How to Spend Less on Vacation
It’s natural to want to make the most of precious vacation time. All too often, though, that desire leads to overspending on things that don’t necessarily make the trip more enjoyable. As you plan your next vacation, consider the following tips to reign in spending.
Choosing a destination
New York, Las Vegas, Disney World: They’re top destinations, and you’ll pay top dollar to visit them, especially during peak tourist season — something to avoid if you can.
To help you brainstorm alternatives, compare official tourism websites for different states. Those sites typically have huge databases of tourist attractions off the beaten path, and often include sample itineraries and travel deals as well.
It might be tempting to stay at the nicest hotel you can afford. But depending on the kind of trip you’re taking, you might consider these thrifty approaches to lodging:
- Use peer-to-peer rentals. Check out Airbnb, VRBO and its parent company, Homeaway (all available as both websites and smartphone apps).
- Hotels. You may find lower costs by reviewing sites like Expedia, Priceline or Kayak, or smartphone apps like Hotel Tonight, for those who need the privacy and security of traditional travel accommodations.
Note that you can also lower your food costs by finding a place to stay that has at least some kitchen facilities and cooking sometimes rather than dining out.
In some cases, flying is the only practical option, but it can be expensive. Some lower-cost alternatives:
- Drive. It’s usually much cheaper than flying, all the more so if you’re not traveling alone and your vehicle is reliable.
- Bus. Rolling down a highway with a bunch of strangers can be a great deal, especially if you look beyond the major national carriers to regional or discount lines like MegaBus and BoltBus in the East, and California’s CA Shuttle. Some charge just $1 for certain routes with advance purchase.
- Train. Riding the rails can cost less than flying and be faster than a bus, though neither is true in every case. Still, it provides an unusual travel perspective, and is typically a little more comfortable than either a bus or plane.
Renting a car provides the ultimate in convenience, but it can be costly. Consider visiting a city where you can rely on a combination of public transportation, cars-for-hire, bicycle rentals and other cheap ways to get around.
You might also be able to skip the rental by staying within walking distance of things you’re likely to want to do. Slightly more expensive accommodations near a city center might well be worth it if it saves you the cost of a car or other ground transportation.
Setting your priorities
To help you stay disciplined about reserving funds for your trip, consider opening a savings account from a financial institution like PriorityOne Bank if you don’t already have one.
Even with a savings plan in place, you may not be able to afford every detail of the dream vacation you might want, but even the cheapest trips are still a good chance to relax, often with the people you love the most. So focus your dollars on the things that matter most to you, and enjoy your trip!
Devan Goldstein, NerdWallet