In tight financial times it may be hard to even consider the idea of planning a vacation, but if you are like most people, you probably sure would enjoy taking one. Vacations are, for the most part, considered to be more of a luxury and not a necessity, so when money is tight and the time comes to scale back on expenses, usually one of the first things to cut out of a budget is a vacation.
However, everyone needs to get a break once in a while to re-energize and revitalize themselves. The good news is even if your budget is tight, you can take a vacation if you plan ahead of time and stick to a financial plan.
Vacations come in all shapes and sizes, and one of the upsides of structuring a budget is the ability to better customize and plan a trip that fits into your personal financial situation.
6 Easy Ways to Save Money for Vacation
1. Budget Vacation as a Weekly Expense
Each pay day try to take out a pre-designated amount and immediately put it aside. It doesn't have to be a lot, especially if you have plenty of time to save up some cash. If you can manage to swing $10-$20 a week, by the end of the year you'll have saved $520-$1040. Quite an addition to a vacation budget! Even if you can't manage that much, any bit helps. The main idea is to try to save consistently.
2. Stuff Your Piggy Bank
By making a habit of saving all the loose change found around the house, it might be surprising how much cash can amass over time. Each time you empty pockets, clean the car, dump out your purse, go couch surfing under the cushions or clean out your coats in your closet, take all those coins and put them in your money box or piggy bank. Toss a few dollar bills in there too when able.
Several years ago, over a long-span of time, my family had added a couple of hundred dollars, we put it towards an eventual trip to Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Since we already had enough hoppers from a free time-share presentation we'd attended with the in-laws a couple of years before, this gave us two free days at the park (I'm not sure how it works now, but at that time, the tickets did not expire). A motel nearby that was clean, but low-cost, enabled us to go and have a great time. The rest of the week we spent with family who lived over near Tampa which made for a very nice week-long vacation. That piggy bank gave us a nice boost.
3. Cut Back on the Little Expenses
Do you head off to Starbucks or your favorite coffee shop for your morning cup? If so, make a temporary deal with yourself to forego this habit and have your cup at home. If you do the math you'll get a better idea of how much you might be spending on these kinds of items. Instead, put the money you save into your vacation fund. You can do this with breakfast, lunch or any other smaller daily expense that adds up over the course of time. Even an afternoon candy bar a day can be skipped to put that money into your vacation fund instead.
4. Be Willing to Be Flexible
While your dream vacation may entail a Hawaiian beach at a 5-star hotel, when living on a budget, this might not be realistic. As an alternative, consider another dreamy beach locale that is more within your means. You can find some pretty good deals online, especially for destinations that are a region's best kept secret. By traveling on non-prime times, many deals can be found because businesses will want to keep busy and give discounts to entice visitors.
5. Timing is Everything
One great way to plan a lower cost vacation is to go during the off-season. By planning to go during a low-traffic time for specific destinations, chances are you can get good deals on things such as airfare, accommodations, rental cars and entrance fees to parks and other attractions. This is tougher if you have children and you need to plan around their school vacations, but if you do have a degree of flexibility on time frame, try to take advantage of it. If the school calendar is holding you back, many schools have 4-day weekends that can be built around a trip that is not the spring break or Christmas holiday times.
6. Plan to Use Discount Travel Sites
This ties in with flexibility because, if you are able to be a little flexible on dates and times, you can book online to get low prices for the destination you want. If you are flexible on dates, you can typically get cheaper deals.
Years ago I used Hotwire and back then they didn't allow you to see exactly what your flights and travel times would be. Basically, airlines were offering lower prices to fill those unsold seats. However, I knew the flight routes well since the route I was seeking was a limited one, as a result, I was able to narrow down a general time frame on the day I wanted to travel before I booked by doing comparisons with listed flights on other websites that contained all the details. That didn't work a lot of the time, but in some cases was possible. A look at the site today and it seems they've changed this where travelers can see the flights listed and there is no mystery. There may be sites that do still operate with cloaked details. If you come across one and do not need a specific date/time, you could score a great deal.
Saving for a vacation might feel out of reach, but once you set your goals, adapt your spending and look for the little ways to save for vacation, that seemingly out of reach break will suddenly become attainable. It may not be the original vacation envisioned, but there are many great ways to have fun, even if cash is tight.