for some family fun. Orchestrating an affordable getaway may seem like a near-impossible task, but it doesn’t have to be. Consider these tips for planning a memorable vacation—without breaking the bank.
Shop around for deals. Travel expenses such as airfare, hotels, and car rental can vary significantly, depending on when and how you book. Here are some suggestions to keep in mind:
- Compare prices on discount travel sites such as Kayak and Travelocity, and see if you can save by purchasing a package. You’ll also be able to check out other travelers’ recommendations and ratings.
- Be flexible with both the time and place of your trip, if possible. A popular vacation destination may be cheaper and easier to see in the off-season.
- Use your credit card reward points for rental cars, hotel rooms, or flights.
- Research special discounts that you may qualify for through AAA, AARP, or your company. Members of AAA, for instance, can get deals on restaurants, entertainment, lodging, theme parks, car rentals, and more.
Check your insurance coverage. Before purchasing travel insurance on your trip, luggage, or health, find out what your current medical, homeowner’s or renter’s, or auto insurance policies cover. Your credit card company may also provide car rental insurance, so check with it before accepting coverage at the car rental counter. If you think you need travel insurance, understand exactly what’s covered and weigh the benefits against the added cost.
Plan ahead for meals and activities. While big-ticket items like airfare and hotel costs may account for the bulk of your travel budget, smaller expenses, like food and entertainment, can really add up. Here are some ideas for cutting costs without sacrificing fun:
- Pack carefully. Using a checklist may mean you don’t have to buy something you forgot to pack.
- Go where the locals go. Whether it’s food, shopping, tours, or entertainment, the “tourist version” is usually much more expensive.
- Take advantage of restaurant discounts. Many eateries offer “kids eat free” deals, which you can find on www.kidsmealdeals.com. LivingSocial, Groupon, and Restaurant.com may also offer discounts on meals at your vacation destination.
If you’re traveling abroad contact your credit card company or bank. No one wants to waste valuable vacation time dealing with banking issues. Inform your credit card company of your travel dates so your card won’t be flagged for suspected fraudulent activity when you use it overseas. Be sure to confirm transaction fees and limits at your destination, and consider taking a backup card in case one gets demagnetized or damaged.
Get foreign currency at ATMs. Having local currency on hand can be convenient for small purchases and at places that offer cash discounts or don’t take cards. Consider getting cash from ATMs when you arrive, as it’s generally less expensive to withdraw your money in the foreign currency than to exchange dollars at a bank or currency exchange. Be aware of limits imposed by your bank or by the ATM, and consider withdrawing larger amounts in fewer trips to minimize costs. It’s a good idea to avoid independent ATMs that may charge high fees.
The benefits of planning ahead
A vacation should be a time to unwind, but spending more than you can afford may cause stress, wiping out the positive effects of the trip. Implementing some of these cost-cutting strategies can help ensure that you spend your precious vacation time relaxing instead of worrying about expenses.