According to a recent article on CNBC, 52% of Americans said that they had left vacation days on the table, while 24% said they had not taken any paid vacation days in over a year. That’s a shame, especially considering the fact that while taking a vacation has been proven to improve one’s mental and physical health, America has one of the lowest standards for mandatory vacation days in the world, according to CNN.
If you have vacation time, use every minute of it — you’ll be more refreshed and perform better on the job. Just make sure you’re saving as much money as you can, or credit card debt could be waiting for you when you get back home, which certainly won’t help with your stress levels. Here are six ways to save when planning and taking a vacation.
Money Saving Tips for Your Next Vacation
1. Research Your Airfare
As soon as you know your travel dates, start researching your airfare at a website like BookingBuddy or Scott’s Cheap Flights. Enter in your travel details and sign up for alerts to be notified of price drops. Also, sign up for the email newsletter of your preferred airlines. Many carriers often run one-day sales of cheap fares that travel aggregator websites might not list.
2. Avoid Car Rental Insurance
Many credit cards offer complimentary car rental insurance, so don’t blindly agree to whatever the rental company offers. Research the benefits of your current credit cards or memberships like AAA and AARP to find out if you’re covered. If you don’t have any promotional offers through your credit card or memberships, search the Internet to compare rates for rental cars. Also, it’s always worth calling the rental agency directly and asking for a lower rate than the one that’s advertised on their website.
3. Book a Room With a Kitchen
You might not need a full-fledged kitchen, but at least shoot for a room with a microwave and eating utensils. A stove or a small refrigerator would be a bonus. Next, hit up a local grocery store, buy some grub, and prepare at least a few of your meals in-room. You can save a lot compared to eating out at restaurants three times per day.
4. Use Deal of the Day Websites for Entertainment Discounts
Investigate coupon websites like Groupon, and Living Social. Deal of the day websites like these let you purchase vouchers for local restaurants and entertainment venues, usually at 50% off or more. Enter in the zip code of the area you’re traveling to for a targeted list. It’s a shrewd way to cut your vacation costs. Plus, they’re a great way to find out about local activities and restaurants that you might not know about otherwise.
5. Shop for Souvenirs Strategically
If you’re not careful, souvenirs can dramatically increase the overall cost of your vacation. To avoid that, employ the following strategy: Do your window-shopping during the first several days of your trip, then set aside a half-day toward the end for your actual purchasing. That way you have a better idea of the mementos you really want along with where to get them at the best price.
6. Get a New Credit Card
If you aren’t already, consider using a travel rewards credit card. Most travel cards reward you with free money when you reach a certain level of spending, as well as rewards on airfare, hotels and rental cars. For instance, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard gets you $400 in travel rewards when you spend $3,000 in the first three months (it has an $89 annual fee after the first year).
If your vacation is still a few months away, sign up for a new credit card, meet the spending requirements, and bank the savings. Depending upon the scope of your trip and who you’re traveling with, it might very well pay for your next getaway in full. Just be sure you can afford to pay your balance off in full every month.
If you’re planning a spring getaway, remember that typical household expenses go up over the summer with the kids being out of school. If your vacation is on the books for late summer, be prepared for a financial hit when you get home. Even if your trip is in the fall, though, you’ve got holiday expenses to deal with right after that. So, view your expenses from an annual perspective to realize the true importance of saving on vacation costs. Once you do, your finances should be in much better shape by the end of the year.
What other ways do you know of to save money on a vacation?
Mary Brookfield is a writer and small business owner. She draws on her 12 years of experience as a mother and business owner to write for various Internet sites on these subjects. She lives and works in Texas.