Dreaming of a Warm Beach and Cold Beer: Tips for Cutting Vacation Costs

Dreaming of a Warm Beach and Cold Beer: Tips for Cutting Vacation Costs

Can you believe it’s almost March?! Last week’s bout of warm weather tricked my mind into summer mode, which is mainly just me drinking beer on my back porch. Last week I also received two invitations to weddings a thousand miles away from where I live, and suddenly I thought, “Oh shit, I better get planning these trips!”

The season of travel and vacations is quickly approaching and if you’ve got places to be and people to see, it’s best to start financially prepping for these events now. Traveling and vacations are expensive, but they’re value to our spirits and well being can be invaluable.

I’ve been doing some research on how to save money on travel and I wanted to share some of the best tips I’ve found.

Start a Vacation Fund

Where do you want to go? About how much will it cost? How long will you need to save enough cash for this trip? The further ahead you plan, the better. I recommend opening a vacation savings account and knowing how much you’ll need for each trip. Then devise a savings plan to put a little toward the travel goal each month or pay period. A vacation fund will keep you motivated and you’ll be thrilled when you don’t go into debt attending your friend’s destination wedding. Last year my best friend got married in Jamaica. I planned ahead and saved as much as I could. I paid for the trip about 8 months in advance. When the vacation week arrived, it was such a relief to know everything had already been paid for and I could relax, have fun, and not worry about money for the week. From what I can remember, it was a spectacular week spent at a swim-up bar.

What’s Your Definition of Fun?

Figure out what kind of fun you want to have on your excursions. Not all fun costs the same. Are you looking for relaxation? Adventure? Weird sex shows in Thailand? Figure out ahead of time what your definition of ‘fun’ is for this particular trip and calculate it’s approximate costs. Then begin looking for deals on the fun activities you’ve chosen for your trip. I’ve done some cool stuff through Groupon and Living Social.

Get the Right Travel Credit Card

I spend a lot of time hating on credit cards, because frankly many people aren’t disciplined enough to use them responsibly. There are upsides to credit cards though, and travel is one of them. There are several travel reward credit cards worth looking into.

Quick suggestion: If you do choose to earn points via credit card, use the card for purchases like gas and groceries (i.e. things you need). Be sure to pay off the full amount of the credit card balance each month as well!

Here’s a few good credit card programs for various travel points and rewards:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
  • Capital One Venture Card
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card
  • Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard
  • BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card

Use Frequent Flyer and Membership Points

Much like credit card points, there are several airline programs available to accrue credit toward flights. Depending on which airport is closest to you will determine what airline program is best. For example, JetBlue’s program is generally more advantageous for people living on the east coast. Usually, signing up for frequent flyer and membership points is a simple process.

AirBnb It

I’ve used AirBnb a few times now and have been pleased with my experiences. Airbnb, as with any travel app, isn’t perfect and you’ve got to do your research. Airbnb can be a great way to book accommodations for less. I prefer to stay in houses during vacations, and having a kitchen to cook my own food allows for further saving while away from home. It’s especially valuable if you’re traveling with a group of people. Instead of paying for separate hotel rooms, why not rent a house? You’ll likely find this more cost effective.

Explore by Foot and Bike

First of all, exercise is good for you. Second of all, you can really get to know a destination if you explore it by foot or bicycle. You’ll also save on rental car costs, extra insurance, and gas. It might be a little more work to plan out your daily excursions without a motorized vehicle, but isn’t that half the fun?

Check Out Lonely Planet

This is a terrific site for all things travel. They have an entire section dedicated to budget-minded travelers. I’m in no way a travel expert, so I’ll often refer to Lonely Planet for tips and tricks to save where I can when I’m out of town. It’s a terrific resource.

Speaking of upcoming travel, I also want to issue an advanced apology to the city of Charleston, South Carolina. My seven best friends and I are all turning 30 this spring and we’ve decided to celebrate together with a girls trip to Charleston. I already regret the decisions we have not yet made. I swear we’re normally moral people, with steady jobs, and respectable lives, but I know this particular weekend in May is going to be what my friend Erin describes as “a weekend of ‘yes’”. I don’t even know what that means, but I don’t think it’s going to end well. Apologies to your gorgeous city.

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