A summer vacation, whether it’s a weekend away at the lake or a multi-week trek to a state park, is a relaxing departure from the daily grind. Unfortunately, a summer vacation can also be expensive. According to a June 2013 survey from American Express, the average cost of summer travel was $1,145 per person.
If you aren’t careful, you could end up in debt because of your summer vacation. Here are five tips that can help you avert financial disaster:
1. Look for deals and coupons. You might be surprised at how much money you can save when you take a few minutes to go online. Coupons and deals for hotels, activities, and restaurants abound. Programs like CityPASS can save you money on attractions in your destination location, and sites like Restaurant.com, Groupon, and LivingSocial can help you find savings on activities, lodging, and food.
If you make it a point to look for deals as part of your summer travel, your vacation will be much cheaper.
2. Be willing to travel during off-peak times. If you travel during less-popular times, you can score savings. This applies especially to airfare. For example, if you fly on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, you may see better fares. Some airlines and aggregators will actually provide you with a fare table to see exactly when the lowest prices are offered. Don’t forget about red-eye flights. These often cost you less as well.
You can also get better deals on hotel stays by doing your travel during the week instead of over the weekend. Whatever you do, avoid travel during the holidays if you’re trying to keep to a household budget.
3. Get creative. Bring a cooler and purchase food at the grocery store rather than dining out at restaurants for every meal. If you can, find a hotel or vacation rental with a kitchen so you can make most of your meals at your home-away-from-home.
Save money on lodging by using sites like VRBO.com and Airbnb.com. You can stay in places for a few days at a time and spend less than staying in hotels. If you are taking a road trip, you can also consider camping along the way, which costs much less than paying for a hotel room.
(Read more: How to Live a VIP Lifestyle on a Budget)
4. Stick to a budget. Take a look at what you can afford to spend and make your expenses fit into that framework. This might mean forgoing the purchase of a few knick-knacks, or it might mean looking for some free activities in your destination city.
Be realistic about what you can afford, but remember that a little creativity can go a long way when you are strapped for vacation cash. For example, you might be better off opting for a staycation instead of a long getaway.
5. Save up year-round. Planning ahead is the key to avoiding debt in almost any situation, including summer vacation. Estimate the cost of your vacation and then save up over time so you aren’t frantically trying to make your finances work just as you’re leaving. If you think you will need $2,000 for your vacation in the summer, set aside $200 a month, starting in September. By the time June rolls around, you will have what you need.
Miranda Marquit is a freelance writer and professional blogger specializing in personal finance, family finance and business topics. She writes for several online and offline publications. Miranda is the author of Confessions of a Professional Blogger: How I Make Money as an Online Writer and the writer behind PlantingMoneySeeds.com.
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