Travel Tips

How to Plan A Budget-Friendly Vacation

It’s easy to get caught up in vacation fantasies, but one of the most important parts of planning a vacation is understanding how to make the most of your vacation budget. With a little bit of planning, you have the opportunity to maximize the amount you have to spend for an unforgettable trip. From meal planning to flexibility during your travels, here are eight tips on how to vacation on a budget and save money both before and while on your vacation.

Tip #1: Set Your Total Vacation Budget

Before you begin planning the details of your vacation budget, set the overall budget itself. Finding the right budget for a vacation is a personal experience. It has to do with a number of factors, and in the end, it all comes down to what’s comfortable (and feasible) for your family.

Some financial experts say that the average family vacation costs between 5–10% of your total income. So, for example, if your family makes $40,000 per year, then the budget for a family vacation rests somewhere between $2,000 and $4,000 dollars.

Once you set your budget, the rest of the vacation planning details can fall into place. Remember, you want to find the balance between feeling free during your travels and not feeling stressed when you return back to reality. It’s a delicate balance, but it can be done.

Tip #2: Plan in Advance

Whenever possible, start planning your trip as far in advance as you can as it will often save you money in the long run. Hotels might be more likely to offer a good deal if you book in advance, as will rental cars and trains. This is particularly important if you’re planning a vacation during peak months, like summer when kids are out of school.

Tip #3: Meal Plan To Avoid Dining Out For Every Meal

One of the quickest ways to blow through a budget during vacation is dining out for every meal. The cost of coffee and hot chocolate alone for a family of 5—at say, $30 per day for a 5-day trip—can quickly put a big dent in the travel budget. Add on drinks and entrees in the evening for the duration of the trip, and you’ve spent a pretty penny.

If you book your accommodations with meal planning in mind, you can find a spot that offers a kitchen, which will save you money in the long run. At many of our resorts, for example, our villas offer fully equipped kitchens. This feature makes it easy to whip up everything from pancakes in the morning to pasta in the evening. Add in some local wine on the deck or patio, and you’ll be all set.

Tip #4: Embrace Flexibility

If you can embrace flexibility and a little spontaneity, you may find you reap the rewards. Colorado’s on your bucket list? Perfect. If you’re flexible about the specific location in Colorado and time of year when you visit, you may be more likely to land a stellar deal. Embracing a flexible mindset doesn’t always come easy to many of us, especially when we’re fine-tuning how to plan a vacation itinerary.

Luckily, with travel flexibility, you can pick and choose what’s most important. Maybe you have your heart set on staying in the most bustling part of the city, but you’re willing to go out for happy hour to save money instead of a full evening dining experience. To get started with vacation flexibility, make a list of what’s on the top of your bucket list, including lodging locations, adventures and activities, and travel times. Rank those items in order of what’s the most important and start planning from there.

Tip #5: Look for Hidden Fees

During the process of vacation planning, hidden fees can become a nuisance. You’ll find them everywhere from credit card fees to charges for luggage. Gratuities, Wi-Fi, and parking costs can also add up to a surprising amount at the end of your travels.

In some cases, there’s no way to get around hidden fees. They also offer valuable assets—like being able to catch up on work from the comfort of your room or parking your car on-site rather than off-site. The key is to find out about these fees from the beginning, so you aren’t alarmed when you get your final bill.

Tip #6: Be Careful but Wise

When you’re planning a vacation, there’s such a thing as being too careful with the budget. If you book a flight that gets into your destination super late, you may have to pay a higher price to stay somewhere near the airport. If you come in at rush hour, like the early morning or early evening, transportation costs may be higher. You can book lodging outside of town, then spend more money on a rental car or taxis to get to and from dinner.

With regards to budget, it’s always good to think in terms of the full picture rather than in fragments. Be careful, but be wise.

Tip #7: Research Your Destinations

When you travel, destination choice makes a huge impact on your budget. Tuscany is probably going to come with a heftier price tag than Little Italy. Of course, they each boast their own kind of immense beauty, but if you’re being aware of your budget, you want to weigh the options of your destination and its expenses. The pricier locations may be for vacations further in the future when you have more time to save and plan. If you have your heart set on a location that’s out of your budget, look for seasonal travel deals as many places will offer discounts for people willing to travel during the off season.

Tip #8: Pre-Plan Your Activities

Choose the top activities you’re willing to splurge on, and then look for budget-friendly or free ways to spend the rest of your time. Hiking, bike rides, free museums, and more are ways you can explore the local area without breaking the bank. In addition, check out any activities at your resort which you can take advantage of. At our resorts, our INSPIRED For You™ program offers a variety of activities, some of which are free and some which come with a nominal fee.
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