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Plan a Vacation Without Breaking the Bank

Perhaps your plans for a spring vacation changed due to current circumstances, or maybe all this quarantining has you longing for a change of scenery. Whatever the case may be, you’re ready for a vacation and want to start planning for when travel opens up again. But in case you’re worried about whether you can afford it, know that planning a dream vacation doesn’t have to turn your pockets inside-out. Here are some tips for saving money when planning your vacation.

Identify Priorities

Narrow your vacation options to the "wants" and the "must-haves."" This will help you decide what amenity you can sacrifice over another when the budget gets tight. For example, a must-have might be the ability to bring your dog along. It's often more expensive to book dog-friendly lodging and it may narrow the scope of activities you can do, but if you decide that's a priority, you can work the rest of the details of your vacation out around it. A want might be a hot tub wherever you stay. If a place that is dog friendly and has a hot tub is too pricey, skip the hot tub.

Have a Budget

Before you decide on where to travel and what to do once you arrive at your destination, decide how extravagant of a vacation you can afford. Don’t start planning a week-long trip to an island resort when your budget allows for a weekend road trip. Plan within your means. Vacations are good for the soul no matter where you go or for how long, but you don’t want your getaway to cause more stress when you return by thrusting you into debt! Decide what you can realistically afford to spend and don’t go above that number when planning.

Travel During the Off-Season

You can save a ton, and still have a blast, just by traveling when it’s not your chosen destination’s peak season. Visit a tropical destination during the spring instead of the summer. Travel to the mountains during the summer for some hiking and biking instead of during the winter when there is a ski crowd. Lodging and airfare is priced largely based on demand. Traveling during the off-season can save you money on your trip and more!

Monitor Deals

Monitor airfare and lodging deals for your chosen destination(s). There are many apps, newsletters and travel sites offering users alerts when airfare and lodging drop in price. Reference this Washington Post article for a list of travel tracking tools for every type of traveler.

Find Hotel Alternatives

Hotels can be one of the pricier aspects of your vacation, especially if you plan to stay a while. Try to find an alternative to booking a hotel. If you have friends or family in the area, see if you can stay with them for part or all of your visit. If you don't, look into vacation rentals through platforms like Airbnb and VRBO. These options are often cheaper than hotels and can offer a more authentic experience--think a log cabin in the mountains or an island bungalow versus a big corporate hotel chain.

Eat Out Less

Out of all vacation expenses, once at the traveler's destination, US travelers spend the most on food. Eating out can add up, especially if you are feeding a family. The average commercially-prepared meal costs around $13.If you are staying in a place with a kitchen, stock that kitchen with fresh food to cook some meals. If your lodging doesn’t include a kitchen, consider non-perishable meal options and grab-n-go snacks. Compromise and save. Eat a bowl of cereal in your hotel room and plan to eat lunch out. Or make sandwiches in your Airbnb to take along to whatever activities you plan to do that day. Overall, eating out can be a fun part of vacation but avoiding eating every meal out can save money.

Vacations are proven to help reduce stress but being in debt increases stress. So, don’t take one step forward and two steps back. It’s not too late to plan the vacation of your dreams. Planning a vacation now can be even better than before! Make sure you are planning for a vacation within your means and use some of these tips from Citizens Bank to save money on travel!

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