Debt-Free Vacation Budgeting

Learn how to budget and plan for a fun, frugal vacation that doesn’t lead to debt.

Three out of four consumers admit they take on high interest rate credit card debt in order to take vacations. If you bring debt home as your biggest souvenir, your trip isn’t exactly the relaxing, stress-free getaway you needed. You arrive back home to jump immediately into financial stress. So, you need to plan and budget carefully, so you can take the debt-free vacation that you really need.

Travel in 2017 its vacation time!

People take vacations because they want to

  • Spend time with family and friends
  • They want to relax
  • And get away from normal everyday life

Many people don’t appear to be overly concerned about budgeting for travel.

Approximately two-thirds of people claim cost has had no impact on their travel plans.

Most people are driving to destinations, but there is still an increase in flights booked this year over last.

According to Travel & Leisure some of the best places to travel to in 2017 are France, Wyoming, England and Indiana! Travel & Leisure’s annual list of the best places to travel considers a variety of factors, including which under-the-radar gems are most exciting?

  • Which destinations are travel specialists fielding requests for?
  • Which classic vacation spots are starting to re-emerge—
  • Which global events and changes in travel restrictions have made certain destinations easier to get to?

I know that there are some places on this list that may seem too expensive to get to, but with proper planning and budgeting any destination can be possible.

There are deals on Groupon, Travel Zoo and Living Social as well as other hotel and flight discount sites.

When planning a vacation, the first thing to decide is “What do you really want”? What are your goals for the getaway?

How many people are going with you?  If you are bringing family or friends with you, it is important that everyone share the same goals for the trip.

The key to optimal vacation spending is – planning and budgeting!

Decide who’s paying for what… Talk beforehand about how to handle the bills. Money is notorious for being a sticky family issue, so figuring out who pays for what must be done in advance.

Renting a condo can be cost-saving way to create budget wiggle room.

There are a number of rental websites to help you choose the perfect house, condo or apartment, including Vacation Rentals by Owner, Home Away and Airbnb.

If you can travel out of season, you can save a huge amount of money. For example, going to the Colorado Mountains in summer or Florida in the summer? If you can take the heat, plan a beach trip between June and August. Conversely, it is the opposite for theme parks, which are family oriented. Go there during the school year and the lines will be shorter and pay less for hotels.

Planning ahead can turn a good vacation into a great vacation!

Things to include in your budget are:

  • Transportation/Getting There
  • Getting Around while on vacation
  • Lodging
  • Food
  • Entertainment

If you are Flying, one of the Pros is Time – Flying shortens how long it takes to get to your destination.

Convenience – Air Travel takes a lot of responsibility away from you. You can read a book or take a nap. Sometimes you even get to watch a movie during the flight.

Cons are the Airport Hassles – The airport itself is not always a fun experience. With security increases there are longer lines and wait times.

Between the pat downs and body scans, it’s a pretty uncomfortable situation. You might have to walk around barefoot…and you have to arrive two hours early to make your flight on time.

Then we have Layovers – which can be annoying especially if you touch-down and have very little time to run to the next gate to make the flight or, your layover lasts for hours.

The cost of flying has a major impact on your vacation options. If it’s just you traveling, then flying may be the cheaper option when you factor in gas, wear and tear on your car, stopping for hotels and food.

But as you add vacationers, the costs get exponentially larger. But again, it depends. If flying is going to take a few hours vs a few days, you’re going to save money on food and hotels. But what about a family of 5? You could easily spend over $1,000 in just airfare.

And you also have no control: – When you’re flying, you really have no control over your situation. You can’t stop where ever or whenever you want. You can’t use your phone. You don’t even get to decide how much luggage to bring – unless you want to pay for extra bags.

In 2016, the Average cost of a round trip domestic fare was $367. It is important to book your flight at least 2 months before your trip to get a good deal.

See if booking your tickets separately is less expensive than booking round trip.

Sometimes 2 one way tixs is less expensive than round trip!

For many Americans, driving is the number one option for travel.

The Pros and Cons of Driving are for the most part, just swapping around the pros and cons of flying.

Pros: Complete Control – Driving gives you full control over your trip.

You can go at your own speed. You can determine the route. No to mention, there is no limit on what you can and cannot bring.

  • Driving can save money for families
  • And if you drive cross-country you can sample local foods and cultures.

One Con is Time and Wear and Tear on your car –and If you lease your car, you can rapidly approach your mileage limit.

So you’ve arrived at your destination. For the sake of this webinar, let us pretend you flew. You have to figure out how you’re getting to your hotel and getting around.

