We all have our ideal dream vacation. Unfortunately, reality soon sets in when you start trying to figure out how to pay for it. All is not lost. With a little advance planning, you can enjoy your dream vacation and still have enough leftover to buy more than postcards and sunscreen once you get there. Savings can include everything from reducing the cost of actually getting there to some significant savings on hotel accommodations, restaurants and even some local shops. Put away the cardboard cutout of Hawaii and get ready to enjoy a dream vacation without the nightmare of paying a fortune.
1. Book Early
the early bird not only gets the worm, but some good deals for booking early. While there is something to be said for being spontaneous, a little advance planning can ease the financial burden of enjoying a major vacation. Save the spontaneous trips for little weekend getaways to the local day spa or ski resort. Some travel sites actually encourage early booking and offer significant discounts for booking 3-6 months in advance. Some travel services get a commission for helping a resort or hotel boost their bookings. This savings is often passed onto you. Prices only increase the closer you get to your desired date. You can find deals even if you book just a month or two before your trip. You also get more arrival and departure options by booking early.
Note: If you are booking far in advance, review the cancellation policy to make sure you are not charged a major fee if you have to cancel.
2. Consider Off-season Travel
you are going to pay more to get to your dream destination if you go during the peak travel season. Booking ahead could save you some green, but traveling in the off season could save you even more. Hotels, resorts and even shops and restaurants in your vacation paradise like to have a regular flow of visitors. Many travel sites or agencies are more flexible with prices if you book during the off-season. This may mean adjusting your travel plans, but any minor inconvenience is usually worth it. If your dream vacation takes you to somewhere tropical or mild, odds are that the off-season is not really that much different from peak travel months. The only difference is fewer crowds and a little extra attention from local merchants. Not bad at all.
3. Sign Up for Coupon Sites
Sites like Living Social or even Groupon have deals aimed at those looking to save a little money on their next vacation. Many of these deals are on popular destinations. Many of the businesses featured are actually local to your destination. This means you get a taste of local flavor and save a buck in the process. Remember, local businesses are competing for your travel dollar too and they often offer incentives the big guys cannot always offer. Some of the deals are for bed and breakfast specials or even entire package deals including hotel and travel accommodations. If you are flexible with your dates, you can save even more.
4. Plan Transportation Options
once you get to your dream destination, the next step is to figure out how you will get around. Renting a car is a common option, but other transportation options may actually save you more money. If you are going to place with a lot of attractions, consider walking when you can. This way you can take your time to enjoy the sites. Many vacation spots offer walking tours that include special spots you would miss if you went by bus or car. Another option is public transportation. Many prime vacation spots have buses and shuttles to and from local shopping and dining districts. Taking public transportation also eliminates parking fees and avoids the hassle of finding your own way around and getting lost in the process.
Note: If you want to go out in style for a night, book a limo or rent a car ahead of time. Many companies offer discounts for reserving a car in advance.
5. Avoid Tourist Hot Spots
Avoid areas that are common tourist attractions. Restaurants, hotels and shops in these areas have no incentive to offer discounts since they always have steady business. Do a little research and get to know the lay of the land a little before you go? Check out blogs or forums with comments from locals to get an idea of some attractions or restaurants to visit that most tourists do not know about. This way you not only find better deals, but you get a better feel for local customs and culture. This doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice on quality or style. Many fine hotels are a little out of the way on purpose.
A dream vacation can be an affordable reality with a little advance planning and flexibility with dates. Approach your vacation as if you were a local. Read blogs and forums and even interact with locals online to get some useful tips on how to save money and still get the most out of your vacation. Finally, remember that you can still have a memorable vacation even when traveling in the off-season or staying at an out-of-the-way hotel. You might even have more stories to tell your friends when you get back.
Sheila Barnett writes on personal finance and budgeting for financialcalculator.org, a site with just about every possible finance calculator for investments and net worth — including an online car loan calculator and even one that figures out your savings from quitting smoking.