Chances are you’ve worked diligently to save money on every aspect of your summer vacation travel plans. You searched for the best prices on airfare, hotels, even the rental car, and found some pretty great deals across the board. You may have had to adjust your dates just to get the lowest prices on the destination you had in mind.
So now that you’ve booked everything and you’re ready to depart you’ve probably set a budget for the trip as well, making sure you don’t go broke while you’re having a good time. But we all know the words “budget” and “fun” don’t usually go hand in hand and what’s the sense of traveling if you’re going to be worried over every last penny while you’re there?
Limiting your spending doesn’t need to ruin your vacation, in fact there are a whole range of ways to save some money on everything from dining to entertainment to just having the essentials you need for traveling in a new city. So here are some ideas you may want to consider to minimize your spending while still maximizing your fun.
Buying in Advance
Sometimes you can find great deals and get major discounts on reservations if you book in advance. That might mean getting in on a Groupon deal, purchasing a few months ahead through the attraction’s website, or tracking down other discount codes that can get you some additional dollars off the price. When you do the legwork ahead of time, that gives you the opportunity to choose when you book and allows you more flexibility to pay less. Booking these reservations at the last minute can often result in missed discounts and expired deals.
When you’re packing for your trip, you might be like me and pack way too much. Those of us who over-pack are probably more concerned about taking along too many pairs of shoes and outfits we’re never going to wear and not thinking about the stuff we don’t actually need to take along. I’m talking about the toiletries. You know, the stuff like shampoo and toothpaste. Why bring it when you know the hotel room is going to have all of the freebies waiting there? Leaving your stuff home is going to preserve those quantities longer and reduce the weight of your baggage. That will come in handy when you’re just over the maximum limit and you’re forced to pay more for checking that bag.
Friends and Family
Maybe you’re taking a trip on your own, no spouse or kids. Just you and some alone time. One way to reduce your costs considerably is by staying with friends or family at your chosen destination. Depending on the city you’ve decided to visit, the price of a standard hotel room for one night can get as high as $300. Why spend that money if you can crash with an old friend or a cousin for a few nights? You can put those funds towards other experiential things instead of using that money for a place to sleep.
Pick and Choose Your Meals
Everyone knows that buying food at the movie theater, the amusement park, or any other major tourist attraction is going to cost at least 30% more than if you bought that food somewhere else. So instead of eating at the attraction or event you’ve decided to visit, grab a bite to eat before you get there. Even a nice restaurant may offer you better value for your vacation dollar, but the best option is to hit the supermarket and stock up on some groceries if your accommodations have a refrigerator (and especially if there is a stove or, at the least, a microwave oven.) That way you’re saving some money and you have more time to hit the rides once you get to Disneyland.
If you’re traveling to a particularly tourist friendly area, many of the local businesses will likely offer discounts to get people in the door. This can benefit you greatly, if you have the right credentials. A student ID or a military ID can lead to a whole list of discounts on just about everything, while a AAA membership can also get you deep discounts on food, lodging, and tickets to all of the hottest attractions in the area.
Public Transportation Options
Depending on the city you’ve decided to visit, renting a car may not be a necessity. In fact, it might just be ill-advised entirely. If you’re going to New York City for a week, subways and taxicabs are your best bet for getting around town. The same goes for Venice, Italy. You can walk anywhere you wish to go. So do a little homework before you book your travel reservations and look into any public transportation options that can save you some money instead of putting your hard-earned cash towards renting a vehicle.
This one is tough, because if it’s just you (or you with a significant other), your idea of souvenirs may be wonderful memories and photographs taken at all of the major areas you visited along the way. If you have kids, then they’re going to want all of the T-shirts, plastic toys, gimmicks that light up and spin, and all other manner of memorabilia from all of the exciting places you went together. It’s no secret that all of these tchotchkes can get very expensive and can bust your budget very quickly.
There are two ways to handle this – the first is that you give each child an allowance to spend on the things they want. When the money’s gone, no more buying stuff. The second is to allow them to choose one thing at each attraction and that’s it, especially if you have five amusement parks on the calendar. However you choose to budget your souvenir spending, be sure you curb it to the extent that you don’t go broke halfway through the trip but you don’t have to worry about sad and crying children through the rest of it. Find that delicate balance between the two and everyone will be happy.