What are your options? Well of course, it depends on where you are. In major cities it can be practical to walk, but if that isn’t an option you’re left with either taking cabs or car services, renting a car, or relying on public transportation.

  • Renting a car can definitely be a good option if you have a lot of ground to cover. It gives you the freedom to do anything you want at any time you want.
  • It is really important to research to find the best rates and Book your car ahead of time! Do not show up desperate for a car.

Public Transportation can be a great option in many cities.  Some cities it is almost mandatory. You can get a transportation pass good for a week and use it to get around!

Most major US cities have Uber and Lyft.  Uber and Lyft beat the cost of a cab significantly.

Business Insider did a report to determine the rate differences and it found if you travel to Los Angeles, you’re going to pay close to $20 for a 5-mile Taxi ride.

With Uber, you would pay less than $10. There is the same variance in San Diego, $21 to a Taxi and $11 to Uber.  In Atlanta, you can ride 5 miles in a Taxi for about $18 vs $10 with Uber. This type of difference is seen pretty much across the United States. Except for New York, which is just expensive for everything.

Now we’re going to talk about where you are staying. You’ve got your location – your ride, but here are you sleeping?

The standard norm is a hotel of course, but is it the best option? Is it the cheapest option? Let’s explore.

AirBnB is a “room-sharing” program. Basically, the way it works, is people who have extra rooms in their apartment, condo or home, list that room on AirBnB for travelers to rent.

Sometimes, they will rent out the whole house. You as the traveler are typically given full access to the kitchen, bathrooms, laundry room etc. And it is significantly cheaper.

HomeAway is a vacation rental marketplace with more than 1,000,000 vacation rental listings in 190 countries.

The company offers the most comprehensive selection of rentals for families and groups to find cabins, condos, castles, villas, barns and farm houses.

They say that travelers stay at hotels, but vacationers stay at resorts.

Sometimes, a resort can be a vacation in itself! Upscale larger hotels MAY have a restaurant, room service, and a pool. But not much else. A Resort on the other hand, typically has a large pool, multiple bars, multiple restaurants, gift shops and activities all around the grounds.

Next, we have tips for saving money on hotels.

If you have a flexible schedule, consider staying at a hotel during the off-season. Traveling during the off-season costs less, and allows you to avoid contending with crowds, which makes sightseeing easier. Even staying in a hotel midweek instead of during a weekend can save you money.

You can sometimes save money by bundling travel essentials. At websites like Expedia, Travelocity and you can get great deals on airfare, hotels, and rental cars in a package, saving hundreds of dollars.

Hotel chains tend to have free rewards programs. You can accumulate points by booking hotel rooms or shopping with a hotel’s partner companies. Once you accrue points, you can earn a free hotel stay.

Don’t forget about complimentary breakfasts that can save the cost of your morning meal and coffee. Free shuttle service or the ability to walk to nearby destinations reduces your reliance on taxis and public transportation. Some hotels may offer free snacks, complimentary drinks at the hotel bar, discounts at the hotel’s spa or restaurants, and gasoline gift certificates.

There are a number of membership cards that save you money, and you may already be entitled to a number of discounts. Students, alumni, teachers, emergency workers, AAA members, AARP members, military personnel, and government employees can all receive discounts when they shop, dine, or stay at hotels.

Call hotels and check out their websites to learn more about membership and organization discounts.  You can also get discount if you have memberships at wholesale clubs like BJ’s and Costco.

I want to change gears while we’re on the subject of lodging and talk about Time Shares.

A common expense we come across are Time Shares.  A timeshare is a property with a particular form of ownership or use rights.

These properties are typically resort condos where multiple parties hold rights to the property, and each sharer is allotted a period of time – typically one week the same time every year.

Units may be on a partial ownership, lease, or “right to use” basis, and the sharer holds no claim to ownership of the property.

So, what do they cost? Typically speaking, your average time share costs about $10,000 to purchase. Plus, or minus, depending on the location and time of the year that you buy your week.

Now, of course, you can finance it like a loan. Which then adds interest. A Timeshare then turns into a 10-year loan with prices sometimes as high as $200 a month!

Not only that, but you have an annual fee as well! Sometimes monthly maintenance and HOA fees are upwards of $50 a month.

Getting rid a time share can be difficult and costly. Reselling is not always worth it because many people do not get anywhere near what they paid for it.

Donating a time share is an interesting alternative. Some organizations offer to take your name off the title of a time share, sell it and then use the money to fund various charities.

If all else fails, create a power point presentation, cook a big meal and then force your friends to sit through it as you try to “sell them” the ownership. Hah!

