Fun on a Budget: 9 Ways to Cut Costs by Dana Caplowe

Summer is wrapping up, and for many people this signals a much deserved and much anticipated end of summer vacation before the weather turns chilly and the leaves begin to fall. But it’s no secret that the current recession has forced many people to rethink their budget and spending habits. Here are some proven methods by which individuals can still take their vacation, but apply aware spending practices and hopefully spend a lot less than they anticipated or feared.



Plan Ahead

There’s a reason why it is good to plan your vacation ahead of time: it saves money. This is the case especially with regards to airfare and hotel accommodation. Booking these more than three weeks in advance can usually lead to a sizable discount. Conversely, waiting until the last minute, can cause the average price of travel or lodging to go up. It’s not uncommon for airfare to nearly double during the last days leading up to a flight.




Picking a Destination

The current recession has affected every country’s economy – some worse than others. And while the travel industry is slashing prices on travel virtually to and every destination, it would make sense to go where your money goes the furthest. It is good to do some research of recent currency valuations and exchange rates prior to picking a destination. For example, it would make sense for U.S-based travelers to venture to Central or South American countries, where their economies and currencies are closely tied to the US dollar; the dollar will simply go further here, than say, it would in Western Europe.



Booking Airfare

Not only is booking airfare in advance an important way to save money, carefully timing your departure and return flights can be a way to reduce the price as well. The most expensive days to travel during the week are Friday through Monday. Traveling between Tuesday through Thursday is a good way to save, as long as you are flexible. Selecting fights with more connections and red eye departures are two other options to get discounted rates as well.



Cheap Lodging

If you are a student, hostels are a cheap and practical option. Many hostels are quiet enough for a family as well. Most likely you will not be spending much time in your hotel room anyway, so the amenities should not be as important. For those wishing to try something more adventurous, they can join one of the various online couch surfing communities and find a place to stay for free. For those travelers in need of something more, most vacation cities typically have a large number of “second home” condos that are rented out through various sites, including Travelers can typically stay at one of these at a price comparable to a hotel, with much more space, which is useful, if you are traveling in a group or if you would like the use of a kitchen.




Alternative Travel Options

Another way to save money on your trip is to consider alternative vacations or at least alternative methods of travel. A road trip to a preferred destination can be an experience in itself and is generally much cheaper than flying; taking a ‘stay-cation’, can be a way to cut lodging costs out entirely (that is, if you have family or friends where you wish to travel to). Not surprisingly, cruise prices are at a decade-low and are mostly all-inclusive. This means a flat rate price would cover lodging, entertainment, food and drink for the duration of the cruise.



Bring Your Own Food and Drink

Everything seems more expensive while on vacation or at least while you are traveling. It’s a good thing that there are no rules against bringing your own food and drink along with you (your carry-on luggage is another story). Bringing juice boxes and water for the kids is easy and smart as well as environmentally friendly if packing in re-usable water bottles. If the parents want to enjoy a cocktail at the end of a fun day with the family, pack a flask to avoid high alcohol costs. If you decide to travel by rail or by car, bringing meals along in an ice chest or rucksack is another way to save.




Avoid Unnecessary Costs

The resolve of most people tends to weaken while on vacation. People that tend to follow strict diets, typically eat more while on vacation. Almost everyone finds themselves spending unnecessarily while away from their normal routine. This can include going out to eat every meal or the purchase of useless souvenirs – trinkets and items that collect dust, once the vacation is over. A simple rule to follow is, do not spend money on things that you would never buy while at home.



Don’t Be Afraid to Deal Hunt

Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean that you should stop being wise with your money. Research your trip before departure and find deals online before you arrive. If you decide to stay in a hotel, take advantage of free amenities offered, such as free transportation or free meals. That is what they are there for. You can also talk to the concierge to find out what tourist traps should be avoided, and they will typically know where the best deals in town are. Otherwise, it never hurts to ask locals about where to go, where to eat, and where the best deals can be found.



Obey the Law of the Land

There are lots of avoidable mistakes that cost people money when they are in unfamiliar towns, mostly minor traffic or alcohol-related violations. For instance, in some states it is illegal to drive while talking on the phone without a hands-free device, and in some states it is not. In other states it is illegal to walk around with an open alcoholic beverage, and in others it is not. For states that tend to scrutinize these types of things more closely, fines can end up being rather costly. But most importantly, they can be avoided. Doing some basic research online can help a traveler avoid these unnecessary costs and enjoy their vacation arrest or ticket-free.