The average price of vacations are $1,145 per person, for a family of four $4,580. That may seem pricey, but if you think about it that is the price to live like royalty. Have people care for the area you reside, entertainment, and food. In addition, you will have to pay for travel. It’s no wonder vacations are so expensive. Some try to save money using a method credit card companies use to get people to spend more as I mentioned in a previous post. I will not be one of the financial gurus who will tell you to use that method at all because I know it will not work in the long run. Instead I will tell you how to get a vacation on a budget.
Timing Timing Timing
Remember what real estate says is most important? “Location location location.” Well that is not the case with vacations. It is “timing timing timing.” Do not get me wrong location is important, but let me handle the most important thing first.
When do most people travel? Summertime. Why summer? because most people take their vacations during summer. Why? Mostly because summer is the best time to get people such as family together. There will be more competition to book travel, vacation spots, activities, etc. Even fuel prices increase. This is because of the increased demand.
It may seem strange to post how to save money on vacation just after vacationing season started. But here is the thing, if you want to vacation on a budget, you do not want to vacation in July or even August. Even vacationing a month or two before July or after August will save you quite some money. My family goes on our annual beach vacation in June, even that saves us 20% from what it would cost in July or August.
Other Things To Consider For Timing
Timing requires more than just knowing summer is when most people vacation. My wife and I want to take a second honeymoon to New Orleans, we are planning for it during the month of November (the year will be decided later). There are three particular reasons:
- It is not during Mardi Gras when most people travel to New Orleans.
- It is not during summer when other people travel in general (New Orleans has multiple beaches and historical attractions that attract tourists).
- Hurricane season is well over by November.
You will have to do your own research to try to find the best time to vacation. For instance, Maine and New England is popular in winter for skiing, not just during summer. There are many events during certain times of the year the attract tourists (like Mardi Gras in New Orleans).
I did say that location is important. It almost does not matter what time of the year you want to travel, popular attractions are popular attractions. For example, beaches will always attract tourists. The beach rental my family usually gets will be about 60% the full price during winter. While it is cheaper it is not chump change.
Other options include less popular attractions, but I hate calling them that. I like to call them hidden gems. These attractions usually do not attract tourists, or at least not many. Therefore, the cost to visit will be small, usually fixed, and sometimes even non-existent. My family likes to visit state parks. While they do not have the popularity of national parks they are very beautiful gems of nature. I have visited many of the 58 national parks in the US and have seen much of their beauty. Many state parks have similar beauty and fewer people.
Some of these state parks include: Pine Creek Gorge state park, PA; Blue Spring state park, FL; Cathedral Caverns state park, Al; Hapuna Beach state park, HI; Enchanted Rock state natural area, TX and many more. There are many more and some may even just be a few miles from you. These will almost always be great places to vacation on a budget and truth is, there may barely be any price at all.
First thing I will recommend when going on vacation to save money is to make most of your food. Going out to eat gives you food at about 425% of the cost of making it yourself. And let’s face it, the meals vacationers usually get are common items like breakfast items, deli sandwiches, and burgers, things that can easily be made in most kitchens. When my family went on vacations we commonly ate a breakfast consisting of toast and maybe eggs and granola bars. For lunch, we had leftovers or a salad and yogurt. Now for dinner, we actually went out most of the time and I will say that if you are on a long vacation you may want to do that.
Experience of food
My family and I have been to all 50 states (yes, even Alaska and Hawaii) and every place has their own specialty. I included a map with all of the specialties I came across:
If this list of food is making your mouth water I do not apologize, the food should make your mouth water. Also with all this variety, it may be more crucial to save money to actually have this experience in your meals. This makes having and making your own meals crucial.
However, many vacation residencies do not have a kitchen, or at least not one sufficient enough to cook meals. Sometimes there are not even refrigerators. There are still ways to have meals that are ready set. When there was no kitchen, we had Greek yogurts in the fridge (a healthful food that still to this day consists of most of my meals) and granola bars to eat. When there was no fridge there were no yogurts, but ready to eat food. But this was only the case for single nights at most. This allowed us to vacation on a budget.
Hotels And Residencies
Based off how often my family traveled, it would be natural to expect it that my family stayed in the best hotels with at least 3 stars. Nope. Days Inn, Economy Inn, Best Western, Travel Lodge, etc. These were in no way bad hotels, but they were not fancy. We were never in a 3 star or higher hotel unless we were staying at the place for at least 3 days. Therefore, I will lay out a general rule. Do not stay in a hotel with more stars than the number of days you will stay, but this only applies for hotels with 3 or more stars.
Here is the thing, hotels with 3 or more stars usually provide services and attractions that people travel for. For example, in Maine, I stayed in a 3 star hotel in which there was mountain biking, kayaking, hiking trails, and during winter, skiing. In Hawaii, I stayed in a 4 star hotel in which not only had one of the best restaurants within the area, but it had a private beach that was a pretty much a miniature bay that allowed surfing, snorkeling, and swimming. What is the point of booking these hotels if you are only staying the night and leaving the next day? You should not book these hotels if all you are using is the bed, shower, maybe TV, and maybe restaurant.
There are exceptions to the “do not stay in a hotel with more stars than the number of days you will stay” rule. These exceptions include special deals. You can find these deals online using many different sites such as Kayak, Travelocity, Expedia, Booking.com. You would be surprised at how many deals you can find 3 or even 4 star hotels for the same price as the chain inns. And at this point, I will say that the higher star hotels are fancier. Fanciness is nice to have, just as long as it is within budget on your vacation.
There are many activities you can do on vacation without a price. Hiking, sightseeing, etc. Some are less expensive like biking. However, some still want to do things they never do at home and I understand that. Researching these activities and finding good deals can save you some money, you should find some good deals on Groupon and other sites. But they will still make a dent on your budget, just not as much of a dent. I recommend only going for experiences you will never have anywhere close to home.
Everyone needs a vacation, but no one needs the high price. Everything is worth trying when it comes to your vacation. However, you should still consider the price and try to maintain a budget when you go. Nothing will ruin a vacation like running out of money or seeing a massive credit card bill when you come back home. You can have the vacation you want on a budget, just planning your vacations ahead will help you forge your wealth.