On a more serious note, you can transfer ownership to a friend or loved one and they assume the fees and payments. Clearly you make nothing on the deal, but it may get you out a bad situation.

Instead of planning beach getaway, heed your adventurous side.

North America’s snowcapped peaks, jagged cliffs, towering volcanoes and forests are calling your name, and there’s no better time than the present to grab your boots and hit the trails.

The top 10 places to hike are:

  1. Hawaii – The Big Island

Plummeting waterfalls, fuming volcanoes, forests — Strap on your boots and set out for Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.

  1. Adirondacks, NY

With 2,000 miles of trails in the region and 46 peaks, hikers can experience a new view every time. While nature lovers can rough it in the woods if they want, the area also has luxury cabins and lodges.

  1. Sedona, Arizona

Hiking in Sedona is like walking on Mars. You will experience trails through red rock canyons and move passed mystical “vortexes.”

  1. Glacier National Park in Montana offers more than 700 miles of hiking. Don’t be surprised if you see mountain goats, elk or even grizzly bears while taking in the scenery of pristine mountains and fresh water streams, this park is full of wildlife.
  2. Jackson Hole in Wyoming hiking trails are sure to impress. This laid-back destination has routes for a variety of skill levels and scenery that you won’t get tired of photographing.
  3. Kauai, Hawaii

Outdoor enthusiasts will love hiking along Kauai’s scenic cliff sides and testing their stamina on the 11-mile Kalalau Trail. Just be sure to pack a sturdy pair of boots: The trails can be challenging.

  1. Banff in Alberta Canada is renowned for its many hiking areas. Striking vistas of the Rocky Mountains has more than 80 trails. You might catch a glimpse of the hoodoo rock formations along the Tunnel Mountain trail.
  2. At Yellowstone National Park there is nearly 3,500-sq.-miles of wilderness atop a volcanic hot spot. Mostly in Wyoming, the park spreads into parts of Montana and Idaho too. Yellowstone features dramatic canyons, alpine rivers, lush forests, hot springs and gushing geysers, including its most famous, Old Faithful. It’s also home to hundreds of animal species, including bears, wolves, bison, elk and antelope.
  3. A hiking trip to the Grand Canyon is one you’ll never forget. You’ll find more popular routes — like the Bright Angel Trail and the Rim Trail — tracing the canyon’s South Rim. If you’re looking to avoid the crowds, try the paths along the North Rim.
  4. Most travelers flock to Yosemite National Park’s valley area, where some of the most popular trails can be found, but you’ll find more tranquility in the backcountry. Just make sure to bring a map.

Now let’s talk about FOOD – Here are some tips for cheap eats when you travel.

First – Plan ahead. If you are going to Maine, you’re probably going to want Lobster. Start looking up restaurants now!

Check menus and prices online. Look for Groupons or Discounts ahead of time so you are prepared when you get there!

Next – Take advantage of your hotel. Kitchens and continental breakfast can save money.

Also, ask locals where the best place to eat with an affordable price.  Many restaurants have reward programs. If you’re looking to grab an easy meal at a chain restaurant, go to one with a rewards program to save money.

Money and entertainment — ask yourself why you are traveling? Are you looking for relaxation, romance, family fun, or sightseeing?

When you decide what you want out of the trip you can plan your entertainment around it.

Research your destination to find out what it has to offer and find out what you can do for free. Hotel pools, gyms and recreation rooms are all free. The beach is free. Most large national parks are pretty much free other than entrance fee to the park.

No doubt, you’re familiar with the “staycation” phenomenon, but in case you’re not, a staycation is the budget-savvy, stay-local version of the old-fashioned vacation, and it’s become so popular that the word was added to the dictionary.

Many travelers are embracing the concept of vacationing near home and taking advantage of free or inexpensive activities in their area.

Scheduling is critical to a successful vacation near home – it’s the best way to ensure you spend your time off on fun, and not on routine activities and chores. Set solid start and end dates and brainstorm and schedule activities you’d like to try before your staycation begins. This is the perfect opportunity to visit the local museum, aquarium or water park.

Have a Daytrip. Make a list of places you’d like to visit within 50 miles of home and plan one-day trips for your top picks. Whether you check out antique shops in a tiny town, take a hike at a nearby nature preserve, picnic on the banks of the local lake or check out the hot spots in the next big city, you’ll be enjoying the change of scenery without paying for a hotel.

Stay at a local hotel. If you’re craving a break from the routines of home, research local lodging specials – it can help you achieve that “away from home” feeling without spending a fortune.

The economy may be tight, but we all need vacations to relax and recharge more than ever. So, whatever your budget, there are endless resources for enjoying yourself and seeing new sights.