As we enter the dog days of summer, back-to-school commercials are already blasting on every TV channel and preseason football is making us think about fall. So, you might be wondering if I’m a bit late with this article. If you had a family vacation this year, it was probably in the summer months before now.
But, as a rule, we at Financial Helpers understand that the best way to save a lot of money on your next vacation is to plan early! And vacations don’t have to be summer mainstays either. If you’re a family with a tight budget, then this article is for you!
Some trips can cost thousands of dollars, depending on the size of your family. Admission to theme parks, hotel, car rental if you choose to fly, airfare, and food can all vary depending on the time of year.
One of the first things I did to have a great vacation for cheap is by doing a season swap. Various destinations have busy seasons where the price to stay there is extremely expensive. You can be forced to $300 per night at a hotel that only charges $70 in the offseason. Mark ups can be incredible!
My sister lives in a tiny town in Northern Michigan that’s very touristy in the summer months due to all the amazing outdoor activities near Lake Michigan and its proximity to Traverse City, one of the state’s top attractions. I know when it’s summer, I won’t even dare to book a room unless I want to spend over $150-$200.
When I visited the family over the Christmas holiday, it only cost $30, which was a good deal. This tells me that I can save a lot of money visiting destinations during the times of the year when these places are practically begging for business.
Here’s the thing: booking early has the same effect. If you wait until the last minute to buy a plane ticket or book a hotel, you will pay A LOT more than booking a year to six months in advance.
Food is also another major expense that needs to be planned ahead of time. You can easily save a few hundred bucks by choosing a hotel that offers free breakfast. Some of the pricier hotels might offer breakfast service, but you can expect anything you purchase, like room service or anything from the mini-fridge, has been marked up considerably.
If you get free breakfast from the hotel, the selection might be limited, but it will save you a lot of money over the life of your trip.
It’s also important to remain realistic about when you fly. It doesn’t matter when you book your tickets if you try to fly out around a holiday. The fares will always be expensive during peak times of the year. But if you’re not flying on a holiday, there are days of the week that tend to be less pricey than others.
For example, weekends are a peak time for flying, so fares on a Friday might be higher than flying out on a Wednesday when there’s less traffic.
Cheapair.com did a survey and found that travelers saved $200 on Thanksgiving travel by leaving on Monday and returning on Friday rather than the typical Wednesday through Sunday timeframe. So, if you hope to save money on travel, choosing infrequent days can save a lot of money.
Just because you’re on a tight budget and trying to save money doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a nice family vacation to get away from the grind. Just make sure you plan early, sign up for alerts, book tickets to fly out during the week, and choose destinations during non-peak times, and you’ll save a lot of cash in the long run.