Taking a vacation with your family should be a pleasant thing – a rare treat in a schedule that is otherwise consumed by soccer practices, school recitals and working too many hours. Don’t let debt get in the way. It is possible to have a debt-free summer vacation and still have an amazing time with these seven tips.
1. Start Small
Keep in mind that small savings can add up to big amounts. Try tucking aside a couple dollars each week. Within a year’s time, you’ll have enough money saved to afford a family vacation (if not two!). The best part about this method is that you won’t feel it in your wallet or pocketbook and it can be fun for the whole family. Imagine a family piggy bank with a savings thermometer. Even small children can get involved with contributing change to the family vacation savings.
2. Research Your Destination
Next, spend some time researching your destination. You might find that some weeks or seasons are more expensive than others. Take New Orleans for example. Try booking a vacation during Mardi Gras or one of the city’s many jazz festivals and you are going to spend comparably more for a hotel room than if you plan your trip for an off-season month. Likewise, look at the location. You could save money by staying in a high-rise hotel on the city limits, but there won’t be much to do around you and you will have to pay for transportation into the city proper. Instead, pay a little more to book a hotel along a public transportation route or reserve a room in a small city located nearby. You will likely save money on the room rate as well as parking, and your transportation costs into the city proper may not be that different.
3. Look at Hotel Locations
You might also find that you can get the exact same experience for less at a nearby spot. Hotels are often cheaper on the outskirts of popular destinations than at the center, and sometimes the savings can be significant. Choosing a hotel 25 minutes away from your target destination could save you hundreds of dollars over the course of your vacation.
4. Compare Amenities
Comparing amenities is smart as well. Variables like whether breakfast is included, the price of parking, the proximity to local attractions, the necessity of taking public transportation instead of walking everywhere and the presence of a pool or other recreation can make a real impact on your wallet. Let’s say you are considering staying at the ABC Hotel and it costs $100 per night but includes breakfast and parking. It might cost more for the room than the XYZ Hotel that is charging $80 per night, but if XYZ charges $15 per person for breakfast and $20 per night for parking, ABC is a better deal.
5. Prioritize Your Vacation Goals
You may want to take the family paragliding, visit museums, see a popular show and eat out for every meal at nice restaurants, but wouldn’t you rather come home from your vacation and not have a credit card bill to face? The same way that your time is finite, your money is too. Create a budget for what you can afford to spend on your holiday and prioritize those activities the family wants to enjoy. The tradeoff could be something as simple as eating doughnuts for breakfast instead of a fancy brunch so that you can afford ice cream and bicycle rentals later.
6. Book in Advance
Booking your travel in advance is almost always cheaper than trying to get a last minute flight or hotel reservation, but did you know that activities can be as well? Purchase your lift tickets, museum passes and tours in advance. Sometimes you may have to agree to a schedule and book a specific time, but the savings can be considerable. Plus, when you book in advance, you pay for parts of your trip as you go, which can make affording the whole thing much easier because you can see the cost outlays.
7. Think Outside the Box
Finally, when it comes to planning a debt-free summer vacation, don’t be afraid to think outside the box. There are wonderful destinations just about everywhere, as long as you aren’t afraid to think differently – and these more unusual activities, destinations and appointments can be a good bit cheaper than their more popular counterparts. Major cities have lots to offer, but so do small towns. A family vacation to a major amusement park could be lots of fun, but you could also have a good time exploring a National Park, camping on the beach or on a road trip to silly attractions. It is the same with your hotel. You don’t need a four-star suite; you could be just as happy in a cheap hotel with adjoining rooms or an Airbnb. Try coming up with more novel ideas to spend your vacation time together and see the savings add up.
Keep in mind that the purpose of your family vacation is to do things together as a family. It doesn’t matter if you fly halfway across the world or drive to the next state. What matters most is that you are together outside the distractions of everyday life. The conversation, the laughter and the memories can be had for pennies on the dollar when you abandon the idea of a large-scale vacation and focus instead on how to make your family vacation one to remember.
Dave Ramsey, “Debt-Free Vacation Planning Advice from Dave Fans.” [Accessed: https://www.daveramsey.com/blog/debt-free-vacation-planning-advice-from-dave-fans]
Dave Ramsey, “15 Insider Tips to Enjoy a Debt-Free Vacation.” [Accessed: https://www.daveramsey.com/blog/15-insider-tips-next-debt-free-vacation]
Living Well Spending Less, “How to Plan a Debt Free Vacation,” April 22, 2017. [Accessed: http://www.livingwellspendingless.com/2016/04/22/plan-debt-free-vacation/]
Penny Pinchin Mom, “How To Plan A Debt Free Vacation,” Penny Pinchin Mom, May 2, 2014. [Accessed: http://www.pennypinchinmom.com/plan-debt-free-vacation/