This time of year, many of us take trips to visit family and friends who live in other cities, other states, or even other countries. And whether you are traveling up the road or across a continent, it can get pretty hectic — not to mention expensive. It can be all-too-easy to focus on food, shopping, and gifts, but that’s only part of what a holiday entails. Your real goal is to enjoy your time with the people who are close to you without breaking the bank. While staying on budget during your trip can be difficult, it’s not impossible. Here are a few tips you can use to stay on track:
Tip 1: Travel lightly
There are several benefits to packing small, especially if you’re traveling by plane. The main benefit is that you won’t have to spend extra money at the airport to check a bag, which can cost you an extra $20-45, not to mention the additional time you have to stand in line. And having a small suitcase also limits the amount of shopping and the number of souvenirs you can buy while you’re away!
Tip 2: Don’t travel during peaks
For people like me who have a lot of family and friends to visit, the holidays start early because you have to squeeze in time to see everyone. For example, I have a method where I visit family and friends in the furthest locations first and then work my way back towards home as the weeks go by. This has allowed me to book flights that are cheaper because they are not during the peak holiday travel times such as the Friday before Christmas. If possible, try to tweak your own travel schedule to avoid paying the premium rates for peak travel days.
Tip 3: Find free entertainment
Finding free or at least more affordable entertainment is a big part of keeping your budget on track during your trip. To save money on entertainment, look for free and fun activities that are available almost everywhere. Also, take advantage of your city’s online website, local paper, or social media accounts for listings of interesting activities that you (and your family) would enjoy.
Tip 4: Use area discounts
Local restaurants can give you a taste of amazing cuisine at a great price. Sites like Restaurant.com and Living Social team up with local eateries to offer food at a great discount. Food channels and shows often feature lots of local restaurants too. Not many people know about them, but they can be delicious and inexpensive. All you need is a sense of adventure and a willingness to try something new.
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Tip 5: Be creative with lodging
Many tourist spots offer great deals and specials that can make your stay pretty affordable. Browse online for deals with sites like GetaRoom.com or VRBO.com (vacation rentals by owner). You can choose to rent instead of booking a traditional hotel. In my area I can book a 7 night stay at a decent hotel for $199. A normal hotel stay (even a bargain motel) can cost more than that. Be creative, look around online and find the best deal possible for the accommodations.
Tip 6: Make friends with locals
When I have traveled overseas, I’ve noticed how many vendors are eager to charge higher prices to tourists. Thank goodness I had a few local friends on my side! Spending time with people who actually live there can lead you to unique and fun places that are often less expensive. You can avoid the overcrowded tourist spots while experiencing some unique and amazing adventures.
The bottom line is that you have to prepare if you want to save money on your vacation. Once the location is booked and the travel decisions are made, that’s when the planning really begins. Food, entertainment, activities and other expenses all need to be accounted for. Use these tips to spend less time worrying about money, and more time enjoying your friends and family.
This is a guest post by Carrie Smith, the genius behind the Careful Cents personal finance blog. She’s a Certified Bookkeeper and Financial writer. She’s also a career junkie, social media addict, debt hater and food lover. Follow her on Twitter @applecsmith.
Image credit: joejiang.sg