If you're trying to plan a summer vacation for your family without breaking the bank, check out these 5 tips.
1. Stay flexible.
If you can avoid committing to a specific location and predetermined dates, you can stay open to the best deals available. Scheduling your vacation during the off-season and/or visiting a less popular destination could save big bucks. For both national and international ideas, Budget Travel and Lonely Planet have budget-friendly suggestions. And don't forget to check deal sites like Travel Zoo, Living Social, and Groupon.
2. Consider renting a vacation home instead of staying in a hotel.
Oftentimes you can find a vacation home for the same price of a hotel, or in some cases, less! Plus, a vacation home typically includes certain benefits that you wouldn't find in a standard hotel room. A full kitchen, laundry room, and more comfortable living arrangements are only a few of the advantages you're likely to enjoy. In addition, you'll get the opportunity to save on dining out by purchasing groceries and staying in. If you're hoping to visit a big city, you may shave off even more by locating a home in the suburbs nearby. A longer drive may be worth the extra trouble if you're saving enough money! For more information about finding vacation homes, check out Money Talks News' article on the subject.
3. Use websites and apps to save money.
Make full use of money-saving technology by downloading apps to your smartphone. To find the best prices on gas where ever you may be, check out GasBuddy.com. To save on eating out, try LocalEats.com and WhereDoKidsEatFreeToday.com. Backbid.com allows hotels to sell rooms to customers who've already made reservations with one of their competitors. For some cheap fun, check out National Geographic's National Parks guide. Try using Twitter to find deals on flights and hotels, and don't forget to carefully compare multiple travel sites (kayak.com, priceline.com, orbitz.com, expedia.com, hotwire.com, etc.) to make sure you're truly getting the best deal.
4. Beware of deals that are too good to be true.
As you do your research, you may find deals that seem almost too good to be true, but be sure to read the fine print and to calculate all costs before making a purchase. Many cruise lines display low ticket fares, but once you consider the additional cost of tips, excursions, travelling to the gateway city, and any other extra expenditures, your "deal of a lifetime" may just be a deal you want to pass up.
5. Consider a staycation.
There are lots of great ways to have a great vacation right where you live. Visit local historic sites and art districts, camp in the woods or in your own backyard, volunteer, pick your own fruit at a nearby farm, take a day trip to a neighboring city that you've never explored - just to name a few. For ideas, check out your local Parks and Recreation and/or tourism department.
Sarah Clark Oster joined CCCS as the director of Marketing and Education Outreach in 2011. For more information on saving money, contact Sarah by calling 423-490-5620 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.