It’s almost Spring Break, for some of you Spring Break may have already started, and summer will be here before you know it. It’s time to start seriously planning your family vacation. I always love planning where we are going to go but dredd getting into the details, how we’re going to get there, where we’ll stay, what we’ll eat, how to keep the kids on their schedule. It can be stressful. And the biggest stresser of them all; how are we going to pay for this?!
Before we were married my husband and I usually went on one vacation a year. He is really great when it comes to budgeting and planning and we were able to go on week long vacations for around $600. We took our first family vacation last year to California and were able to spend a week, including a day at Disney for $1100. No, we didn’t stay with family and no I don’t tell you these things to brag. I tell you to show you it is possible to enjoy a vacation even when money is tight. Today I’m sharing with you tips on how to plan for a vacation on a budget and also how to stay on budget while you are there.
Set a budget. Sit down with your spouse, or whoever you are going on vacation with, and discuss a few things:
- How much money you want to spend?
- How much money you can spend?
- How long it will take you to save (or pay back the credit cards)?
Shop deals. Check sites like Get Away Today or Vacations To Go for hotel, flight and/or package deals. Also, shop individual hotel and airline sites to double check prices. Sign up for free rewards programs as well.
Use lay away programs. Lay away isn’t just at K-Mart now. At Get Away Today you can book your vacation with as little as $125 and you also get to choose the frequency of payments as well as the amount of payments.
Driving vs. Flying. Weigh out the costs (both financial, physical and emotional). It may cost less in gas to get where your’re going but you also need to consider the wear and tear on the car, tires, making sure you have enough oil, etc. Also, if you are traveling 10+ hours away and you have little ones, how are they going to enjoy a car ride? We had an 11 hour car ride from Utah to California with a 2 1/2 year old and a 16 month old and let me tell you it was the longest. car ride. ever. That being said driving is still a great option. Especially if you are only traveling a short distance or if you have a big family; plane tickets can be really expensive.
- If you do decide to fly here are a few money saving tips:
- The best time to buy tickets is between 6 and 8 weeks before you plan on traveling.
- Buy tickets on Tuesday or Wednesday, fly on Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday. Sunday is the most expensive day to fly.
Now that you know when and where you are going and how you are going to get there, Stick to your monthly budget no matter what. If you’ve made it this far you aren’t living month to month without a budget. You’ve worked hard to save money to go on your vacation and you don’t want to spend the whole time stressing because you went out to eat a few more times than you planned on before the vacation. Cut out all unnecessary expenses 2-3 months before your trip and save, save, save. There are always going to be unplanned expenses on a vacation and you want to be prepared for them.
Stay in hotels that offer free breakfast and/or a fridge and microwave. The less meals you have to go to a restaurant or fast food joint for the better. Also, bring a cooler or ice chest and pack lunches for your days. When we went to California we stayed at a hotel with both a free continental breakfast and a fridge. The only meals we ate out were dinners.
Look for restaurant deals online or on your phone. Sites like Groupon Coupons and Retail Me Not are the best that I have found. And like with tip #2, sign up for your favorite restaurant’s email lists; they are always sending coupons out via email.
Plan out your trip and stick with that plan (as much as you can). Before you leave plan out what you are going to do every day. Are you going to amusement parks, museums, spending the day at the beach. By knowing what you’re planning on doing you can plan out meals and also don’t get side-tracked by kids’ (and adults’) “Oooh that look’s cool, let’s go there.”
Don’t try to do everything in one vacation. I have a friend who went to Southern California for one week with 3 kids and they did Disney, Universal and Sea World. Every day they were at a new theme park and when she came home she said it wasn’t as fun as she thought it would be. Yes, vacations are a time to relax and have fun but it’s hard to relax if you are constantly going from sun up to sun down. For our family vacation last October we knew our boys were still young and wouldn’t make it more than a day at theme parks. So we did Disney a few days after we got there and spent the rest of the time at parks or the beach. And our funnest days were actually the ones we spent at the beach.
Hire a travel agent. You may be wondering why is hiring a travel agent a tip for how to vacation on a budget; don’t I have to pay them money to plan my vacation? Can’t I plan it by myself? Yes, you can, but because travel agents do so much business with certain hotels, resorts and attractions a lot of times they can get deals that the general public can’t, just because of the volume of business they have. I mentioned Get Away Today earlier in tip #2, but they also have travel agents that can help you plan out every aspect of your vacation. AND because they send so much business down to Southern California they are always running super great specials. Some of their current specials include, get 1 free day park pass at Disneyland, third night free hotel offers and free meal and drink packages. They don’t just do Southern California vacations, check out their site for specials on cruises and other destinations as well.
I hope you don’t mind me including pictures of my sweet boys. What is the best vacation you have ever been on?