These last few weeks, all I seem to be doing is opening up my electronic calendar and mapping out my trips and weekends away. They say the planning is half the fun!
What’s not fun? Spending so much on your summer vacation that there’s nothing left come September. Time to figure out that sweet balance between having a good time and being thrifty while you go on summer adventures. Here’s some tips that can help you conserve cash:
• Compare prices. Before you go away, dig around for the best and cheapest flights, hotel rooms and cottages. See if you can get a package deal (but make sure you want to do everything in your package!).
• Avoid eating out. Grabbing a roadside burger and enjoying a great meal on a patio are important summer vacation moments. But eating out for three meals a day on your trips (and ordering takeout when you get home again because the fridge is empty) will sap your funds. Pack a picnic for your lunch stop on your next road trip. Get a hotel room with a kitchenette and eat peanut butter on toast for breakfast.
• Drive slower. Burning rubber on the road takes up gas, and you’ll go farther on the same tank of gas by sticking to the speed limit. Use cruise control when possible and leave yourself ample time to get to your destination so you don’t speed.
• Travel light. Airlines will charge you more if you go over the limit with your luggage. And packing up the family funster to the hilt will cost you more in gas on your road trip. Take what you need, not all the things you could possibly want.
• Carpool. Cram that extra booster seat in the back and get two families into one vehicle whenever possible this summer. Yes, it may mean stopping more often to accommodate the crowd’s washroom breaks and love of roadside attractions. But it saves on gas and is better for air quality.
• Take transit. For runs to the airport, or while at a destination, take the effort to find out how the local public transit works. Many places have cheap, safe buses and subways that will save you money and get you where you’re going faster than a taxi.
• Shelve the credit cards. When we buy on plastic, we don’t always realize how much we’re spending. Plus, if you’re out of the country, you may be charged a 3 per cent foreign transaction fee every time you use your card.
• Get cash smart. Figure out how much you want to spend on your travels and take that much cash. If you’re in another country, be cautious about where you change your money. Avoid airports and hotels, as the exchange rate tends to be worse: go to a bank instead.
• Avoid shopping. Shopertainment is a great idea. For stores. But for you it can mean big spending on an already pricey vacation. Purchase select souvenirs for the cat sitter and your mom and otherwise stay away from the mall and enjoy the truly unique sites at your destination.
• Seek discounts. Bring all your discount memberships with you, as being a member of organizations such as CAA might mean deals. Visit the welcome centre or hotel lobby and grab any and all pamphlets: many of them contain coupons.
• Splurge selectively. Have one amazing meal out. Pay admission to the best fun park in the area for a day. Take the kids to the greatest ice cream parlour in town. Balance your extravagant days with simpler ones spent reading, sitting on the beach, taking a long walk and cooking a meal in your cabin.
Probably the best measure of a thrifty vacation is how you feel afterward. If no one in the family felt deprived on your trip, and yet you haven’t racked up extra debt, it’s been a success all around.
Writer for RateSupermarket.ca